Big building project planned around Capitol Records Tower

After going mostly on hiatus during the economic downturn, Hollywood is poised to debut a major development project around the famed Capitol Records Tower near Hollywood and Vine.

The owners of the Capitol Records building on Vine Street are seeking approval to build 1 million square feet of structures, including two skyscrapers, surrounding the famous cylindrical office tower resembling a stack of record discs. The mixed-use complex could be valued at as much as $1 billion.

The Millennium Hollywood project, proposed by developers Millennium Partners and Argent Ventures, would be primarily residential but also have a hotel, offices, restaurants and stores. It would be built on the Capitol Records parking lot and another parking lot across Vine Street.


The New York developers bought the 13-story Capitol Records Tower in 2006 and the parking lot across Vine Street next to the Avalon theater in 2007. They shelved plans to develop the properties when the economy collapsed but are restarting the approval process, which they expect to last 18 months or more.

Millennium Hollywood’s appearance and uses would be influenced by the review process, the developers said, but they hope to build a large-scale complex that would change the dynamic of the neighborhood.

“Hollywood is right on the edge of being restored to the glamour, identity and charm it had in the 1930s and ‘40s,” said Philip Aarons, founding partner of Millennium. “It needs the power of a project that can make people think about it differently.”

Millennium Hollywood would be the largest real estate development in the neighborhood’s renaissance that kicked off with the completion of the $615-million Hollywood and Highland entertainment, shopping and hotel complex in 2001.

Millions more were spent in the area on apartments, condominiums, theaters, nightclubs and restaurants before the recession brought most construction to a standstill. The long-planned $600-million W Hotel complex at the southeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine finally opened in early 2010. It included condominiums, apartments, restaurants and a Trader Joe’s grocery store.

“Hollywood is one of the ascendant markets today,” real estate broker Christopher Bonbright said. Most office buildings are leased, and the apartment market is “quite strong and gentrifying,” he said. Major national retailers and casual dining chains are looking for spaces to occupy in Hollywood.

Millennium Hollywood would take about three years to build if the city approves it, Aarons said. Buildings on the 4.5-acre site would be situated to preserve views of Capitol Records Tower, which music giant EMI Group rents for the offices of its Capitol Records label.

The historic tower, completed in 1956, also houses the famous Capitol Studios, where generations of artists including Capitol label co-founder Johnny Mercer, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys recorded music.

Millennium Hollywood would not endanger the studio, Aarons said. “We bought the Capitol building and made it a historical monument. We want to preserve its use as an entertainment headquarters.”

Concern for the studio was raised by a nearby planned project for the southwest corner of Yucca Street and Argyle Avenue. In 2008 the city approved a 16-story residential tower for the site, and EMI executives expressed fears that the construction of its underground garage might disturb or damage Capitol’s underground echo chambers, designed by guitarist Les Paul.

That project didn’t get built, and the Yucca and Argyle property — a former grocery store that for many years was the home of radio station KFWB-AM (980) — is back on the market, said Bonbright, of Ramsey-Shilling Commercial Real Estate.

Another developer, Clarett Group, plans to build a 1,000-unit apartment and retail complex called Blvd 6200 nearby on Hollywood Boulevard between Argyle and El Centro avenues, close to the Pantages Theatre. Meanwhile, work is expected to begin soon on a $57-million, eight-story office building at 1601 Vine Street, a site long occupied by Molly’s Hamburgers, a walk-up lunch counter with 20 stools.

Much of Millennium Hollywood’s mass would be concentrated in two towers housing residences and a hotel. In preliminary plans, the tallest tower is 48 stories, which would put it among the highest buildings in Los Angeles.

Millennium Hollywood would include public space such as an open walkway that could stretch from the grounds of the Little Country Church of Hollywood on Argyle west to Ivar Avenue.

“We want significant public spaces,” architect Gary Handel said.

His preliminary designs call for a hotel with as many as 250 rooms and 300 to 600 residences, with the mix of condos and apartments to be determined by demand. There would be up to 150,000 square feet of offices and 100,000 square feet of retail space to include a sports club and restaurants.

Millennium Partners has built large-scale projects in New York, San Francisco, Boston and other cities. Its San Francisco properties include the Four Seasons Hotel & Residences and the 60-story Millennium Tower.