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Plan Calls for Re-Creating Pan Pacific Facade : Landmarks: The distinctive front, razed following an arson fire, would serve as a museum entry. With funding uncertain, construction may be years away.

May 10, 1992|G. JEANETTE AVENT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FAIRFAX — The distinctive facade of the fire-ravaged Pan Pacific Auditorium may be resurrected as a museum entryway, according to master plans for the old auditorium site.

The facade, built in an architectural style of the 1930s, until recently was propped up following an arson fire that destroyed the auditorium in 1989.

The facade has been torn down, but it will be rebuilt using the original blueprints and what materials can be salvaged from the original, said Joel Bellman, a spokesman for County Supervisor Ed Edelman. The auditorium is in Edelman's district.

The re-created facade will front Beverly Boulevard, Bellman said.

The eight-acre auditorium property, which is owned by the state, will be turned into a park, expanding the 27-acre Pan Pacific Park at Gardner Street between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street, said John Weber of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Plans for the facade and the park will be forwarded by May 15 to the state for approval, he said. But with funding uncertain, construction may be years away.

In its heyday, the 54-year-old Pan Pacific Auditorium was a dynamic gathering place that drew thousands to see the Harlem Globetrotters, the Ice Capades, an Elvis Presley concert and other shows before it was eclipsed by the opening of the Convention Center, Music Center and Sports Arena.

The building's Streamline Moderne design epitomized the architectural style of the 1930s, which articulated the country's love of transportation, speed and progress, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Because the auditorium's facade was almost destroyed, the conservancy is not insisting that it be preserved, said Barbara Hoff, the group's director of preservation issues.

But she said re-creating the facade will provide a monument to the era of its design.

"We feel our mission is to concentrate on those buildings that have enough of the building left to preserve," she said.

But not everyone is happy with the decision not to restore the existing facade. Kathleen Rogers, who spearheaded a drive to have the fire-gutted structure rebuilt, said she was concerned that the re-creation will turn out to be a small replica fronting a tacky little museum, referring to plans for a museum on the site.

"It's upsetting," said Rogers, who founded the Friends of the Pan Pacific. "The Pan Pacific Auditorium was a building beloved by many. I think there's something wrong with a city that can't recognize an architectural gem like that."

The master plan calls for a senior center to be built at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Gardner Street with input from various senior citizen groups including those at the nearby West Wilshire Recreation Center.

Behind the senior center, the Pan Pacific Interpretive Center will be built by the Museum of Natural History, incorporating the re-created facade, Weber said.

The 5,000-square-foot center will include photographs depicting the history of the auditorium and exhibits on the history of the La Brea-Fairfax neighborhood and will serve as a visitor information center on local attractions such as the Farmers Market.

The park will also include a community center, tennis courts, landscaped open space and a grassy area that may eventually be used for soccer, Weber said.

Weber said funding for the project will have to come from many sources.

"I understand that funding for the senior center is available from the city and we'll be working with them on that," he said.

Funding for the interpretive center will come from a county bond issue approved last year that earmarked $2 million for the museum.

Money for the community center, tennis courts and green space hinges on the fate of a county parks bond that voters will decide in November, Weber said.

Once the master plan receives state approval, Weber said he will convene a group of about 20 residents who signed up at the last public forum in April to sit on a citizens advisory board.

Weber said the group will meet within a couple of months and then every four months thereafter to keep the community informed about the progress of the park.

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