Hollywood’s past, present, and future were all on display February 10, 2014 at the official groundbreaking for the Columbia Square campus of buildings on Sunset Blvd. A massive hole in the ground 50-feet deep belied the fact that the actual groundbreaking took place several months ago. As stakeholders convened for the opening ceremony, workers were already bending rebar into place for an elevator core, while two steam shovels continued to dig even deeper. A mountain of dirt the size of a Sochi ski jump attested to their productivity.
It was a graphic reminder of how much time you have to spend below ground to build a 20-story building. A project of this size typically spends the first six months digging down into the earth, and the next six months just returning to street level. As the design architect for Columbia Square, collaborating with executive architects House & Robertson and GBC, we were still tinkering with the exterior look of the residential tower while the contractor was laying its groundwork.
During the first few weeks of the excavation, the biggest traffic jam in Los Angeles was the steady stream of dump trucks exiting the site, each with a full dish of Hollywood dirt. Ordinarily, builders have to pay somebody to accept that amount of fill. But luckily, the folks at Porsche were only too willing to take it off our hands so they could create an elevated racetrack at their 53-acre Porsche Experience Center, slated to open in Carson in December, 2014.
Columbia Square brings to more than $800 million the amount that Kilroy Realty has invested in reinventing this part of Hollywood. David Simon, Kilroy’s executive vice president, said he hoped its innovative mix of residential and commercial uses, extensive transportation management plan, LEED-certification, and preservation of the original site’s international modernist style would serve as the template for future development in the neighborhood.
CEO John Kilroy, meanwhile, couldn’t stop talking about the project’s “miles and miles of outdoor space” for workers, residents, and visitors alike to enjoy the Southern California sunshine.
While work on the new office buildings and underground parking was still in its earliest stages, significant progress was already visible on the historic 1938 William Lescaze buildings that will remain, in accordance with the site’s 2009 designation as a Historic-Cultural Monument. Contractors have removed numerous interior walls that contributed to a maze of small rooms. Renovations to these buildings will result in higher ceilings, more natural light, and the kind of open space that today’s entertainment and technology firms now demand for collaborative work. Kilroy noted that this trend in real estate was a throwback to the 1920s, an era before the advent of air conditioning, when light, airy spaces were essential for the flow of air, rather than ideas.