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State Building Hands Off Its "Ugliest" Crown

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2007, at 10:58AM
845 S. Figueroa Eric Richardson [Flickr]

I've long held that the old State Building at 1st & Broadway was Downtown's ugliest, but now that it's wrapped up in a green sheath and gradually getting disassembled I think it's time that it gives up its crown.

Who do I suggest take the title? In my mind it clearly goes to the old Bank of California computer center at 845 S. Figueroa. This building has interested me ever since I've been Downtown, sitting empty and dilapidated directly between two modern high-rises. It's been vacant for years now, with no activity inside.

Much more after the jump...

What is Ugliness?

845 S. Figueroa Highly weighted in my ugliness scorecard is the general disrepair of a building. If the structure is sound but simply just not good looking, that's less important to me than a building that clearly shows its uselessness to the world.

The boarded and fenced Old State building clearly met this test, and 845 S. Figueroa scores high here as well. The front door is boarded up and fenced in, darkly recessed into the space. Various windows are broken and boarded over, and from the aged look of some of the wood they have been for quite some time. The space inside the fence that runs along Figueroa is dirty and overgrown.

Some History

The building opened in 1969, built by Max Linder, whose Linder Plaza we discussed yesterday. The Bank of California was the anchor tenant, using the first two floors as its Southern California computer service center. In June of 1970 the bank opened a branch on the first floor and expanded its lease to include the third.

Tinker Toy Parking Garage The 900-car parking garage behind the building was built by Portable Parking Structures, the same company that built the "tinker-toy" structure next to Parker Center and the structure across the street from Disney Hall. Though designed to be disassembled and moved, that particular feature was never employed by the structures Downtown.

The Bank's lease in the building originally ran until 2000, but in 1978 the federal General Services Administration leased two of the floors the Bank had held and the process allowed the lease on the last floor to be expired in 1988.

The last tenant I can find for the building appears to be the Federal Job Information Center, which seems to have moved out sometime around 2000 or 2001.

Over the decades the building has changed hands several times. The early 1980's saw the building sold to a Japanese company and then in 2004 the structure and parking garage were purchased by L&R, the operators of Downtown's "Joe's Parking Lots."

You would assume that L&R is sitting on the land, content to make their money from parking until someone comes along and offers big bucks to develop the site. A 2004 DCBID report lists their purchase price as roughly $132 per sq. foot, and land today is selling for upward of $400 per sq. foot. That's a tidy profit to turn around.

Someday something nice will probably rise here, but while the structure still stands I think it's a very worthy candidate for Downtown's ugliest building.

Info compiled from various LA Times articles.


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