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.