Robertson Lane Project Goes Before WeHo’s Historic Preservation Committee

An image of the revised plan for Robertson Lane, including a restoration of The Factory. (Hodgetts + Fung)

The environmental impact report on the proposed hotel and shopping plaza on Robertson Boulevard known as Robertson Lane will be presented to West Hollywood’s Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday.

The commission will meet at 7 p.m. at the Plummer Park Community Center, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. near North Vista. The meeting is expected to draw a large crowd because of the project’s location on the site of the Factory, a building at 661-665 N. Robertson Blvd. that in February was designated as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places

An EIR identifies and examines likely environmental effects of a proposed project and proposes measures to avoid, reduce or offset them. The 343-page report was commissioned by Faring Capital, the developer of the project, and prepared by Dudek, an environmental impact consulting firm in Pasadena. A full copy can be found online.

At a meeting in December 2014 area residents raised questions about a variety of possible impacts of the project, including shade on nearby buildings and lack of parking during its construction. But the biggest issue, which is likely to dominate the discussion on Tuesday, is preservation of the Factory building.

Those who argue for its preservation note that it was home from 1929 to 1946 to the Mitchell Camera Co., manufacturer of Hollywood film equipment, and from 1974 to 1993 to Studio One, the gay nightclub.

The Factory as it looks today.

Jason Illoulian of Faring Capital has said that he intends to restore the Factory, re-orienting its location on the project site. The Robertson Lane project will include a hotel with more than 250 rooms, underground parking with more than 1,000 spaces and cafes and small retail spaces. The project also will include a 30- to 35-foot-wide lane providing a visual and physical connection between Robertson Boulevard and La Peer.

The draft EIR notes the history of the Factory and of its various alterations over the years.

“The Factory building has had numerous uses and occupants over time, and has been altered to accommodate changes in use,” reads the EIR. “Some of these changes are associated with significant periods of the building’s history, and certain alterations associated with those periods are considered to have attained significance in their own right. The following description of the building’s construction and alteration history places changes to the building within the chronology of the building’s identified periods of significance.

— 1940: Construction of a two‐story office building at its north elevation, west (to the rear) of the 1929 office building.

— 1942: Addition of employee restrooms and locker rooms.

— 1943: Construction of a one‐story building assumed to be the adjacent plumbing and woodworking building at the northwest corner of the property (no longer extant).

Alterations made to the building between its period of significance as the Mitchell Camera Corporation factory and its period of significance as Studio One (1974‐1992) include the following:

— 1952: Addition of a loading dock to the building’s south elevation … Several additional alterations were identified through an inspection of the property, an assessment of historic photographs, and additional property‐specific research:

— Complete alteration of the Mitchell Camera Corporation office building. This building, which was constructed in 1929 as a one‐story Art Deco building to house the Factory building’s office and administrative functions, has been modified in such a way that it does not retain any of its original Art Deco features.
story nightclub entrance, the addition of an exterior staircase, and the construction of a patio area accessed via French doors.

— Addition of the south elevation to accommodate another commercial entrance.

— The modification of the west façade to accommodate a new nightclub entrance. The Studio One entrance was fronted by a fabric canopy; this canopy has been removed and replaced with a large steel canopy.

— Numerous interior alterations throughout the history of the building, although little is known about the extent and dates of these modifications.”

According to the EIR, Faring’s proposal to restore and preserve the building “would involve disassembling the 24,990 square foot Factory building and its 6,764 square foot former office building (which has been significantly altered in its conversion to a restaurant) and the reassembly of an approximately 140-foot-long, two-story portion of the originally 240-foot-long building.

“The building would be repositioned from its current location spanning east-west between Robertson Boulevard and La Peer Drive to a new location onsite. The building would be situated on a north-south axis along Robertson Boulevard at the eastern edge of the project site. The current Robertson Boulevard façade of the Factory would face north onto the open-air paseo. The north-facing façade would be restored to its original factory appearance, including the replacement of non-historic windows with salvaged original windows, conservation and reuse of original embossed steel cladding, and removal of non-historic elements such as an exterior staircase.

“The length of the building along Robertson Boulevard would incorporate new storefront entrances for commercial tenants but would otherwise be restored to its original factory appearance. The current La Peer Drive façade would face south under the proposed reconfiguration of the building. The south-facing façade would be restored to its original Studio One discotheque appearance.”

