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Tallest Building West of Mississippi Opens in Los Angeles

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One of the most anticipated projects in recent Los Angeles history is finally complete. On July 2 the hotel portion of the new $1.2 billion Wilshire Grand Center mixed-use development opened for business, joining the project’s other components, which completed last month.

aerial view of the Wilshire Grand Center at night
The $1.2 billion Wilshire Grand Center is the new tallest building in Los Angeles (picture courtesy of Wilshire Grand Center)

Located on the former site of the historic Wilshire Grand hotel, which closed in 2011, the new 73-story tower stands 1,100 ft-tall, making it the new tallest structure in Downtown LA and west of the Mississippi River. It is about 82 ft taller than its neighbor and former tallest building in LA, the US Bank Tower. This height difference comes mainly from an iconic steel spire that sits atop the Wilshire Grand and stands 294-ft, 9-inches.

“This is the culmination of a dream and the completion of a promise.  I have long dreamed of reinvesting in Los Angeles, my second home,” said Yang Ho Cho, chairman and CEO of Korean Air, the developer of the project. “We promised a world-class project and we delivered the crown jewel of Figueroa Street.”

Destined to become a top entertainment / hospitality destination for the city, the new development includes 400,000 sq-ft of office space and more than 45,000 sq ft of retail that sits below the 900-room InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel. The new luxury hotel, which occupies floors 31 through 68, promises a “different experience that cannot be found in other hotels in the region.”

The lobby of the hotel is located on the 70th floor, allowing guests the unique experience of checking in while enjoying the skyline and spectacular views of downtown L.A.  The glass doors in the hotel’s ballrooms provide views onto the gardens and add a special touch that isn’t found in other hotels. In addition, guest rooms are equipped with retractable windows, so guests can enjoy the beautiful Los Angeles weather.

another view of the Wilshire Grand Center
A highlight of the new skyscraper is a 900-room hotel with a sky lobby on the 70th floor (picture courtesy of Wilshire Grand Center)

Vistas from hotel rooms and offices promise to be spectacular both day and night, with floor-to-ceiling glass, allowing the spaces to be filled with natural light. Project officials say this is the first significant building in Los Angeles to have this feature. From an external point of view, this plays well as the Wilshire Grand is literally surrounded by existing buildings that are composed of granite with inset windows. “This more glassy expression will portray the building as being “of our time,” a unique contrast to its neighbors,” say officials.

Other Wilshire Grand Center amenities include restaurants and bars, ballrooms, retail shops, and the 70th floor sky lobby. There is also below grade parking for 1,250 cars, along with stunning views from an observatory deck and a sky pool deck.

Another interesting tidbit about this project is that Architect Chris Martin’s grandfather was the designer on another iconic LA structure — the 1928 City Hall building on Spring Street. I spoke to Martin a while back about the new building’s distinctive spire and he told me that the project is a “big deal because my grandfather did L.A. City Hall in the 1920s, and that is the only other building in the city that really has an architectural top. All the buildings in L.A. have flat, truncated tops, so this is going to stand out — and we want it to.”

workers pose on top of the 300-ft-tall spire atop the Wilshire Grand Center
An iconic, 300-ft-tall spire sits atop the Wilshire Grand making it the tallest structure west of the Mississippi (photo courtesy Gary Leonard)

Martin, whose cousin David Martin is the lead designer on the new hotel, says the spire and the entire exterior skin of the tower will be filled with programmable LED lighting, which will be seen throughout the city, and used to “artistically to give character to the building in light.”

The project team showcased this LED light system at a grand opening celebration on June 23, as they illuminated the entire building and much of Downtown Los Angeles with a dazzling array of lights accompanied by music.

The Wilshire Grand Center is also very structurally sounds, as it is built with state-of-the-art construction methods. It is designed to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake by using the Bucking Restrained Braces (BRB) method that is especially important in a region affected by Pacific Rim earthquakes.

The city of Los Angeles hopes that all of the Wilshire Grand Center amenities will help the city in its bid for the  2024 Summer Olympics. Accommodations are a key element for hosting the Olympics and it is anticipated that the opening of Wilshire Grand Center will help differentiate L.A. from its competition.

The skyscraper, which has created an estimated 122,000 new jobs across the city, was developed by Korean Air Lines Co., and built by Turner Construction Company, with Brandow & Johnston serving as the Structural Engineer of Record. A.C. Martin was in charge of the design.

The Wilshire Grand Center is located at 900 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90017. For more information, visit: www.wilshiregrandcenter.com.

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