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This week in preservation: DnA’s Jason Groman laments the demolition of a historic Beverly Hills department store; the Culver City Ice Arena is declared “safe” but it’s future still hangs in the balance. Plus, find out how neighborhoods in L.A. County fared on the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Preservation Report Card issued last week.

Jason Groman Says Goodbye to Robinson’s Department Store

I have fond memories of going to the Beverly Hills Robinson’s Department Store as a young child with my grandmother who was a devoted customer. I can still smell the perfume wafting at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance and can still remember getting lost in between the racks of clothing as my grandmother would look frantically for me. After a long shopping day, we would have a wonderful lunch at the Round Robin Restaurant located on the roof-top.

After years of legal wrangling, the Beverly Hills Courier reports that last week the Beverly Hills City Councilvoted 4-1 to go ahead with demolition of the now-vacant Robinson’s Department Store in Beverly Hills. Designed by Charles Luckman and William Pereira, the Robinson’s May Department Store was just one of many iconic buildings the pair designed in L.A. and other cities. Some of their other work includes the LAX Theme Building, the original Disneyland Hotel, Madison Square Garden in New York and another Robinson’s Department Store Building in Palm Springs.

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The interior of the department store was designed by Parisian-born industrial designer Raymond Loewy whose work included  the redesign of the Coke Cola bottle, Greyhound Bus, and Air Force One.

The Beverly Hills Courier has reported that demolition of the building will begin on April 1st 2014. It is to be replaced by a mixed-use condo community owned by BH Wilshire International LLC.

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Culver City Ice Arena Decommissioned; But It Can Still Be a Rink

First Culver Ice Arena was going to close and be taken over by Planet Granite. Then the city found the rock-climbing company could not change the rink’s use without getting a variance. Planet Granite pulled out of the lease but the city found the rink to be “a threat to public health and safety” due to problems with the ammonia in the refrigeration system.

Now, after sitting dormant for several weeks, the ice has been removed and the faulty system remedied, in a decommissioning process started end of last week by the property’s owner Mike Karagozian.

So does this mean it’s over for the beloved ice rink? Not necessarily. Culver City CEO John Nachbar says that if a new operator steps forward, “it can be a rink; it just has to be operated in a safe manner.” He says everyone in the ice skating business agrees the existing ice rink system is “at the end of its useful life.” Now the skating community is hoping a deep-pocketed rink operator will step forward who can pay the higher rent and make the necessary investments to restore the Ice Arena to life, in a better than ever condition.

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Los Angeles Conservancy’s Issues a Preservation Report Card

Last week the Los Angeles Conservancy issued a report card that scored southern California cities in Los Angeles County on their preservation efforts. How did most of them fare? Not well.  The Southland, a young region with a “history of forgetting,” has a historically dismal record on preservation. More than 50 communities had no preservation tools at all. Cities that received Fs included Malibu, Rancho Palos Verdes, Lomita and Vernon, and the recession has slowed preservation efforts.

Notable results: Beverly Hills was bumped up from an F (that they previously received) to an A+. Naturally one wonders how Beverly Hills got this rating in light of its decision to demolish Robinson’s Department Store. Turns out the owners of the former store’s site went through the EIR entitlement process in the mid-2000’s, so it was approved for demolition before the Conservancy’s study of current preservation efforts there.

Want to know if your city aced or flunked preservation? Find out here. And listen to the Conservancy’s Adrian Fine talk about the report card with KCRW’s Madeleine Brand on Press Play.

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  • Mark

    I thought they were supposed to incorporate Robinson’s into the design of the building. I’m very disappointed with BH Council. Have they no sense of historical pride?

  • Mike

    As a Realtor out of a BH firm I thought it ironic that the Robinson’s May site was pruchased by a third world country (?) an LLC, and they, the country, put it all in the investment of the site, and then did nothing….I haven’t a clue who approved? Times were tougher and I guess we were looking for dollars???

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