Film producer Joel Silver (right) announces plans for the former Venice Post Office building, including restoration by Nathan Zakheim of a 1941 mural.

For nearly three-quarters of a century it stood as a retail postal facility, complete with a mural on a wall of its lobby depicting the early history of Venice.
While the artwork known as “The Story of Venice” will remain following restoration work, the 1939 building at 1601 Main St. is now slated to fulfill a much different purpose: production offices for a renowned film producer.
Joel Silver, producer of “The Matrix” and “Lethal Weapon” franchises and other blockbuster movies, held an event Oct. 10 announcing his plans for the Works Project Administration-era building. Having purchased the structure from the U.S. Postal Service, which relocated services across the street, Silver will make it the new headquarters for Silver Pictures, housing offices, editorial suites and a screening room.
Silver, who is relocating his company from Burbank, said he is excited to move into Venice and expressed enthusiasm at the future prospects.
“I think we’re going to make a difference here, and we can help not only change the paradigm of Venice but the paradigm of Hollywood,” he said. “Our intention is to make this place the center of new digital technology.
“I think this is going to be a new chapter for our company, where we will be able to broaden what we’ve done and we can bring new people, have fresh blood and add to our company and our staff.”
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was equally optimistic about the major production company setting up base in the coastal community that has also welcomed Google and Internet startups.
“Joel’s decision to restore this historic former post office into a job creator and production facility is a win-win for Los Angeles and for Venice,” said Villaraigosa, who added that the company intends to staff 25 jobs and additional post-production positions. “I can’t think of a better place for this exciting project than the Venice Post Office.
“This is a community of dreamers and doers, and now the man who brought us ‘The Matrix’… will have an address that matches his imagination.”
With the change of ownership, the building’s original façade and windows will be restored, the mayor noted.
Mike Bonin, chief of staff for City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who is battling cancer, referenced the community effort to preserve the building’s historic characteristics and public access to the mural despite the sale of the property. The council office is also eager to see the opportunities that will be created with the addition of Silver’s company, he said.
“In the sale and development of this building we saw something that never before happened in Venice, where everybody in Venice agreed on something; they said this building is a vital resource to this community, this mural is a beautiful, vital resource to us and we want to see this building thrive,” Bonin recalled. “We are so looking forward to what this place is going to become and what Joel’s dream will be like when it’s realized, to have more that celebrates Venice and revitalizes this neighborhood.”
Silver was quick to express his interest in the WPA structure, calling it “magnificent.” “If I could dream of a building that would work for us this would be it.”
The mural, which was created by Edward Biberman in 1941 and contains an image of Venice founder Abbot Kinney at its center, was a key reason why Silver first visited the building in the 1970s, the producer said. The artwork will undergo a full restoration process courtesy of Nathan Zakheim, who says it’s in pristine condition considering its age. Zakheim said he was overwhelmed with satisfaction at being tasked to complete the Biberman work touch-up.
“I was extremely pleased and satisfied,” said Zakheim, who has restored other works in Venice. “I am sort of a slight history buff of Abbot Kinney and I’ve always been totally impressed by what he did. To have a first-class portrait of Abbot Kinney right in the middle of the mural to conserve was to me, a great pleasure.”
The mural restorer believes Biberman’s piece has had a keynote presence in Venice over the years. Following the initial cleaning process, the mural will be removed from the wall for the application of a protective resin – the same material used to conserve Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel – an effort that is expected to preserve its condition for many years, Zakheim said.
Zakheim noted that Silver has a history of commitment to preserving other historic buildings and he is fully committed to the outcome of the mural.
Asked about public access to viewing the piece once the facility opens, Silver said the company will ensure the mural is made available. “We will work out a very reasonable way of seeing the mural. It won’t be a complex system,” he said.
Other plans for the company include a 10-week program with Venice schools exposing students to film producing, directing and writing, and potential lectures on art and WPA architecture in front of the Biberman mural, Silver said. Community groups may also be given periodic access to the screening room and lobby for events.
“We really want to be accessible and open,” the producer said.
Silver Pictures is scheduled to open after an 18-month renovation of the former postal facility is completed.