Developer: Cohen Bros. Realty Corp., New York City
Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, New Haven, Conn.
Contractor: Jones & Jones, Ojai
Engineer: Englekirk Partners Consulting Structural Engineers, Los Angeles
Developer Charles Cohen has a knack for repurposing buildings. He has done it in New York City several times turning obsolete buildings like the once vacant former Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield office building in Manhattan into Class A office projects.
Cohen, who has owned Cohen Bros. Realty Corp. since 1988, has also had success on the West Coast. In 1999 Cohen purchased the 14-acre Pacific Design Center, which had fallen on hard times in the late 1990s.
The distinctive property, which includes the Green Building and the famed "Big Blue Whale" Blue Building, had been witness to rising vacancy rates as the design industry migrated away from West Hollywood.
In 1999, Cohen repositioned the 450,000-square-foot, half-vacant Green Building by getting it rezoned for office space. He also made several upgrades to the property, making it more desirable to office tenants.
The transformation of the Pacific Design Center continues with its final phase, the Cesar Pelli-penned Red Building. In the 1970s Pelli dreamed up the design center as a three-building property, and finally that vision is being realized.
"Pelli really wanted the project and it was so meaningful to him," said Cohen, a 1974 graduate of Tufts University who got his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1977.
"It is very rare in life that you have such an opportunity to make a statement with a collection of buildings that speak to each other and serve a very creative purpose," he said.
After law school, Cohen cut his teeth in real estate in Chemical Bank's real estate division from 1977 to 1979. He also put his law degree to work in the early 1980s when he served Cohen Bros.' general counsel.
Cohen, who is married with three children and has homes in West Hollywood, New York City and Connecticut, considers himself a design-oriented developer. He is a fan of architects Eric Owen Moss, Philip Johnson, Thom Mayne and Pelli.
But as far as Los Angeles is concerned, Cohen said developers here need to take more chances with architecture.
"People work with who they know," he said. Cohen said that Mayne's Caltrans District 7 Headquarters building in downtown is a notable local building by a local architect who takes risks.
"I think it's a very neat building and very forward thinking and represents a totally different language of architecture," said Cohen. "It personifies what is new and what is possible."
- ARCHITECT: CESAR PELLI
Principal, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Notable Projects: 777 Tower in downtown Los Angeles, expansion and renovation of the South Coast Repertory Theater, the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
- CONTRACTOR: KEVIN JONES
Principal, Jones & Jones
Notable Projects: 777 Tower, Two Rodeo shopping plaza in Beverly Hills and the renovations of the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Beverly Wilshire Hotel
Red Building: "To achieve the design intent of Cesar Pelli and his team, we are focused on a well engineered, well coordinated structural and curtain wall system."
Local Favorite: The Getty Villa in Malibu. "It allows me to escape L.A. It is like going to Europe and going to southern Italy, like Pompeii. It would have been great to work on."
L.A.: "Boulevards, tree-lined sidewalks, setbacks, parking and rail transportation. To make it more humanized and more people friendly. We have buildings out to the property line and it is almost like being in a desert."
- ENGINEER: JOE KAPLAN
President, Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting Inc.
Notable Projects: The interior and exterior lighting for the Pacific Design Center's Blue Building and Green Building, public space lighting for the Roppongi Hills development in Tokyo, lighting for Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.
Red Building: "The challenge of course is to give it a distinctive character and still let it fit with the two existing building. It needs to be distinctive, yet part of a composition."
Local Favorite: Los Angeles City Hall
L.A.: "It is lacking a great understanding of preserving historic buildings. There is a throw-away mentality here that troubles me."
Engineering : "It is all about balance and engaging the viewer. The Pacific Design Center is exemplary of what we do."
- DEVELOPER: CHARLES S. COHEN
President and Chief Executive, Cohen Bros. Realty Corp.
Notable Projects: 623 Fifth Ave., a former New York City bank tower redeveloped into a multi-tenant office building; 622 Third Ave., the Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield headquarters in New York City redeveloped as an office tower.
Red Building: "(It) follows in attracting the critical mass we attracted with the Green Building. In a sense it completes the architectural vision as well as the community the Pacific Design Center has come to represent. It really creates the vibrant campus the architect and the original planners envisioned. I think it surpasses that original vision."
Local Favorite: Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, Los Angeles
L.A.: "It needs more world class architecture. As a world city it needs to broaden its horizons."
Development: "I've had a run of taking institutionally owned and operated buildings and made them accessible to other tenants and the communities in which they fit."
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