  1. @90069 this development it a hotel which at its highest will be NINE stories high.
    The applicant, Faring Capital LLC, proposes to construct a multi-use hotel of approximately 262,315 square feet (sf) on the project site that would vary from 3 to 9 stories in height (equating to approximately 27 feet to 114 feet in height as measured from Robertson Boulevard). The hotel would have 241 guestrooms of varying configurations and sizes and would include retail space, restaurant space, outdoor dining, hotel meeting spaces, a nightclub, a gym and spa, back-of- house areas, a lobby, circulation space, and design showroom space. A pedestrian paseo would be created through the project site, and retractable bollards would be installed within Robertson Boulevard to allow for creation of a pedestrian space during special occasions such as (but not limited to) entertainment award parties, LGBT Pride, and the City’s Halloween carnival.
    . A portion of the Factory building, a structure that is currently located on the project site, would be retained, rehabilitated and relocated within the site so that it is facing Robertson Boulevard. Two existing one-story commercial buildings located at the southeastern corner of the site would remain in place, as would six of the sixteen trees currently located on site. The project would also include construction of a subterranean parking garage, providing for a total of 1,151 parking spaces and 7 off-loading spaces. Three levels of subterranean parking would be constructed on site, beneath the proposed multi-use hotel building, and two levels of subterranean parking would be constructed below the western portion of West Hollywood Park, across from the project site. A subterranean tunnel extending beneath Robertson Boulevard would connect the two portions of the garage.

  2. We need to protect our large event spaces. I am all for the redevelopment if the Factory will be retained for club/event space and not another cluster of retail spaces that will mostly stay vacant or be filled with mediocre coffee and coffee adjacent eateries.

  3. Although it has not been mentioned, the design of this building illustrates the concept of applying avant-garde architectural methods to an industrial facility. Konstantin Melnikov was associated with the Constructivists Architect although an independent artist practicing c. 1927 in Moscow. He designed and built the Soviet pavilion at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrials Modernes and refused to conform with Stalinist architecture.

    The Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage designed in 1926 follows this concept. Dasha Zhukova who is on the Board of LACMA conceptualized this as her first Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007 located in Moscow. In 2015 the Museum moved to a Rem Koolhaas site which utilized a previous structure of the 1968 Vremena Goda Soviet Modernist restaurant. Today it houses the private collections of Zhukova and Roman Abramovich.

    Another building reminiscent of the style previously housed the Margo Levin Gallery on Robertson, north of Santa Monica Blvd. It seems Jason Illoulian has the right concept in mind even though repositioning its location on the site. Perhaps the correct Historic Designation will find its mark.

  4. Compared to the endless blocks of ugly new Avalon type apartment blocks that populate WEHO, kudos to the architects who’ve done something interesting with the Factory.

    At least they didn’t turn it into a monstrosity like that large apartment building on Sunset Blvd where an old Spaghetti Factory looks like it’s growing out of the walls.

  5. It seems to me that this is a nice example of a developer working with the preservation community to come to an acceptable compromise. The building and parking lot if left alone would actually be detrimental to the neighborhood with potential blight and problems with the club that operates there now. By working with the preservationists it appears that Faring will develop an iconic building on Robertson along with a pedestrian oriented lane that i predict will be very popular. I know there are haters that don’t want this area touched but that’s just not realistic. The area needs improvement and this seems to be a healthy compromise.

  6. The Factory has no significant value as a landmark. Though its role in entertainment industry is acknowledged, there are MANY other buildings that once housed innovative technical and creative entities. Additionally if the developer is going to partially demolish, turn, alter and reduce the existing structure, it’s another reason that this should not be a landmark. LANDMARKS previously could not be treated thuslly.

  7. The factory failed to get national historic designation, so now they want local? It’s a big barn that after the disco era has had a hard time finding it’s usefulness. I think that Illoulian’s restoration is pretty damn good. It enhances the building which most people were betting would collapse in the next big one. Robertson has always been this weird bottleneck that wanted to be both historic and relevant at the same time.

    I remember the first iteration of The Abbey, a one lane counter that served coffee to the recovery crowd and lite breakfast at times. It’s eventual move across the street originally wasn’t a lot bigger, but it seems to have a mind of its own these days. The multipurpose Werle building is undergoing a total rebuild on the south side of the street, as is West Hollywood Park, which borders on a lot of the remainder of that side of the street. The Robertson Lane project, and the project currently under construction across the street from the west end of the Factory seem poised to connect, and fit in with the entire rejuvination of that area, which has had a series of business open and close prior to the building of this project. I am not certain, but I don’t see how the traffic on Robertson could possibly get any worse than it is now, so let’s make it all nicer and the street smoother, so that us not party types can enjoy it too.

    Now, what has happened to the former French Market can only be described as shameful, but that’s another development for another day.

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