LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles hotel that hosted a welcome-home party for the Apollo 11 astronauts and other historic events will remain standing under a deal reached between the mid-century landmark's owners and preservation groups that sought to stave off the structure's demolition.
Michael Rosenfeld, who leads the partnership that owns the glass and aluminum Century Plaza Hotel, said his group has agreed to preserve the crescent-shaped building, which it previously planned to replace with two soaring towers. The deal allows building on other parts of the nearly six-acre property.
"I think we found an opportunity to do something unique and special on this site," he said.
Rosenfeld's group, Next Century Associates, along with the Los Angeles Conservancy and the National Trust for Historic Preservation planned to publicly announce the agreement Thursday.
Next Century bought the 19-story hotel in 2008 and announced a $2 billion plan the following year to replace it with new towers containing condos and shops. But preservation groups argued that the hotel's history and architecture made it worth saving.
The Century Plaza Hotel was built at the core of Century City – a district of high-rises on the former site of a 20th Century Fox movie lot – and opened in 1966. It was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, whose later work included New York City's World Trade Center towers.
Besides the Apollo 11 party, the hotel hosted President-elect Ronald Reagan's victory celebration and Bob Hope's celebrity-studded Century Ball. Its popularity among Washington politicos on overnight trips to Los Angeles earned it the nickname "West Coast White House."
The preservation deal was reached under the goading of City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes Century City. Koretz had vowed to stymie the hotel's destruction by having it declared a historic monument.
"One of my pet peeves throughout my entire life has been watching our historic treasures get demolished one by one," said Koretz, who grew up in Los Angeles. "For me to have the Century Plaza demolished on my watch would have been devastating."
The plan allows the owners to build behind and to the sides of the hotel, but obliges them to maintain the hotel's visibility from the street. Rosenfeld said the new structures would include a mix of homes, offices and shops.
The group also plans to reconfigure the hotel's interior, nearly halving the number of guest rooms to 400 but adding 45 condominium units.
"I am so glad that everyone came together and found a way to preserve this architectural gem," actress Diane Keaton, a trustee of the National Trust, which put the hotel at the top of its 2009 list of important historical sites endangered by neglect or development, said in a statement.
As part of the deal, the developers also agreed to restore the hotel's tarnished aluminum exterior to its original luster. The preservation groups plan to meet with the developer four times a year to monitor the project.
"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," National Trust President Richard Moe said in a statement.