Historic preservationists are banding together to oppose plans to demolish the Factory building on Robertson Boulevard and replace it with a hotel and shops called Robertson Lane.
The Dead History Project, an organization created by Kate Eggert and Krisy Gosney, has created a Facebook page called Save the Factory to promote preservation of the building. The Los Angeles Conservancy has expressed its concerns about the proposed demolition in a letter to the West Hollywood Community Development Department. The Conservancy is asking that the Factory building be incorporated into plans for Robertson Lane. Both organizations mounted a campaign last year to save a Streamline Moderne-style building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. that will be demolished for the Melrose Triangle Project. The West Hollywood City Council approved the project, but the L.A. Conservancy has filed suit in L.A. Superior Court arguing that the city has not complied with state law requiring an assessment of the project’s impact on the environment, which includes an assessment of the 9080 building’s cultural and historical significance.
The Factory building was constructed in 1929 as the manufacturing plant for Mitchell Cameras, which supplied cameras to the nascent motion picture industry. After World War II it went through several evolutions, and in 1967 became an elite nightclub called “The Factory.” That club closed in 1972. In 1975 Scott Forbes, a gay optometrist, opened a club called Studio One in the building during the height of the disco era. Studio One, Forbes said, “was planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people. Any straight people here are guests of the gay community. This is gay!” Studio One closed in 1988. The building has housed numerous other venues, including the “Axis” club that helped make Sandy Sachs a lesbian icon, and has served as home to nights such as “Rasputin” and “Ultra Suede.” An effort to have it designated a cultural resource was rejected by the City Council in 1995.
Both Dead History Project and the L.A. Conservancy cite the Factory’s history as a manufacturing center for motion picture equipment and a center of gay nightlife in arguing that it be preserved and incorporated into the Robertson Lane project.
Robertson Lane is a project of Jason Illoulian’s Faring Capital. Illoulian’s partner in the project is the Goller family, which shares with the the Illoulian family a long history in West Hollywood. Nate Goller, an attorney, is the husband of Phyllis Morris, founder of Phyllis Morris Originals and one of the more distinctive furniture designers from 1950 until her death in 1988. Their daughter, Jamie Adler, now runs Phyllis Morris with her husband Jonathan, and their flagship is situated next to the Factory. Goller was a partner with Sandy Sachs in the Factory / Ultra Suede club that opened in the building in 2000.
Robertson Lane would replace the Factory with a hotel with more than 250 rooms, underground parking with more than 1,000 spaces and small cafes and small retail spaces that Illoulian says will be “curated” to ensure a variety of interesting shopping experiences. Illoulian proposes a 30- to 35-foot-wide lane through the Robertson Lane building, providing a pedestrian walkway between Robertson Boulevard and LaPeer.
The city currently is at work on a draft environmental impact statement that will consider, among other things, the possible historic or cultural significance of the Factory building. The project likely will go before the Historic Preservation Commission, the Design Review Subcommittee and the Planning Commission before being presented to the City Council for its approval.