bunker hill, downtown los angeles, financial district

Adaptive Reuse on Steroids: Library Tower Could Go Residential/Hotel in Downtown LA

The tallest skyscraper on the west coast, Library Tower in Downtown LA, may be getting some very exciting changes in the future from new owners Overseas Union Enterprise

The tallest skyscraper on the west coast, Library Tower in Downtown LA, may be getting some very exciting changes in the future from new owners Overseas Union Enterprise

Several independent sources have informed me that some very big and exciting changes are in the preliminary planning stages for Library Tower in Downtown LA. Last year, Library Tower (aka US Bank Tower) was purchased by Singapore-based Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) for $367.5 million from MPG according to the LA Times. The 73-story office high-rise stands at 1,018 feet tall and still holds the title of tallest skyscraper west of Chicago. However, Library Tower also has one of the highest office vacancies downtown hovering at around 45% (that’s 585,000 square feet of empty space out of 1.3 million total). In an effort to turn the property around and raise the profile of OUE’s new LA acquisition, the Asian investment company had to think outside of the box as the office market has been stubbornly soft and more and more companies are shying away from traditional office space in favor of creative spaces. But wait a minute: everyone knows that the red hot economic engine downtown has involved both residential and hotel developments. Aha!

Apparently, Overseas Union Enterprise has hired global architect firm Gensler to come up with strategic ideas on how to convert Library Tower into one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in Los Angeles. At 1.3 million square feet, it really is adaptive reuse on steroids! Currently, signs point to residential and hotel conversion while keeping a portion of the office component intact. A general contractor out of Austin, Texas has also apparently been tapped.

So what will the setup look like? All office tenants will be relocated to the top portion of the tower starting from the 55th floor and up. Everything below that will be the residential and hotel components. Because almost half of the tower is already empty, it should be relatively easy to figure things out logistically compared to a tower full of tenants. On a side note: I love this entire idea, but I strongly believe the residential and hotel portion should be located on the top floors to take advantage of the views while the office component should be on the lower floors, but I’m sure we’ll find out what the reasoning is later on.

There are some other very exciting changes and upgrades that may go along with the Library Tower conversion makeover. First, the lobby may go through an expansion and state-of-the-art upgrade by extending it outward toward 5th Street. Currently, the tower is set back from the street with an underutilized plaza sitting between the tower and the sidewalk. The newly expanded lobby would replace the plaza and address the sidewalk better, which would benefit pedestrians as a result. How the lobby will divide between residential, hotel, and commercial is still uncertain.

And this has got to be my favorite potential change. OUE is considering adding an observation deck to the top of the tower geared for tourists and visitors to Los Angeles. This one is long, long overdue. Smart cities around the world have taken advantage of their skyscrapers by adding sky decks that generate a lot of money from ticket sales and branded merchandise. Think Empire State Building, Sears (Willis) Tower, Taipei 101, Shanghai World Financial Center, CN Tower, etc.

Library Tower’s observation deck — if it is indeed located on the very top 73rd level — would still be the highest occupied floor on the west coast even after Wilshire Grand Tower and SF’s Transbay Tower are completed since both towers surpass Library Tower in height only because of architectural spires or crown features. Check out some of the “World’s Coolest Observation Decks” compiled by Travel + Leisure magazine for some really great examples.

Lastly, apparently the west side of the tower next to the Bunker Hill Steps will be reworked a bit to allow for direct access by tourists and visitors to the observation deck where a restaurant may also be added.

Click here to read more about the interesting history of Library Tower and how this landmark skyscraper got its name (hint: it has something to do with a devastating fire at the LA Central Library across the street in 1986).

Below, are some pictures I took from the helipad of Library Tower that gives a good idea what the spectacular views would be like from an observation deck.


Looking northeast toward Bunker Hill and the San Gabriel Mountains

Looking northeast toward Bunker Hill and the San Gabriel Mountains


Looking southeast with the dense Historic Core down below

Looking southeast with the dense Historic Core down below


Looking southwest with a view of the Staples Center hidden behind Aon Tower

Looking southwest with a view of the Staples Center hidden behind Aon Tower


Looking west along Wilshire Blvd

Looking west along Wilshire Blvd

Center map
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  1. Raymond3000 says

    I almost spit out everything within me! GAMECHANGER (ON STEROIDS)!! An Observation Deck too: agreed long overdue! GOOO ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF LA!

