A task force of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday selected the downtown headquarters buildings of the Los Angeles Times as a finalist in the agency's search for new central offices.
The task force eliminated seven other buildings in downtown before settling on Times Mirror Square as its preferred site if the agency decides to move into an existing structure away from its Sunset Boulevard facilities.
The other options, which were previously announced, are to construct an MWD building on vacant land at 4th and Hill streets in downtown or to expand and renovate the water district's campus at Sunset Boulevard and Beaudry Avenue.
The task force's action authorized MWD staff to compare costs and physical aspects of remaining in its headquarters or buying Times Mirror Square, home of The Times and its corporate parent, the Times Mirror Co.
David Laventhol, publisher and chief executive officer of The Times, emphasized that the MWD's recommendation did not signify that the newspaper will leave the block bounded by Broadway, Spring, 1st and 2nd streets.
"No decision has been made about whether or not it would be desirable to relocate from Times Mirror Square to another downtown location," Laventhol said in a statement issued by his office.
"From time to time, over the past few years, developers and brokers have approached us about relocating, particularly since we no longer print at Times Mirror Square. Last month we were specifically approached by representatives of the Metropolitan Water District. We told them that we have no objection to exploratory conversations but that we have made no commitments to sell the building."
John Killefer, the MWD board member who heads the relocation committee, called the Times Mirror complex an exciting possibility because of its size and location. But he added that the buildings would require extensive renovation.
"Whether it's a fit for us is another question," Killefer said after his committee emerged from a closed meeting to announce its recommendations.
The MWD's 51-member board of directors is expected to discuss the relocation and rebuilding possibilities at its Aug. 24 meeting. The agency, which supplies about 60% of the water used by 15 million Southern Californians, is focusing its search downtown, but some directors want a suburban location, especially property the MWD owns in La Verne. A final decision may be several months away, an agency spokesman said.
In 1935, The Times opened its landmark Moderne building, which is praised in architectural guides for its globe lobby entrance. The complex expanded to fill the block in the 1940s and 1970s. In addition to large plants in Costa Mesa and Chatsworth, The Times has built a printing facility in downtown Los Angeles at 8th and Alameda streets. Printing ended at Times Mirror Square in November.