The 1950s television home of George Burns and Gracie Allen is getting a long-overdue upgrade as part of a $390-million development featuring a sleek new 20-story luxury apartment tower in the heart of Hollywood.
The revival of the legendary headquarters of CBS on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street will provide a vintage backdrop for the new Columbia Square tower with upscale features aimed at attracting entertainment industry workers.
With interior touches by designer Kelly Wearstler, known for her modern interpretations of classic Hollywood glamour, the tower is the second new luxury Hollywood apartment building to bank on a big-name designer to add pizazz.
This month the developers of a residential and retail complex under construction on Vine Street announced that hotel and night life impresario Sam Nazarian would create the look and feel of the place.
Both projects will offer luxurious furnished units for rent, but the developers of Columbia Square are making a bigger commitment to the turn-key crowd by decking out half of their 200 units to appeal to guests who might otherwise stay in a hotel for weeks or months at a time. Tenants in the penthouses will even find fine china, flatware and glassware fit for entertaining.
The apartments will have a concierge and 24-hour room service from an upscale restaurant on the first floor. Work on the complex, which will include underground parking, is underway.
"It's going to feel like a hotel, but it will be a residential tower with privacy and all the things people want longer term," said David Simon of Kilroy Realty Corp., the Los Angeles developer remaking historic Columbia Square, named for Columbia Broadcasting System.
Columbia Square at Sunset and Gower dates to 1938, when CBS opened America's biggest and most technologically advanced broadcast facility. During the 1940s and '50s, audiences there watched live productions of radio shows featuring Jack Benny, Orson Welles, the comedy duo of Burns and Allen, and many others.
That building, with its porthole-windowed studio doors and chrome-accented, round-cornered interior walls, will be renovated and operated as a film and television production facility for rent, Simon said.
Shops and restaurants will be added at street level, and the new apartment tower is being built on the back of the 4.7-acre site. Two new office buildings will also be constructed.
The original Columbia Square, which housed one of the first television studios on the West Coast, was designed to fit the needs of media in the 1930s, Simon said. The revamped complex is intended to meet modern media and entertainment industry requirements.
Often such professionals come to Los Angeles to work on a project. Instead of landing in a hotel, they can stay in a hotel-like apartment complex as envisioned by Wearstler and her developer husband Brad Korzen.
The new Columbia Square complex was designed by Los Angeles architect Bob Hale of Rios Clementi Hale Studios with the apartment tower as its centerpiece.
Korzen's company Kor Group is collaborating with Kilroy on the development and will stay on to manage the apartment building.
The Residences at Columbia Square will be mostly one- and two-bedroom units with floor-to-ceiling windows. They will have herringbone-patterned aged wood flooring and professional-grade kitchens. There also will be four individually designed penthouse units of up to 4,000 square feet. Each penthouse will have 14-foot ceilings, terraced plunge pools and other unique design elements.
"The crown jewel of the building will be an elegantly designed rooftop with a pool, private lounge and social club, work space and sweeping 360-degree views," Korzen said.
There will be a two-story lobby, a library and a bar. Residents will have access to a fitness center, community work center, media rooms and event spaces.
Also part of the complex will be two five-story office buildings and the renovated CBS building from the 1930s. New shops and restaurants will be built on Sunset Boulevard. The offices are set to open in the middle of next year and the residences should open in early 2016, Simon said.
Kilroy bought Columbia Square for $65 million in 2012. A previous owner once planned to build 400 residences in an $850-million development on the site but lost control of the property in the economic downturn.
Designer Wearstler says she relishes the challenges posed by the new apartment tower.
"We want it to feel curated like you are walking into your entryway at home, with very comfortable furnishings and art accessories," she said. "It's a gorgeous modern bundling, and we want to give it a spirit and a soul."