Century Plaza Hotel

Century Plaza Hotel (Associated Press)

CENTURY CITY -- The Century Plaza Hotel will be spared from the wrecking ball after the owner and preservationists reached an historic agreement.

The luxury hotel, known for its crescent-shaped facade, has welcomed presidents, princes and entertainment royalty since it opened its doors in 1966.

Next Century Associates developer Michael Rosenfeld's original plan to spend $2 billion to raze the 19-story Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and replace it with two 50-story towers with condos, a boutique hotel, offices, retail shops and public plazas had outraged preservationists and community activists.

The revised plan calls for "sensitive rehabilitation" of the hotel to preserve 400 hotel rooms while converting those on the top floors to 45 condos. Meeting space would be reduced and a slightly smaller ballroom would replace the existing one.

The developer plans to propose other buildings behind and/or beside the hotel and a low-scale structure with some retail shops or restaurants to enliven the front of the hotel.

"The National Trust believes that if NCA's newly proposed plan is approved, the hotel will retain its eligibility for listing as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and in the California Register of Historical Resources," according to the trust.

Rosenfeld said his discussions with the trust and the preservationists "have been very encouraging, and we believe the City Council will be excited about the merits of this type of collaborative planning effort.'

"Preservation of the hotel could only be achieved if sufficient additional development was permitted on the site," he said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents Century City, pushed for the negotiations, saying the 726-room hotel would be torn down "over my dead body."

"Next Century's willingness to embrace a plan that preserves the hotel is a great step forward," Koretz said.

"The process serves as a model of how a developer can work together with the preservation community to bring forward a solution that preserves an important structure, allows future development on the property and better serves the goals of the community," he said.

The announcement noted that the project is still in a "concept phase," subject to formal review by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission, Planning Department and City Council. It said a draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected later this year.

"I am so glad that everyone came together and found a way to preserve this architectural gem," actress Diane Keaton, a National Trust trustee, said in a statement. "You see? It can be done. Development and preservation are not mutually exclusive."

"Together, we've shown that with perseverance and dedication, preservation advocates, developers and our elected officials can re-envision development to save our country's one-of-a-kind places," added Richard Moe, president of the National Trust, based in Washington, D.C.

"Historic preservation inherently involves the conservation of energy and natural resources," he added. "The decision to save the Century Plaza will not only save a modernist iconic building, it will also positively impact the environment," he said.

Completed in 1966, the Century Plaza was built as the centerpiece of Century City, a "city within a city," conceived 50 years ago as a progressive approach to urban planning. Century City rose on the former back lot of 20th Century-Fox Studios.

Over the years, the hotel hosted President-elect Ronald Reagan's victory celebration and later became known as the "Western White House." It also hosted such landmark events as Bob Hope's Century Ball and a welcome-home party for the Apollo 11 astronauts.

A year after it opened, more than 1,000 club-swinging police officers clashed with about 10,000 antiwar demonstrators as President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke at a Democratic fundraiser inside.

The hotel was designed by architect and engineer Minoru Yamasaka, who was also the architect of Century City's Theme Towards and New York's World Trade Center towers.