A Los Angeles City Council committee approved a historic-cultural monument designation for Liberty Park and Beneficial Plaza in Koreatown Tuesday, siding with a group of neighborhood activists who have been trying to save the property’s open green space since its owner announced a plan to build a 36-story tower at the site.
Liberty Park and Beneficial Plaza at 3700 Wilshire Blvd. includes an 11-story office tower and 2.5-acre park which is located on private land but was dedicated for public use when the site was opened in 1967 by the Beneficial Standard Life Insurance Co., which occupied the building until 1985.
The group Save Liberty Park formed after the site’s owner, Jamison Properties, announced a plan to build the tower on the site of Liberty Park while keeping the existing office tower intact. Save Liberty Park members argue that despite the space being on private property it has served as a vital public corridor in the neighborhood, which has few open green spaces.
Annette Van Duren of Save Liberty Park, who filed the application seeking the monument status for the property, said, “Koreatown residents, myself included, have long valued this cultural landscape as a community asset. While it is private property, it is a cherished historic place on busy Wilshire Boulevard that continues to enhance the aesthetics of Koreatown.”
No one from Jamison Properties spoke at the committee meeting.
When Liberty Park opened in 1967, the concept of dedicating private corporate property as community open space, particularly on a major commercial corridor such as Wilshire Boulevard, was unprecedented, according to the City Planning Department.
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved the application. If approved by the full City Council, the monument designation would delay the park’s destruction for at least for one year while preservation options are considered.
The committee agreed with the Cultural Heritage Commission that the park and building should be preserved for several reasons, including that the site “reflects the broad cultural, economic, or social history of the nation, state, or community” for its association with the post-World War II development of the Wilshire Center business district, and that it reflects local discourse on the value of community open space during the height of postwar commercial development in Los Angeles.
The Cultural Heritage Commission also found that Beneficial Plaza and Liberty Park “embodies the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural- type specimen, inherently valuable for study of a period, style or method of construction as an excellent example of a Late-Modern architectural style office tower.”
The commission also found that Beneficial Plaza and Liberty Park is “a notable work of a master builder, designer, or architect whose individual genius influenced his or her age” as a significant work of prominent architects Gordon Bunshaft and Edward Charles Bassett of the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and an excellent example of a designed landscape by noted landscape architect Peter Walker of the landscape architecture firm Sasaki, Walker & Associates.
–City News Service