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Deal spares Century Plaza hotel from wrecking ball

The Century Plaza, the elegantly curved luxury hotel that has welcomed presidents, princes and pop stars since its 1966 opening, will be spared from the wrecking ball under a historic agreement between the owner and preservationists.

The agreement, shaped over months of negotiations, calls for dramatically revamping the developer’s original plan to raze the hotel and build two 50-story high-rises with condos, a boutique hotel, offices, retail shops and public plazas.

Real estate investor Michael Rosenfeld’s plan to knock down the stylish hotel galvanized the preservation community and spawned an outpouring of community support for the hotel, designed by Minoru Yamasaki as the centerpiece of Century City.

In response, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the structure to its annual list of America’s 11 most endangered historic places.

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L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents Century City, pushed for the negotiations, saying the 19-story, 726-room hotel would be torn down “over my dead body.”

“We went from the point where I thought I would have to watch them at every turn, for fear they would sneak in and demolish it, to having them work as our partners,” he said. “They’re not only going to preserve the hotel but do it right -- including restoring some of the finishes to make it look more like it did when it was brand new.”

As of now, plans call for “sensitive rehabilitation” of the hotel to preserve 400 hotel rooms while converting those on the top floors to 45 condos. Meeting space would be reduced, and a slightly smaller ballroom would replace the existing one. The developer plans to propose other buildings on the site to the rear and/or sides of the hotel and a low-scale structure with some retail shops or restaurants to enliven the front of the hotel.

Diane Keaton, a trustee of the National Trust, said in a statement: “I am so glad that everyone came together and found a way to preserve this architectural gem. You see? It can be done. Development and preservation are not mutually exclusive.”

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martha.groves@latimes.com


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