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City Council Votes to Demolish Parker Center
In a unanimous vote Friday, City Council approved the plan to demolish the historic Parker Center downtown, according to Curbed. The decision comes after a long-running and controversial discussion around the merits of the building. The LA Conservancy has been fighting for its preservation, citing it as a "significant postwar addition" to the Civic Center, but the building's relationship to former Police Chief William Parker stunted any chances for historic designation and preservation. Chief Parker was the LAPD chief from 1950 to 1966, and under his leadership the police department adopted militarized practices and widened the gap between police and minority communities in L.A. This history, along with the structural dangers of the building itself, led City Council to deny it a monument status. Little Tokyo community leaders also supported the demolition because the construction of the Parker Center involved tearing down a significant number of Little Tokyo businesses in the 1940s and 1950s, according to the LA Times.
The demolition is the the key element of a proposal to replace the Center with a 27-story office tower. The new building will both house city employees and offer retail and restaurants on the ground floor, according to the LA Times. The proposal also includes a request to preserve certain architectural elements of the building, including a Joseph Young mural (the same artist of Triforium fame) and a Bernard J. Rosenthal sculpture. The new office tower is one part of the larger Civic Center Master Plan, which City Council also voted to pass on Friday. The Master Plan will work to consolidate and modernize the area downtown around City Hall. According to Curbed, Councilman Jose Huizar's office said demolition could happen as early as next fiscal year, with the full Civic Center Master Plan occurring in six phases over the next 15 years.
The LA Conservancy expressed dismay at the vote, saying in a statement:
"We strongly believe reuse and rehabilitation of the building are fully capable of meeting the City’s intended goals, and is the more cost-effective approach that can save millions in taxpayer dollars."
The city's analysis had determined it would cost more to preserve the building than to raze and rebuild. The LA Conservancy considered this an inaccurate and politically-motivated estimation, according to the LA Times.Despite their best efforts, the Parker Center will eventually exist only in memory. The other Welton Becket buildings will still stand, though, so it'll be possible to still get that mid-century architectural fix via the Beverly Hilton or the Capitol Records tower (without perpetuating the legacy of a deeply racist police chief).