Sunset Rising

The new Emerson College campus on Sunset Blvd..

The new Emerson College campus on Sunset Blvd..

Sunset Boulevard is changing rapidly. Developers sense there’s big money to be made, and the City Council is rushing to approve their wish lists with as much speed and as little oversight as possible. Let’s take a look at three projects that are in various stages of completion….

A view of the Emerson campus at street level.

A view of the Emerson campus at street level.

The most interesting of these projects, and in my view the one most likely to produce real benefits for the community, is Emerson College. The school’s new LA campus was designed by Morphosis, and while I’m not a huge fan of the firm’s approach, I have to say this is a nice piece of work. By far the most striking building on the streetscape, it certainly calls attention to itself, but without being ostentatious or garish. It’s a sophisticated modern structure that also manages to be playful. It’s been a while since anyone built anything this cool in the Hollywood area.

A view from a terrace at the entrance to the campus.

A view from a terrace at the entrance to the campus.

Also, Emerson will be bringing teaching and administrative jobs to the community. The City Council insists that development is necessary to reduce unemployment, which sounds logical, but most of the projects they approve will only create low-paying service sector jobs. They seem to feel Hollywood residents should be satisfied with waiting tables and vacuuming hotel rooms. Anyway, Emerson just opened in January and is located at the corner of Sunset and Gordon.

A new residential/retail complex across from the Emerson campus.

A new residential/retail complex across from the Emerson campus.

Right across the street is yet another mixed-use, residential/retail tower. This seems to be the kind of project that developers can’t get enough of right now, high-end housing combined with ground floor retail. By combining the two they can claim they’re addressing the traffic problem by making it easier for people to shop where they live. In reality, I don’t see any evidence that this approach is reducing congestion in the LA area. But there are plenty more projects like this in the works. At least this one looks kind of nice.

The biggest thing going up on Sunset right now is Columbia Square, which will be a massive mixed-use project that incorporates the old CBS Studios. You probably won’t be surprised that it promises still more high-end housing with still more ground floor retail. They’re also billing it as “Hollywood’s New Creative Media Campus”. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but hopefully the finished product will deliver more than I expect. You can click here for more details. At least they’re preserving the CBS building, so I guess I should be thankful for that. To read more about the history of CBS Studios, click here.

Workers atop the old CBS Studios.

Workers atop the old CBS Studios.

Columbia Square will occupy a full city block. Right now workers are busy inside a massive excavation as they prepare the foundation. There’s something about the scale of these enormous projects that’s kind of overwhelming. I look down into this huge pit and see hundreds of workers, I see trucks, tractors and cranes. A whole city block is being transformed.

Workers preparing the foundation for the Columbia Square project.

Workers preparing the foundation for the Columbia Square project.

Another shot of workers preparing the foundation.

Another shot of workers preparing the foundation.

Here are a few more images….

A side view of the site, facing west.

A side view of the site, facing west.

Another side view, again facing west.

Another side view, again facing west.

A shot of CBS Studios taken in the late afternoon.

A shot of CBS Studios taken in the late afternoon.

You may wonder why I included these, since they’re mostly shots of the sky above the project. It probably seems like just a lot of empty space. But that’s what I wanted to capture. When Columbia Square is finished, it will rise twenty stories above street level.

All this space will be gone.

The Cornfield Under Construction

The Cornfield on a day in January.

The Cornfield on a day in January.

You may not be familiar with Los Angeles State Historic Park, AKA the Cornfield. Downtown residents probably know it best, though it’s also hosted a number of popular music festivals. It is kind of off the beaten path, lying on the outskirts of the downtown area, and it’s only been around since two thousand five.

The entrance to the Cornfield.

The entrance to the Cornfield.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t made it down there yet, you’re going to have to wait until next year. Plans to expand and improve the site have been on the drawing board for a while, and the state has finally approved the funds. So the park will be closing this month as work begins. Among the changes will be the creation of a wetlands area, the construction of an amphitheatre and the addition of a space for a farmers market.

I actually like the park as it is, a plain, open space with grass and trees. So I decided to take some photos of it before the closure. The park was pretty empty on the day I made it down there, probably in part because the sky was overcast.

Downtown is visible off in the distance...

Downtown is visible off in the distance…

...and industrial area lies on one side...

…an industrial area lies on one side…

...and train tracks on the other.

…and train tracks on the other.

The site that the park is on has a pretty interesting history. Community groups fought with a developer who wanted to build warehouses on the land. This article on the KCET web site offers a good deal of information. The designers who created the park’s current state incorporated markers to commemorate some of the groups that have been a part of LA’s history.

The path leading up to a low hill...

The path leading up to a low hill…

...where you'll find a concrete marker...

…where you’ll find a concrete marker…

...that commemorates some of the people who make up the city's history.

…that commemorates some of the people who make up the city’s history.

Creating the park was a long and difficult process, and there were disagreements among some of the groups involved. This article from the LA Times covers the conceptual art event that re-opened the park, and also details some of the differing points of view.

Not a Cornfield

And for the official story (much less interesting), you can take a look at the state’s web page.

Los Angeles State Historic Park

Corn 10 Hill w Trees