Demolition of Parker Center to begin this fall

The demolition of Parker Center is scheduled to begin this fall. The Los Angeles City Council’s general services committee voted Tuesday to move ahead with plans to tear down the former LAPD headquarters building downtown.

But the costs for razing the landmark and redeveloping the area have gone up dramatically.

When the City Council approved the redevelopment project last year they set aside $11 million in bond money for demolition of the old building. But a new report finds it will take at least $32 million.

It’s not just the wrecking ball that will cost more. The overall project, including a new office tower, is now forecast at $708 million, up from $483 million. That increase factors in rising construction costs and “soft costs” like design work and project management.

The 1955 building, designed by Welton Becket and named for controversial former Police Chief William Parker, was recommended for historic status, but the city declined. The building was made famous by Columbo and Dragnet but also came to symbolize the police department’s troubled legacy of mistreating people of color.

“We need to preserve the past, so we don’t repeat the negative aspects of the past. We don’t want to destroy that history, as complicated as it was,” Gail Kennard told DnA in 2015. She is a member of the Cultural Heritage Commission and the daughter of the late Robert Kennard, an African-American architect who practiced in Los Angeles from 1957 until his death in 1995.

Protesters outside Parker Center during 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library

Efforts are still underway to save the former police headquarters and turn it into a shelter for the homeless. AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein is pushing for a ballot initiative, but that would take 65,000 signatures and city approval for a special election since the next election isn’t until 2020. The city says it’d be more expensive to retrofit the building than to build new housing.

If those efforts are unsuccessful, demolition of the building is scheduled to begin this fall and be completed by December of 2019.

Meanwhile, a large mural located in Parker Center’s lobby was removed this past weekend.

It’s 36 feet by 6 feet, and weighs six tons. It was removed in one piece on Saturday morning and moved to a conservator’s studio.

It’s called “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” and was installed in 1955. It depicts a panoramic history of Los Angeles, made with over 250,000 mosaic tiles, and features local landmarks such as City Hall, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Griffith Observatory, an LA freeway, oil derricks, and Parker Center itself.

It was made by the late artist Joseph L. Young, perhaps best known for his Triforium public artwork at the Civic Center. His daughter Leslie Young says the mural shows a very positive view of Los Angeles.

“It really represents the midcentury vision of LA when it was really in its halcyon days and growth mode,” she said.

The mural’s new home is still to be determined.

The “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” being prepared for move, June 2018. Photo: Larry Underhill