Early plans for developing two blocks of the former Farmers Insurance property were presented to the community on Tuesday evening at the annual winter meeting of the Brookside Homeowners Association. The 10 acre, two block property spans Wilshire Blvd from Rimpau Bl east to Muirfield Road, on the northern edge of the Brookside neighborhood.
The former Farmers property has been a topic of interest since powerhouse developer CIM Group purchased the parcel last year, moving their headquarters into 4700 Wilshire Blvd. Area residents worried the stately 1937 art deco “Farmers tower” on Wilshire at Rimpau could be doomed and scrambled to apply for historical monument status. The property also sits within the Park Mile Specific Plan which limits heights and usages along this section of Wilshire Blvd, and there was concern that the developer may apply for variances. In early stages, CIM considered seeking to have the City Council change the existing zoning, which prohibits hotels and retail, among many other things, in the Wilshire Park Mile. CIM’s interest in building a five star hotel complex on the property was scrapped after the neighborhood’s negative reaction to changing the protective Park Mile zoning for CIM’s benefit.
CIM’s Associate VP of Development Clyde Wood told the crowd of approximately 75 people that they are proposing a high-end development of private homes and condominiums. “Our [CIM] headquarters are next door at 4700 Wilshire now, and we’re here for the long-term,” he told the crowd. “We want to be good neighbors. We absolutely support the historic designation of this wonderful building and are absolutely committed to keeping the exterior intact. And we don’t intend to ask for any exceptions to the Park Mile Specific Plan.”
The crowd seemed relatively enthused with the plan although many questioned the overall density of the project. CIM intends to develop 119 high-end housing units over the two blocks, a mix of single family homes, duplexes, and 3 story townhouses. Included in the total count is the eight story “Farmers Tower” which will be completely gutted and redesigned to offer 54 large 3,000 sq. ft. condominium units that will showcase the angled floor-to-ceiling steel “deco” windows the building is best known for.
Architect Johannes Van Tilburg of VTBS Architecture in Santa Monica was on hand to explain the proposed underground parking and above-ground traffic patterns (including vacating Mullen at 8th), and architectural design choices. Van Tilburg told the audience they are considering building the eastern-edge homes and duplexes in a mediterranean style similar to neighborhood homes, leaving the western-edge in the deco style of the tower, and designing the central portion in an “urban contemporary” style that would have both Mediterranean and ’30s influences.
CIM intends to start crafting their application to City Planning within the next two months. Construction on some portions of the project could begin in 2016. The project leaders promised there would be additional meetings with the community as the project moves forward.
Editors’ Note: This article was edited on 1/29/15 to more correctly state that the neighborhood reacted negatively to the fact that CIM would seek out variances in zoning for the hotel project.