The rejuvenation effort along Wilshire Boulevard's Miracle Mile reached another milestone last Thursday, when the sprawling, $165-million Wilshire Courtyard office plaza officially opened.
The 1-million-square-foot project between Masselin and Curson avenues is the largest complex ever built on Wilshire, covering eight acres and two full city blocks.
Designed by Costa Mesa-based McLarand, Vasquez & Partners, Wilshire Courtyard's low-rise, stepped-back design is reminiscent of the Miracle Mile's Art Deco history.
The two six-story, C-shaped buildings are sheathed in polished crimson granite. They face each other, but are separated by a courtyard area highlighted by water sculptures, reflective pools and six-story-tall glass atriums.
In addition to office users, Wilshire Courtyard also houses restaurants, retailers and a health club.
The complex was developed through a joint venture of J. H. Snyder Co. and California Federal Savings & Loan Assn. California Federal has leased the complex's entire east wing as the headquarters for its Beneficial Standard Life Insurance subsidiary, pushing the building's occupancy rate to 80%.
To gain community support for the project, Snyder agreed to build and maintain a public park behind the complex that serves as a buffer between the development and nearby homes. Landscaping of both the courtyard and the park was designed by Fong & Associates of Costa Mesa.
Completion of Wilshire Courtyard is the latest milestone in what some have dubbed the "Renaissance on the Miracle Mile," or the "miracle on the Miracle Mile."
Developers, planners, local residents and preservationists have formed a somewhat odd alliance that is bringing back what is arguably Los Angeles' most famous strip of pavement.
The Miracle Mile, which stretches from La Brea to Fairfax avenues, was born in 1921. Developer A. W. Ross paid $54,000 for 18 acres when that part of the Wilshire district was little more than a service road for nearby oil wells.
The area benefited as business began to expand beyond the boundaries of downtown, and the Miracle Mile became home to many of the nation's largest corporations. Many of its stores and office buildings incorporated Art Deco designs popular in the 1920s and '30s.
But the mile, along with other parts of the Wilshire district, began declining in the 1970s. Trendy West Los Angeles drew many businesses west, and city-sponsored redevelopment programs downtown lured other businesses east. The commercial boom in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys resulted in even more competition.
Made a Comeback
But the mile-long strip began a comeback in the early 1980s, thanks in part to a handful of entrepreneurs willing to take a chance on the once-glamorous area, and another group of business owners who simply couldn't afford the high prices commanded in other areas of Los Angeles.
The Miracle Mile Residential Assn. was formed to represent the interests of homeowners, and the Los Angeles Conservancy spearheaded an effort to designate 19 buildings as a historic district.
Jerry Snyder, principal of J. H. Snyder, was one of the first investors to move back into the Miracle Mile. He was the lead developer in the $35-million renovation of the Museum Square office complex that was completed in 1983.
The $35.3-million expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum was completed last fall, and several other large office and retail projects along or near the Miracle Mile are being built or have recently been finished.
Completion of the Wilshire Courtyard project--directly across the street from Museum Square--gives the Snyder partnership control over more than 1.6 million square feet of office, retail and restaurant space on the Mile.