Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Do We Replace Parker Center?

Parker Center, viewed from Los Angeles Street

Ever since the LAPD moved into their new headquarters in 2009, questions have lingered about the future of the department's former home.  Now we finally have a chance to get a look at the options on the table.  Yesterday, the LA Downtown News linked to the city's long awaited draft environmental impact report studying the potential uses for Parker Center.

The DEIR focused on three different alternatives for the site:
  • Alternative B1 - Rehabilitation: the existing Parker Center building is renovated.  The structure receives a seismic retrofit, with improvements to fire safety and energy efficiency.  The building's layout is reconfigured to provide office space for city employees and commercial space for rent.
  • Alternative B2 - Partial Demolition, Rehabilitation, and Addition: most of Parker Center is renovated, but the Parker Center jail is demolished and a new office building is erected in its place.  This expansion creates a 520,000+ square foot facility, with 16,500 square feet devoted to commercial space and child care.  The new structure could rise as high as 200 feet and over 10 stories.
  • Alternative B3 - Demolition and Build: all of Parker Center is demolished, and one or two new office buildings take its place.  This option creates over 750,000 square feet of space, served by a 1,173 car parking garage.  The tallest building could rise as high as 450 feet and 27 stories.  The report makes mention of a design option allowing for a second building standing as tall as 216 feet and 15 floors.

To judge these alternatives, the DEIR used the following criteria:
  1. Reduce travel time for city employees during the work day by relocating City staff closer to City Hall.
  2. Improve customer service by consolidating city services that are dependent upon each other into one building that is in close proximity to other City services.
  3. Support City of Los Angeles sustainability initiatives by rehabilitating or constructing a building that meets the City's Green Building Code.
  4. Re-activate a City-owned property that is currently underutilized.
  5. Ensure the health and safety of City employees by providing a work environment that meets current environmental, seismic, and fire/life safety regulations.
If you think that the above criteria seem to point towards "Demolition and Build," you would be correct.  The DEIR ranks B3 as the preferred alternative, as it allows the city to consolidate the most employees under one roof.  A very tall roof, at that.  At 450 feet from head to toe, this hypothetical tower would be roughly the same height as LA City Hall. 

The DEIR does raise concerns over the demolition of Parker Center, noting that the building has some historical significance.  Parker Center has served as a backdrop for film and television shows, including Dragnet and Perry Mason.  The building was also designed by Welton Becket, one of the most prominent architects in the history of Los Angeles.

Of course, how many buildings in Los Angeles have served as filming locations at this point?  We can't preserve every building that made it onto television.

It is true that Welton Becket designed Parker Center.  However, would anyone consider Parker Center a Becket masterpiece?  Los Angeles is home to many architectural icons, but I would not place Parker Center on that list.  The mid-century design is cold and insular; completely antithetical to the future that the city desires for Downtown.

Unfortunately, I need to throw in a small reality check here.  While it's fun to imagine shiny new office towers, how realistic of a proposal is Alternative B3?  Los Angeles has difficulty maintaining city services and suffers from chronic budget problems.  It is not unrealistic to assume that many Angelenos will have a problem with investing nine figures in city office buildings while streets go unpaved for decades.  Especially since it was just a few years ago that construction of the Police Administration Building went close to 50% over budget.

The Police Administration Building, current LAPD Headquarters.  The building's price tag was originally estimated at just over $300 million dollars, but cost overruns quickly brought that figure closer to $450 million.

So there you have it: tempered enthusiasm and cautious optimism.  Hopefully the city can deliver a quality project to the Parker Center lot.  Preferably without the extreme cost overruns that plagued the construction of its replacement facility.

No comments:

Post a Comment