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.

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