  2. Does anyone know if Wilshire Grand is planning a skydeck? I like the idea of a skydeck on Library Tower, but it’d probably be a mistake if WG is already planning on doing one. It’d be a shame for them to invest all the money in a skydeck just to have all the business drawn away by WG just a few years later.

    • Re: WGT, the public should be allowed to go up to the hotel lobby and rooftop amenities that are geared for the public and not just hotel guest, but I’m not sure if WGT is going to have an observation deck in the traditional sense like Empire State Building or Taipei 101.

      Even if there were two observation decks, that wouldn’t necessarily hurt either one. Quite a few cities have more than one observation deck. Chicago has Sears (Willis) Tower and John Hancock. NYC has Empire State Building, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, Statue of Liberty, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the new WTC ONE has an observation deck as well. Las Vegas has Paris Effiel Tower and Stratosphere. Etc. etc.

  3. I believe WG will have a sky lobby on the 70th floor if I’m not mistaken. I may be wrong on that. Either way I don’t see why we can’t have more than one observation deck.

  4. Jeremy says

    Alongside this would have to include a renaming of the building Something original eg Pio Pico Center, Junipero Serra Tower

  5. Gensler has been doing a lot of thinking recently about “hacking” office skyscrapers like this. Here’s a theoretical video they made using the Union Bank Building as an example.

    I think office would be staying up top because they typically command a higher price for the views, no?

    • Yes, whatever is on top will command a higher price. However, office seems to be the weakest revenue source for Library Tower. Putting your residences on top will command higher rents or sales figures and same thing with a hotel being high up (like the Grand Hyatt at Jin Mao Building in Shanghai). In fact, that’s how WGT will be as well with hotels on top and offices on the bottom portion of the tower. It just doesn’t make sense to me putting residences/hotels on the bottom unless you have to.

      • Steven Price says

        I’m assuming it has to do with floor plate size; though typically, the smaller (upper) plates lend better to residential. More windows, closer to the service core. When you have larger floor area (let’s use Chicago’s John Hancock Tower, as an example), you get apartments with a lot of dark interior service rooms and few windows at the end of long, shoe-boxy rooms. But they may have determined their office tenants will ONLY stay for the views.

      • Alika says

        A possible benefit of residential appearing on the lower levels is that it may keep residential prices from becoming off-the-charts expensive. It would be nice to see some high-rise, moderately market-rate housing in DTLA.

  6. keaswaran says

    I was assuming that there might be issues with bringing proper residential plumbing and gas up to the higher levels in a retrofit.

    At any rate, it looks like you got those pictures on one of the amazingly clear days!

  7. Matthew Goulet says

    The roof (and likely skydeck height) of the US Bank tower will certainly be higher than that of the Wilshire Grand Tower. In fact, the Wishire Grand only gets bragging rights as tallest building because its spire pokes 82 feet higher than the top of the Library Tower.

  8. Eddie says

    This is sick!

    I have ALWAYS wanted to go to the top of the US Bank tower but I hear security is super tight. This would change everything… Open up a bar and restaurant and knock this thing out of the park.

    Exciting news!!

  9. robertissimus says

    Hope they take off the U.S. Bank sign from the top of the building and that we can keep calling it simply Library Tower, which is pretty and actually has the advantage of going against the cliche of Los Angeles as a city of non-readers.

    • I agree. I have always fondly preferred the name Library Tower due to its development history saving the Central Library across the street and buying air rights to build taller. I think it should be a permanent name for the building regardless of who has signage rights. Names like Empire State Building, Taipei 101, Chrysler Building, remain the same regardless of who is in the tower.

  10. I’m thinking the views from the higher floors are better during the day, so let the office tenants have those. Most people in residential units would be at home at night, so they wouldn’t enjoy the views from higher floors as much accept for weekends.

    • Views at night can be just as amazing as views during the day. LA sparkles like a glittering gem at night. Downtown LA high-rises light up and that becomes part of the view.

  11. WolfofDTLA says

    US Bank Tower (FORMALLY Liberty Tower). Sorry, I’m just a stickler for things being called what they truly are.

    • Anna says

      I really don’t care what the new corporate name is. Sure, if I was writing a report or article on it, I would call it by its legal name, but other than that, I’m calling it the Library Tower, as many folks do.

