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History of the Century City Chamber of Commerce:
The Century City Chamber of Commerce has helped build Century City into one of Los Angeles’ most prestigious business communities.
Starting off as the Century City Civic Council in 1970, the organization eventually morphed into what is today’s Century City Chamber. Several concerned business community members collaborated with Bob Hatfield, the then President of Century City, Inc., a subsidiary of ALCOA that owned the entire property of what is today known as Century City. Collectively, they agreed in the importance of establishing a Chamber of Commerce. “At first it [the Chamber] focused only on Century City and things that would impact on Century City,” Harold Katz, one of the Chamber’s original founders, said. “Today the Chamber involves itself in many aspects of the city of Los Angeles, especially in Public Transportation and Traffic. It has a voice that is listened to at City Hall, MTA meetings and CALTRANS meetings.”
Even in its humble beginnings, the organization drew in some of the most prominent businesspeople of the times, like renowned architect Welton Becket. Forty years later, the same thing can be said, as members range from first-rate property management companies to innovative law firms.
Under the clear and powerful guidance of many energetic members, the Century City Chamber continues to grow to encompass representatives from virtually every industry in Century City and Greater Los Angeles.
History of Century City, 90067:
The introduction of television to the consumer market in 1948 dealt a slow, painful blow to all the major studios. By 1950, studios had already lost a sizable share of its audience to the new home entertainment medium.
At this time, Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal were selling their ranches to stay alive. To save the Twentieth Century-Fox Studio from financial crisis, Edmond Herrscher was hired as Director of Property Development to examine its real estate holdings. Herrscher saw the possibility of selling parts of the back lot for business and commercial development, which he named Century City.
Welton Becket and Associates, one of Southern California’s leading architectural firms, was hired to submit in March of 1958 a financial analysis of Century City for possible self-development. The following month, Milton Meyer & Co., realtors and financial consultants, stated in a preliminary Century City development study: “It is our opinion that you possess a strategically located property which can well be described as one of the outstanding undeveloped real estate assemblages in America. It is also a holding, which lends itself admirably to a highly profitable development.”
As financial disaster loomed over Twentieth Century-Fox, New York developer William Zeckendorf stepped to the plate and on March 25, 1959, paid $5 million for a six month option. Once the option went into effect, Zeckendorf turned around and unsuccessfully tried to raise the purchase price to $56 million, describing the property as “an oasis in the midst of a great city.” On August 1, 1960, Zeckendorf signed an agreement to purchase the Fox property and develop Century City while leasing back 75 acres called the “studio portion” to 20th Century-Fox.
Alcoa’s Real Estate Executive Vice-President Leon Hickman dreamed of creating a “glimmering” Alcoa showpiece, demonstrating how aluminum could be used as a viable construction material in high-rise buildings. To achieve this, Century City, Inc. retained Welton Becket to oversee his Master Plan, which TIME magazine would later describe as a “modern Acropolis.”
Becket envisioned “super-blocks” of carefully arranged and tastefully designed office, retail and residential structures. To help Beckett realize his dream, he solicited the help of world-renown architects to design the look and feel of Century City: Minoru Yamasaki, Charles Luckman, I.M. Pei, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Albert C. Martin Associates. However, Becket did much of the designing himself.
Becket’s Master Plan consisted of the careful allotment of land use, allowing 75 acres for residential development and 85 acres for business. The remaining 20 acres were devoted to streets and boulevards.
Becket’s fingerprints were everywhere, including the two water fountains constructed along Avenue of the Stars, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s office building and a joint-venture with I.M. Pei in designing The Century Tower Apartments, Century City’s first major residential project.
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