If youíve driven or walked through downtown Playa del Rey on occasion, youíve likely laid eyes on the Dickinson and Gillespie Building at the corner of Culver Boulevard and Vista del Mar.
The building at 200 Culver Blvd. is considered one of the most distinguishable structures in the small beach community and is frequented by many locals who satisfy their coffee cravings at Tannerís Coffee Co.
What many might not know is that the building at one time housed the Dickinson and Gillespie real estate company, an early developer of Playa del Rey. Built in 1925, the Spanish Colonial Revival-style building was once owned by graphic designer Robert Miles Runyan, who designed the logo for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
ìItís one of the most historic buildings in Playa del Rey and probably the most recognizable building in Playa del Rey,î said Derek Jones, an attorney and chief operating officer of EMC Development, LLC.
An affiliate of EMC Development, 200 Culver Investors, purchased the building and has nominated it for historic-cultural monument consideration as part of a project proposal to maintain the building and enhance it, Jones said. The structure is now closer to historic-cultural monument designation after the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted March 19th to support the designation.
The monument status is subject to approval by the City Council, which has until mid-June to vote on the proposal, according to a Cultural Heritage Commission spokeswoman. The commission found that the building meets two of the monument criteria, including that it ìembodies the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type specimen,î and ìreflects the broad cultural, economic or social historyî of the community.
ìI think itís terrific that they recognize the value of the building architecturally and in terms of its cultural importance,î Jones said.
Local community members offered support for the effort to designate the Dickinson and Gillespie Building, or as some call it ìthe Tannerís Coffee buildingî a historic monument.
ìItís clearly been at the heart of the community for a long time, so we would like to preserve that,î said resident Cheryl Burnett, who is part of a group trying to preserve Egret Park at the north end of the Del Rey Lagoon.
Steve Donnell, chair of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playaís Planning and Land Use Committee, said the cityís involvement in identifying the building as a cultural monument is welcome, as there are not many of such historic structures left in the community.
ìGenerations of businesses have been in there and it represents a lot of the history of downtown Playa del Rey,î Donnell said.
Historic monument designation is intended to prevent significant impacts to a specific structure. Such a designation would also allow property owners like 200 Culver Investors to apply for tax reduction under the state Mills Act.
Jones said the developer has discussed plans with community groups for a new project at the 200 Culver Blvd. building. The developer proposes to maintain retail uses on the ground floor, including Tannerís Coffee, and incorporate Outlaws Restaurant, currently located in an adjacent building. Outlaws would be moved to the back part of the 200 Culver building with an outdoor terrace and entrance on Vista del Mar, and office uses would be on the second floor, Jones said.
Under the proposal, the current Outlaws building would be demolished and a new mixed-use project would be constructed with retail uses on the ground floor and up to 60 residential units built on top, Jones said. The current surface parking would be replaced with structured and subterranean parking and Jones said the development would not block views from residences on the bluffs.
In addition to the Dickinson and Gillespie company and Runyan, the 200 Culver building is also associated with Fritz B. Burns, a former vice president of the real estate company who was actively involved in the post-war development of Los Angeles. Jones said the building offers a ìvisual connectionî to Playaís history.
ìWe think itís an important reminder of what a celebrated beach town it was and what we hope it will be again,î he said.
The goal of the proposed development projects is to improve the quality of life in the community without dramatically changing its character, Jones said. Playa del Rey is ìstill a vibrant residential community,î Jones said, but some believe the community has diverted from fitting a pedestrian-oriented way of life.
They say they are working to ensure that the communityís character as a unique beach town is preserved.
ìWhat Playa del Rey offers is a unique beach experience in Southern California,î Burnett said. ìWe want to have a say in what our community becomes and we want to preserve the heart of what this community represents.î