I attended an event last week at the hotel everyone still calls the Century Plaza, and I was reminded of what a truly nice structure it is.
Walk into the interior, and you’re quickly put at ease. That’s a bit surprising, since the d & #233;cor is sleek and the space is cavernous. Instead of being put off, you want to linger in its comfortable formality. You’d be forgiven if you sat and ordered a martini because there’s an honest mid-’60s glamour to the place that survived the hotel’s recent and very expensive makeover. Shaken, not stirred, please.
But outside is where the hotel is at its best. It’s a building that’s not ashamed to be simple. The front of the building makes that perfect arc, a curve that seems to reach out and embrace visitors. The room balconies form nice symmetrical rows. The entire appearance makes the hotel seem sturdy yet graceful.
And the building fits perfectly amid its neighbors. It faces and complements the 2000 Avenue of the Stars building directly across the street. The horizontal mass of the hotel nicely offsets the towers that have sprung up, and continue to spring up, in Century City.
God, I’d hate to see Century Plaza come down. But that’s exactly what the new owners plan to do. They want to build two 50-story towers on the site, as if Century City needs more. (For more, see the photos and the op-ed on the facing page.)
Now, I believe that owners have rights. But because someone has the right to do something doesn’t mean they should. It would be a true shame to deprive Los Angeles of this handsome structure.
Some believe that the hotel, officially named the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, could be saved because of its history, which mainly rests on its association with President Reagan.
Maybe, but that seems like a thin reed to grab. After all, this city let the Ambassador Hotel go down despite its more substantial history, including the happy one with the Cocoanut Grove nightclub and its tragic one with Robert F. Kennedy.
Could the hotel’s architectural significance save it? Well, it was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who famously designed New York’s World Trade Center towers and who also created the twin Century Plaza Towers, the graceful triangular buildings east of the hotel. That’s an impressive pedigree, but it is probably not hefty enough to rescue the hotel.
The greatest hope to save the hotel is that the development plan must go through a rigorous approval ordeal that can quickly get political and risky. In that process, a good relationship with the neighbors and the community at large is a real plus.
You’ve got to wonder how good that relationship is. Michael Rosenfeld, who heads the ownership team, didn’t help himself when he was quoted just last June in the Los Angeles Times describing Century Plaza as “a jewel in my hometown.” He went on to say, “Our goal is to continue to enhance the hotel.”
But now that he’s made a quick switcheroo and has decided he wants to break up his hometown jewel and cart the chunks to the landfill instead, the community is justified in asking whether they can believe what he says.
Personally, I hope Rosenfeld and his partners wake up one morning, slap their foreheads and remember that they do, in fact, own a jewel. And that realization would burden them with the sense of civic duty the one that calls on people to do the right thing by the community.
The right thing to do is to keep their jewel, polish it a bit and let it shine in all its ’60s glamour.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at