Developers will file an application with the city of Los Angeles on Thursday to build what they hope will be a visually stunning, $500-million high-rise on Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood called the Star.
The proposed 22-story glass-skinned office tower would create its own bubble-like world with garden levels open to the elements on the 10th and 17th floors and an enclosed landscaped rooftop with a restaurant, all served by a funicular tram traveling up and down the sides of the tower.
It’s a creation of MAD Architects, a Chinese architecture firm known for daring designs such as the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, under construction near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which evokes director George Lucas’ “Star Wars” fantasy empire.
Architect Ma Yansong called the curvy shape of the building “very sculptural,” reminiscent of a sunrise “or a sunset,” he said with a laugh. “It’s on Sunset Boulevard.”
The Star, he hopes, will become a landmark, “a new form of art in the Hollywood district,” which is already so influential in the arts, he said.
Its design was inspired by the curvilinear forms of existing local landmarks including the Griffith Observatory, Capitol Records building, Hollywood Bowl and Cinerama Dome, he said. “It asserts a new typology for the office of the future.”
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Hollywood has been one of the region’s strongest office markets, driven by demand from growing entertainment companies such as Netflix, which is Hollywood’s largest tenant and has rented other new buildings including the Epic office tower on Sunset Boulevard and the recently completed On Vine complex on Vine Street.
The developers envision the 500,000-square-foot building being rented to one tenant in the entertainment industry, said Edgar Khalatian, a land-use attorney who represents the Los Angeles limited liability company called the Star, which bought the Sunset Boulevard site in 2017. The developers expect the city approval process to last about two years and construction to take an additional three years, he said.
The assemblage of parcels east of Gower Street is now home to a series of low-rise office buildings, including a 1940s-era structure once occupied by Technicolor, and a parking lot. Netflix is a tenant in the existing buildings.
The Star limited liability company is a family partnership led by Maggie Gong Miracle, a Chinese-born investor and real estate agent who lives in Los Angeles. Financing for the project would be raised in the United States, Khalatian said.
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Development of the Star tower must be approved by the city and would require a general plan amendment and zone change, said Khalatian, a partner at Mayer Brown. The scale of the development would be similar to what was previously approved at nearby Columbia Square, he said, which includes offices and a 20-story apartment tower built next to the historic former Hollywood headquarters of CBS.
Entertainment giant ViacomCBS is a high-profile office tenant at Columbia Square. Across Sunset Boulevard from the Star site is Sunset Gower Studios, a century-old movie studio that was once home to Columbia Pictures and now includes an office building housing Technicolor. Also across the street is Emerson College, an architecturally noteworthy building where students live and study the arts.
The project to expand production at Television City comes as shortages keep the region’s existing soundstages booked year-round.
The Star would be flanked on Sunset by two less-glamorous properties, the Hollywood Palms Inn & Suites motel and a mini-mall next to comfort food restaurant Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles.
The pandemic informed the design of the Star, Yansong said, with a focus on ventilation, natural light and other characteristics meant to improve employees’ physical, emotional and mental well-being and earn certification from the International Well Building Institute.
High priority is four levels of foliage designed by Salt Landscape Architects meant to “connect people to the healing nature of plants,” said Michelle Frier, a senior associate at the Los Angeles firm.
Following Yansong’s vision, the foliage would be most imposing at ground level, with trees, ferns and grasses softening a slope up from Sunset Boulevard to the base of the building, which would be surrounded by greenery.
The garden on the 10th floor would be more fragrant and colorful, with lavender, pink muhly and other soft grasses and plants that would sway in the wind. The 17th floor garden would be more “sculptural,” Frier said, with plants such as agaves and succulents. Both of those floors would be larger than average in area and height, with enough room for garden paths and places to sit.
The terrarium-like rooftop dome with the restaurant and event space would have vines and “airy, soft plants that play with the light coming through that dome,” Frier said.
The funicular that Yansong calls a sky lift would have cars that could hold as many as 30 people and could be opened to allow air circulation, he said. The building would also have interior elevators.
Office rents in Hollywood have been climbing consistently for the last five years, said Petra Durnin, head of market analytics at Raise Commercial Real Estate. Buildings that have more worker-friendly elements than were common in 20th century office towers will be the most competitive, said Durnin, who is not involved with the Star.
“Given changing employee preferences and employers’ needs to attract and retain gold-standard talent, new office construction will need to be a world apart from what exists now,” she said. “Just as retail evolved in recent years and became experiential to draw consumers to brick-and-mortar locations, so must new office design.”