TOPA Presents Plan to ‘Refresh’ the Historic Business Block Building in Town’s Center 

The Business Block Building owner wants to spruce up the building with paint, new lighting, signs and awnings.

The historic Business Block Building, located on Sunset and Antioch at Swarthmore, was built in 1924 when the town was just two years old, and was declared an L.A. City Historic Building in 1984.

On Wednesday night this year, the building’s management, Duesenberg Investment Company, came before the Pacific Palisades Design Review Board to present a plan to “refresh” the building.

Gensler architects Mark Lagola and Mary Faria, and Olivia White, a historic preservation consultant at Chattel, Inc., had been hired to devise an update.

They presented a new lighting plan that would emphasize “the historic rosettes and the decorative architectural features.” New angular black awnings would replace the current green curved awnings.

The pinkish building would be painted white and the valet booth in the parking lot and all metal work would be painted black.

The various tenant signs would be replaced with a uniform sign program and the existing roofing would remain.

“The goal is to highlight and restore elements,” Lagola said. “It’s a subtle approach respectful to the building.”

He was asked why angular awnings were chosen. “It’s a consistent approach to all of the tenants as well as not competing with the architecture,” said Lagola, who noted that the awnings were open on the side.

Local historian Randy Young spoke during public comment. “I helped landmark this structure. I know it inside and out,” he said, noting that he liked the lighting element.

“The paint was pinkish originally and then it was white, so the color can be either of those,” Young said.

Young’s main objection dealt with the awnings. “They have to be arched, because historically the arch [of the building] and the material [of the awnings] was entirely lovely.”

A second person wanted to know about the timeline and if the landscaping would also be updated. Faria said that once the project is approved, they would try to have the exterior done by the end of the year. There are currently no plans for landscaping.

The applicants had done their homework and showed numerous historical photos of the Business Block Building.

DRB members Donna Vaccarino (chair), Maryam Zar (vice chair), Leah Cox, Paul Darrall, Sarah Griffin (secretary) and Barbara Kohn were in agreement that they liked the lighting and that the signs were appropriate, but all felt the awnings as presented did not work.

Kohn said, “I’d love to see something more with the awnings. Also, the parking attendant booth painted black will not work. It will be too hot.”

“I think it is a great idea to refresh this building, it is the heart of the Palisades,” Zar said, “[but] black angular awnings are lost on us.”

The architects said they had looked at the town for inspiration and that Caruso’s Palisades Village mall across Sunset was “white and black.”

“You don’t need to barrel down the road of modernity,” Zar said.

Darrall added, “We’re starting to become a ‘black’ and ‘white’ [building] community.” He noted that the architect did the original arches for a purpose and felt they should be celebrated.

“Rarely do we get a building of this character before us,” Vaccarino said. “Slick black does not belong on this building. It is sort of a glib modern that wipes out the character of the building.”

“Losing the visual of the arches would be sad,” Darrall added.

The architects agreed to come back before the DRB on August 12, with possible other ideas for the awnings.

Unlike so many past presenters who have come before the DRB, received input and then ignored suggestions from board members, Faria said the architects want to cooperate. “The community is important to us and TOPA does not want any negative reaction.”

Norris Hardware moved into the Business Block Building in 1925.

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10 Responses to TOPA Presents Plan to ‘Refresh’ the Historic Business Block Building in Town’s Center 

  1. Bernie and Claire says:

    Please leave our building pink with green awnings. It is a shame that the palisades
    Village couldn’t have used our business building for inspiration. The back and white is
    Cold and unwelcoming. Trendy but not timeless.

  2. Mary Rapoport says:

    Why on earth would we want to mirror the black and white scheme of Carusoville when so much of our memory is so pink and green with awnings that follow the arch lines of the ground floor windows? Who’s in charge here?

  3. Jackie Berman says:

    If the people’s opinion have any weight, I like the building the way it is, color, awning and all. I’ve lived here since 1973 and these buildings have always stood out as a special place in the heart of the Village (the “old” village). To suddenly change to black and white sounds so cold and sterile. Perhaps lighting can be improved (I don’t know about that), but the pink building with green awnings are pleasing to the eye and I look at it every time I walk past – please leave it that way. Change can be good if it improves, but to change just for the sake of it – no way.

  4. C. Jones says:

    Sue,
    You write:
    The architects said they had looked at the town for inspiration and that Caruso’s Palisades Village mall across Sunset was “white and black.”

    I almost fell off my chair. In the first place it’s a misfire that the architecture style(s) of Carusoville wasn’t inspired, or even referenced, by our beautiful historic building block, or other local historic styles— however, I will recognize that an over-scaled local theater marquee that no one wanted except the developer was added. And now, the architects (from the same firm that helped designed the mall)) would like us to believe that they are now considering their firm’s recent project a local influence to take design cues from. How on earth did the DRB hold in their laughter at this meeting?

  5. Betsy Handler says:

    Leave the building pink, with the arched awnings as now. Definitely not black and white These features make it unique. If it ain’t broke. . ..

  6. joan graves says:

    Trying to modernize this beautiful historic building by painting it white with black awnings so that it blends in with Caruso’s village would be a travesty.
    The Business Block, pink with green awnings, is our heritage. It is unique.

    Let’s not forget how long and hard the community worked to save the building and preserve it for future generations.

  7. Patty Dobrowitsky says:

    I love the pink and green

  8. Russell Long says:

    It’s awesome the way it is. Leave it alone!

  9. Stephen P Dickey says:

    As Randy Young our town historian said.

    “I helped landmark this structure. I know it inside and out,” he said, noting that he liked the lighting element.

    “The paint was pinkish originally and then it was white, so the color can be either of those,”

    The lighting and consistent signage will be a big improvement. And notice there were no swings in the historical photo.

  10. Marge Gold says:

    The new plans will be unveiled at the DRB meeting in August which you can Zoom. The July meeting was Zoomed and was fascinating. Tune in to the August Meeting and follow in real time.

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