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.”