When it was completed in 1961, the 18-story United California Bank building was the state of the art in Los Angeles' Spring Street financial district.
Designed by Claude Beelman & Associates, it was the first office building in the city to conform to current seismic codes and the first one on Spring Street to exceed the 13-story height limitation.
Something funny happened about 10 years later: The financial district moved westward to Flower and Figueroa streets and Spring Street began a decline from which it is only now, tentatively, recovering.
United California Bank became First Interstate Bank, moved to a new 62-story skyscraper at 707 Wilshire Blvd. and sold the 300,000-square-foot Spring Street complex in 1981 to a New York-based investment group headed by Phillip S. Sassower and associate Leonard G. Glickman for more than $23 million.
Now the group, 600 South Spring Associates, has embarked on a $3.5-million renovation and modernization program for the building--the centerpiece being a sophisticated and enhanced telecommunication system.
The developers are confident that Spring Street will make a comeback, so confident that plans are already in motion to construct a 12-story mixed-use complex on the adjacent 35,000 square feet of the property that they own at 6th and Main streets. Further details are expected by the end of the year, Glickman said, but the project is expected to include 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, 1,200 parking spaces from the second to the 10th levels and 56,000 square feet of office space on the top two floors.
The telecommunication system was designed by Pac Tel Connection, a venture of Pacific Telesis Group, San Francisco, and Security Pacific Data Transmission Corp., a Security Pacific company, and allows tenants the convenience of accessing through existing phone equipment or data terminals into the computerized system, Glickman said.
" 'Shared Tenant Services' is the official terminology," he added. "An example of using the system is electronic mail. Also, the computer will place the call automatically at the most cost-effective, enhanced transmission rate. The building has been wired to allow computers to talk to each other without attaching individual modems (devices that permit computers to transmit data via telephone lines)."
Another element of the major renovation, designed by ARCH-I-FORM of Los Angeles, is the total redesign of each of the 12,000-square-foot floors of the building. Glickman noted that space requirements have changed radically in the more than two decades since the building was completed.
Close to Civic Center
The building's 1960s contemporary design will be enhanced by contrasting its existing white marble walls with modern color tones of mauve and gray. The building also offers tenants a full-service, 160-seat restaurant/cafeteria in warm tones of peach and mauve. The facility will be open to the public.
"What we are creating at 600 South Spring Street is a totally modern, self-contained and sophisticated building that allows easy access to the courts, City Hall and other buildings in the new Bunker Hill financial district at a more cost-effective leasing rate," Glickman said.
Translated into plain English, that means rents of $12 to $16 a square foot, less than half the $30 to $35 rate charged for buildings three blocks away on Grand Avenue and Flower Street, according to Carl Muhlstein of Cushman & Wakefield, exclusive leasing agent.
City Housing Authority
Tenants include Parsons Engineering, with 22,500 square feet of space on two full floors and a five-year lease with a consideration of $1 million, Muhlstein said. Other new tenants include the Los Angeles offices of Pac Tel Connection and Security Pacific Data Transmission, the Los Angeles City Housing Authority, the law firm of Slate & Leoni and WJ Burns Freight Forwarding.
First Interstate Bank has a major branch on the ground floor and an operations office in the tower. Parking for 265 cars is provided in the underground garage, while an additional 140 spaces are provided in a surface lot.
Sassower, a New Yorker, believes that the revitalization of Spring Street is inevitable. It is also "as real to us as the dramatic comeback of New York's West Side over the past five years. We intend to apply our experience in New York to secure the future of Spring Street."