Giannini Place next to transform on 7th Street

bank-of-italy-bldg.jpgFile photos: LA Observed

Giannini Place at 7th and Olive streets in downtown opened in 1923 as the Los Angeles headquarters of the Bank of Italy, designed by the architecture firm of Morgan, Walls & Clements with enough marble and Italianate flourishes to be called palatial in its day. The downtown renaissance has skipped the 12-story neoclassical until now. Roger Vincent in the LA Times today details plans for the old bank building to be redone as a hip hotel with 250 rooms. The buyers were lured to all the changes happening in the corridor along 7th Street. The future hotel is across 7th Street from Bottega Louie, the always loud restaurant success of downtown.

From the story:

The former Macy's Plaza near Giannini Place is undergoing a $180-million makeover to become a new hotel, office and shopping complex dubbed the Bloc. Obsolete office buildings are being converted to apartments while new construction is adding thousands of residential units to downtown's landscape. Just to the south a 700-unit apartment complex called Eighth and Grand is being built on top of a new Whole Foods market.

"We think downtown L.A. is finally, really going to make this incredible boom," said hotel developer Andrew E. Zobler, chief executive of Sydell Group, the New York developer that purchased Giannini Place for $39 million and plans to convert it into a hip hotel. "We see enough evidence that this is really happening and the change will be geometric."

The company already owns the nearby Commercial Exchange Building at Olive and 8th streets, another long-vacant 1920s office building that Sydell is converting to a hotel. A financial partner in both ventures is Los Angeles supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, the controlling shareholder of Ralphs, Food4Less and other chains.

Part of the appeal of Giannini Place is the contrast between its imposing exterior that implies the permanence and power typical of an American bank of that era and the more lavish, colorful Italianate interior where the Bank of Italy operated its main Los Angeles branch, Zobler said.

If you forget your history, the Bank of Italy was one of the first to target ordinary people, including women and children. In 1930 it changed its name — to the Bank of America.

One of the cornerstones at 7th and Olive:


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