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New Gehry Building Planned in Downtown Santa Monica

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

March 1, 2013 -- World-renowned architect Frank Gehry promises to change the face of Santa Monica’s skyline with a proposed 22-story hotel Downtown, his first project in the city he calls home in a quarter century.

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The view of the proposed Gehry building from the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue (renderings courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP.)

The plan, submitted to the City Thursday by M. David Paul and Associates and Worthe Real Estate Group calls for a 244-foot tall mixed-use hotel with 125 rooms and 22 condominium units on a two-acre parcel at Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.

The proposed plan includes ground floor retail and restaurant space, as well as 19 rent-controlled apartments.

Gehry plans to incorporate the landmarked Spanish Colonial house and Victorian house into a 36,000-square-foot “museum campus,” with an additional third building behind the two houses and an underground exhibition space.

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The proposed museum campus

“After twenty-five years, I am excited to finally design a project in my hometown of 40 years,” Gehry said, adding that the Ocean Avenue site “always stood out to me as the face of the City.”

The design process has been a long and thorough one, said representatives of Gehry Partners, LLP.

“It took six years to get where we are,” said Tensho Takemori, a partner with Gehry Partners, LLP.

Takemori stood Thursday next to a scale model of Santa Monica's Downtown during a presentation for the local press. Behind him were dozens of iterations of the proposed building, each slightly different and modeled with wooden blocks. None were more than two feet tall.

The design, Takemori said, was meant to be a reflection of Santa Monica's “certain sophistication and casualness.”

The white tower, in the preliminary designs, gives the appearance of gently undulating while twisting, meant to evoke the waves and the beach, according to Takemori.

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The tower viewed from the west side of Ocean Avenue

The proposed 244-foot tower would be set back from the sidewalk. Along Ocean Avenue, the tower would be set back approximately 62 feet from the sidewalk, 79 feet from Santa Monica Boulevard and 155 feet from 2nd Street.

The sidewalk would be buffered from the tower by buildings between two and five stories tall.

The design would also turn the alleyways on Santa Monica Boulevard and on Ocean Boulevard into pedestrian “paseos.”

The 19 rent-controlled apartments would replace the units currently on the site and as many as five on-site affordable housing units.

The 150 parking spaces currently on the two-acre site would be replaced by 460 subterranean parking spaces, according to the plan.

The top of the tower would be open to the public, offering panoramic views of the coast to visitors and residents alike.

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The view from the top of the tower.

The submittal of the development application to the Planning Department on Thursday will kick-off what is expected to be a lengthy process.

“We know this is going to take a lot of time and work with the community,” said Jeffery Worthe, president of Worthe Realestate Group. “We don't take this lightly.”

Worthe said the company plans to hold the first community meeting this month and is confident the design will garner a positive reaction.

“It's what the City deserves,” he said. “It's what the site deserves.”

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The proposed site layout

The Edgemar Retail Complex on Main Street is the only building in Santa Monica designed by the architect, other than his house, which was widely regarded as cutting edge -- and controversial -- when it was built in 1971. One neighbor even fired a gun at the structure.

Gehry also designed the original Santa Monica Place, but the mall was completely renovated in 2008 by Jerde Architecture and Urban Design, which turned the original air-conditioned structure into an outdoor mall.

Gehry's unique buildings can be seen all over the world, from The Dancing House in Prague to a new residential building in Hong Kong called Opus.

He is also designed the world-acclaimed Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles.

Gehry is currently working on a Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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