    • Steven Price says

      it was FORMERLY (and originally) named Library Tower. It was once called “Liberty Tower” in error by Geo W Bush. Prior to the naming rights acquisition by US Bank, it was also called the First Interstate Bank building.

  12. LAofAnaheim says

    It’s referred to as “US Bank Tower”, not “Libarary Tower”. The name was changed a long time ago.

    • anna says

      There is a building in Portland, Oregon that locals and residents call ‘Big Pink’. It is legally known as the U.S. Bancorp Tower. So, YOU can refer to the U.S. Bank Tower however you want. If you want to use the boring, corporate name, fine! I like Library Tower.

  13. This is very exciting news! The US Bank Tower is my favorite skyscraper in the world and I always knew that top floor could easily be a public observation deck but now hearing the news of this adaptive reuse I’m even more excited. Downtown LA is the place to be.

  14. I work here and drive to this place every morning since riding the bus would add an hour to return hour (that and there are sick people on the bus).
    Basically this building is very expensive, they have no parking (they charge $450/month for a parking spot) and on top of that want nearly $5-6 per sq. ft in office rent. Down the street in a similar building you can pay $1.5 square foot for something comparable and pay $150/month for parking.

    They want a lot of money and not surprisingly they have a high vacancy rate..

  15. Bruce Lee Roy says

    $1.50 would barely even cover the CAMs on a class A building like that. The building you’re talking about cannot be in the same league. I heard the high vacancy is from MPG shifting tenants to their other buildings prior. I agree that if they do residential if should be higher but that would depend on configuration and their current occupancy.

  16. Bruce Lee Roy says

    Robert, the $1.50 you’re talking must be for an inferior building. Just the CAMS alone on a class A building like that is over $1. Regarding residential… if they do it I agree top floors would be the best but that would depend on their configuration and current occupancy…

  17. Scott Williams says

    My bags are packed! Goodbye S. Spring Street.

  18. Andy says

    This tower would really look beautiful with a spire. This may be a pipe dream but if the LAFD changes the helipad rules as it’s rumored to be doing is it even possible one could be added to an existing building? I always feel that the library tower would look complete with a tasteful spire.

    • Shahbaz says

      I totally disagree. Every iconic world skyscraper built with a spire (Empire State, Petronas, Jin Mao, Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101, Bank of China, etc.) was designed that way from the start. A few buildings (Sears Tower and original WTC come to mind) added radio towers for ‘tallest building’ bragging rights in the 70s and 80s…. that’s as far as that trend went. Conversely, US Bank/Library Tower was specifically designed with no traditional spire design in mind due to flat roof regulations that dominated LA skyscrapers of the 70s and 80s. In order to get past this aesthetic handicap, the building designers had to create a new feature (the “crowned” apex) that gave the building it’s signature look, instantly classifying it as an architectural landmark. The result is a unique design that incorporates the effect of a spire within this crown that is as timeless as it is innovative (no other high profile building is known to own such a design).

  19. As a European who’s never been in LA, I’ve always known the building as Library Tower, I think if its known as that even in Europe then the name should stick.

  20. tyler murphy says

    Hi Brigham, regarding residential on the upper floors, yes, usually a landlord would like to have residential tenants located on the upper floors of the building as the landlord can ask for more $. But this building has existing office tenants and lease agreements. Every office lease Ive been involved with, the landlord has relocation rights within the building for the tenant, to be Equal or Better. Therefore my guess is the landlord cannot relocate the office tenants on the upper floors to lower levels, but rather relocate the lower level office tenants to higher floors, thus answering your question.

  21. hjt123 says

    Why a hotel? Why not more apartments, especially in a tight market like DTLA? Aren’t there enough hotels in Los Angeles?

    • DTLA Resident/Employee (7-years) says

      To facilitate the intended convention center expansion and remain competitive with NYC, New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas and San Diego DTLA requires a convention center expansion (stadium or not). The hotels (and development of super quality public transportation) are a parallel efforts.

      Without the rooms, larger conventions are not possible. The city’s goal is to expand rooms significantly in the coming years. This includes floors on building heights to ensure quality use of community land.

  22. Enio says

    I think the building would look incredibly dynamic if it were to be reclad in very clear glass. I’m thinking something along the lines of what REX recently unveiled for redesigning the historic Davis Brody building on 450 West 33rd St in New York.

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