L.A. Tower to Be Tallest on Coast : Ground Breaking Due Tuesday for 73-Story Downtown Building

David W. Myers is a Times real estate writer

Ground-breaking ceremonies will be held Tuesday for the $350-million Library Tower, a 73-story high-rise that will be the tallest building on the West Coast when it is completed by the end of 1989.

The ceremonies also will mark the latest milestone in a complicated plan in which the developers of the project will pay about $50 million to help restore and expand the fire-damaged Central Library at 5th and Hope streets.

The new tower will stand on the north side of 5th Street between Flower Street and Grand Avenue. It is a joint venture of Maguire Thomas Partners, a Los Angeles-based developer, and Pacific Library Tower, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based energy and real estate giant Pacific Lighting Corp. Each firm has a 50% equity stake in the project.


The 76-story Columbia Center in Seattle is currently the West Coast’s tallest structure, at 943 feet. Although Library Tower will have three fewer stories, it will stand 74 feet higher.

Setbacks Planned

Sheathed in pale-rose marble, the exterior of the tower will incorporate dozens of square and circular shapes and will contain several setbacks on upper floors. The setbacks, topped with glass-enclosed cornices, are expected to provide the building’s most sought-after space.

Library Tower was designed by Henry N. Cobb and Harold Fredenburgh of I. M. Pei & Partners, a New York-based firm that is also handling design duties for the planned expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Louvre in Paris.

Option to Expand

The 1.5-million-square-foot tower is about 47% leased. Pacific Lighting will occupy nine floors, and accountants Arthur Andersen & Co. will lease 10 floors. The law firm of Latham & Watkins will initially take seven floors and has an option to expand, said Robert F. Maguire III, co-managing partner of Maguire Thomas.

Plans also call for the construction of a huge new stairway known as Bunker Hill Steps. The walkway will stretch from Bunker Hill, curve around the base of the new tower, and descend to 5th Street.

A series of fountains will run along the center of the stairway, which was designed by San Francisco landscape architect Lawrence Halprin.


Intermittent terraces along the walkway will provide space for outdoor cafes, and small grottoes will be carved into a wall paralleling the stairs to house tiny shops.

The new tower and stairway are key components of a larger project known as Library Square. The rest of the project calls for the construction of another 55-story office building and a 600-car garage that will provide parking for both the tower and the library.

An existing parking lot on the west side of the library will eventually be converted into an urban park.

Tuesday’s ground breaking will culminate seven years of planning.

In 1980, when a plan was afoot to tear down the library, Robert Maguire and former Arco Chairman Robert O. Anderson convinced their companies to contribute $300,000 to sponsor a study aimed at finding a way to save the 60-year-old building.

Eventually, Maguire Thomas agreed to directly contribute about $50 million toward renovation and expansion of the library in exchange for the right to build Library Square.

Funding for the rest of the $141-million job is expected to come from additional allocations by the City Council, private donations or bonds the city can issue based on the tax revenue Library Square will generate.


Maguire Thomas made an initial payment of $28.2 million into the fund earlier this month.

The library was closed 14 months ago, after a $22-million arson blaze swept through the building and destroyed 375,000 books. A second arson fire last September caused another $2 million in damage and destroyed 25,000 books.

Construction at the library site should begin next year, CRA officials said. A temporary library, to be housed in the old Bullock’s building at 7th Street and Broadway, will open in 1988 and remain in operation until the original library reopens in 1991.