The galleries and lofts of the downtown Artists District will get their first corporate neighbor when a national ad agency finishes renovating the 65-year-old former City Hall building at 3rd and Main streets this fall.
City officials say DGWB Advertising will bring about 100 employees, substantial tax revenue and a different creative genre into the once run-down neighborhood, now made up of refurbished apartments, dozens of artists' studios and a handful of upscale restaurants.
Redevelopment of the area began about five years ago, when artists began setting up shop in the 1920s buildings clustered a few blocks southeast of the city and county government seats.
Although the renovated old City Hall won't be open to the public, city officials hope it will be another big boost to redevelopment in the area.
The building, with its 20-foot-tall statues of bearded Assyrian warriors guarding the entrance, four-story atrium and rooftop tower, has played a major role in the city's history.
The building was the third City Hall constructed on the corner. It was built for $125,000 in 1935 to replace the previous City Hall, which collapsed in a 1933 earthquake.
The warrior statues and concrete block walls were meant to evoke the stability of government during the economic instability of the Great Depression, according to a city guide.
The building was the primary City Hall until 1972. Over the years, tenants filtered out until only one small office remained on the ground floor.
DGWB Advertising executive Mike Weisman said his firm decided to buy the old City Hall because the urban, artistic character of the neighborhood will give ad writers "a real adrenaline shot of energy."
The agency, which handles clients such as Toshiba and Wienerschnitzel, is also working on a marketing strategy to bring more businesses into the city.
The city plans to continue development in the area around the old City Hall by building loft spaces to attract artists to live and work in the area.
Alex Katz can be reached at (714) 966-5977.