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L.A.'s tallest skyscraper to get observation deck

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A planned deck near the top of the U.S. Bank Tower will provide visitors with sweeping Southland views
The U.S. Bank Tower's owners are trying to make the building a busy tourist attraction
Would you pay $25 to get to the top of the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown L.A.?

U.S. Bank Tower, the tallest building in the West, will soon have an observation deck and sky-high restaurant catering to visitors to downtown Los Angeles.

The deck, the first of its kind in Southern California, will provide visitors with a sweeping view of Los Angeles, stretching from the hills of Glendale to Catalina Island.

The 72-story skyscraper, completed in 1989, will remain an office building, the owners said Tuesday, but it will get about $50 million worth of improvements, including a makeover of the lobby.

Singapore investor Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd. bought the tower at 633 W. 5th St. for $367.5 million last year. It was only about half occupied, and market observers speculated that at least some of the empty space might be converted to hotel or residential use.

But "it doesn't make any sense" for the tower to be anything but offices, said Richard Stockton, chief executive of the Americas for OUE. The floors are too big for other uses, he said.

OUE will instead try to capitalize on the tower's height to make it a busy tourist attraction like the Empire State Building in New York and the Willis Tower in Chicago, both of which are more than 100 stories tall.

The top floor of U.S. Bank Tower is to remain offices for rent, but the 71st floor below it will become home to a restaurant. The space once occupied by executives of First Interstate Bank has 18-foot ceilings and 360-degree views of the Los Angeles basin.

The 69th and 70th floors are to be connected by a interior stairwell and made into an observation and meeting space. The 69th floor already has terraces that will be opened up to form outdoor viewing spaces. Visitors can see past Long Beach to Santa Catalina Island on a clear day.

OUE anticipates that the observation deck could attract 500,000 people per year, each of whom would pay around $25 for entry.

A crucial requirement for moving so many people through a working office building will be a separate entrance for the day trippers, Stockton said. OUE will create a new portal on the second floor to serve visitors and upgrade all the elevators to make them more efficient.

City approval of the changes is required, but Stockton said he hopes to complete the observation deck by the second quarter of next year. Architecture firm Gensler is designing the improvements.

Other planned changes include a "modernization" of the U.S. Bank sign atop the tower, Stockton said, and the addition of a curb cut outside the front door on 5th Street so car passengers can load and unload off the busy thoroughfare.

The building originally had a curb cut, but it was filled in after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The tower was viewed at the time as a potential terrorist target.

U.S. Bank Tower will soon have competition as a tourist attraction when the slightly taller Wilshire Grand hotel and office complex is completed in 2017. The $1-billion skyscraper being built nearby at Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street will include an observation deck, infinity swimming pool and restaurant at the top.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

Twitter: @rogervincent

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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