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AON Readies an Updated Street Presence

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, April 08, 2008, at 10:53AM
AON Center Renovations Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Crews work to remove old hardscape elements from in front of the AON Center.

The AON Center at 707 Wilshire recently started work on a ground floor renovation that looks to make the building more friendly to pedestrian life. Since the construction scaffolding went up several weeks ago crews have been hard at work removing old hardscape elements that separated the building from the sidewalks.

Renderings placed on the construction wall show a new 6th street approach that opens the building up to the street and a bright interior color scheme that highlights the building's distinctive crossing escalators. Renders also show a "Garden Cafe" on the plaza outside the building.

707 Wilshire opened in 1973 as the tallest office structure in the West. The 62-story structure was built for the United California Bank.

A 1974 Times article touted the building's ability to "smell" fire, highlighting the hundreds of sensors in lobby areas and air conditioning ducts. All were connected to a central computer system in the building's basement.

What it did not have were sprinklers.

In May of 1988 a fire broke out in the building that required 40% of the City's firefighters to put out. One person was killed and 40 were injured. The Times noted that the building had been installing sprinklers at the time, and had gotten work 90% completed, but that they were not yet operational.

As befitting a building that used to be Los Angeles' tallest, 707 Wilshire has some interesting stories.

In 1976 a gunman -- who was later found to have just a starter pistol -- took chief building engineer Martin Hickey as a hostage and led him to the roof. He demanded that a written statement on the dangers of smoking be read on local radio. When it was he surrendered to the police. The gunman, Dolphin Lair, told KFWB in a jail interview that he had tried to get the word out about smoking after his father's death. The Times recounts: "They told me it wasn't newsworthy," he said, "So I planned this... and it was newsworthy."

In 1982 Ron Broyles, an out of work stunt man, climbed the outside of 707 Wilshire. The Times writes that "He was trying to attract attention to himself to get work. As he climbed, a friend on the ground was available for press queries." Broyles made it all the way up the outside of the building with his clamps and rappelling gear, and then was arrested when he reached the roof.

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