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Today in Downtown History: Building Plans Signaled Finance's Westward Move

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008, at 11:27AM
800 Wilshire Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Today it's just a non-descript office building, but when plans for 800 Wilshire were announced on October 28, 1970, the L.A. Times wrote that "the downtown financial district's shift away from Spring St. is gaining momentum."

Financial tenants were fleeing the old bank buildings of the Historic Core. The announcement of the sixteen-story building was the second in a week. Just days before, Security Pacific had announced plans for its 54-story tower at 3rd and Hope. 800 Wilshire was unveiled with Chase Manhattan and Dean Witter as its marquee names.

For Chase Manhattan, this office would be its first on the west coast. In previous decades that would have meant a move to Spring street, the "Wall Street of the West." In the late 1960s that started to change.

The warning signs had been coming, though some had ignored them. In August of 1960, California Bank opened its new 18-story headquarters at 600 S. Spring, just four years after Los Angeles repealed its height limit. At a preview event for the press, the bank's chairman defended his institution's choice to build a high-rise on Spring.

At a noon press reception at the Statler Hilton yesterday Frank L. King, chairman of the bank’s board of directors, said the bank took “some risk” in constructing the building downtown “because there is no guarantee that the financial district will remain where it now is.”

“But,” King continued, “we feel it is likely to remain there for at least the forseeable future.”

The structure would end up being the only new high-rise built in the old financial district.

800 Wilshire was topped out in March of 1971, a month earlier than scheduled. Construction was completed in late 1971, and Mitsubishi Bank, Ltd. opened the Mitsubishi Bank of California in its ground floor in January of 1972.

By April, 1972, the Times reported that the building was 90% leased. Along with Mitsubishi Bank, Allstate Savings & Loan occupied the ground floor, and Dean Witter the upper ground level, mezzanine, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th floors. J.G. Bosell was a tenant on the 6th floor, California Portland Cement Company on the 12th and 13th, and Chase Manhattan took the top two floors.

Today, Pacific Resource Credit Union occupies the corner ground-floor space, while Provecho Restaurant is getting set to open on Wilshire and the Flower side will soon see the arrival of Remedy, an upscale lounge.

Various L.A. Times stories were used compiling this story.

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