Our March/April issue explores urban design. With that in mind, we’ll be dedicating several posts over the next few weeks to the topic. Up first is an exclusive look at the new 8500 Burton Way property developed by Caruso Affiliated.
If you’ve driven around Los Angeles over the past couple of decades, chances are your travels have taken you past a plot of land plopped down inside a vast urban intersection, where Burton Way, San Vicente and La Cienega meet. Over the years, the site has been home to all manner of businesses. For over 20 years, it has also been owned by Rick Caruso, the visionary developer of the Grove in Los Angeles and the Americana in Glendale and a host of other properties.
“It was a unique piece of property bordered by city streets on all sides—an urban island—and lent itself to doing something that was iconic,” says David W. Williams, Caruso Affiliated’s Executive Vice President, Architecture, and one of the driving forces behind the distinctive style found across the company’s projects. From the get-go, the Caruso team envisioned a mixed-use project that would include a Trader Joe’s market. An early take would have featured the store as a standalone, but, Williams notes, “It didn’t seem right for the community and didn’t seem to do the site justice.”
The decision was made to rethink the property to incorporate a residential component. This wouldn’t be just any residential building, however. The Caruso team wanted to steer away from the design and layout of the properties (five stories, small windows, stucco facades) being built in the area around that time to create something more aesthetically compelling and luxurious. For the project, Caruso Affiliated tapped MVE & Partners to design the building. There would be floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop pool, mature landscaping, high-quality finishes in the units, and original artwork, to name just a few elements.
Well into the design process—well into even the construction process—the Caruso team re-envisioned the building’s aesthetics. As Williams recalls, “We had the foundations poured when we decided the architecture was not the statement we wanted to make, so we gave Hetzel Design the assignment to re-skin building.” Inside, the layout would remain the same, but the exterior, which originally featured Italianate elements similar to other Caruso projects, would be rethought in more modern terms. “We prepped them with what was on our mind and related it to Hollywood, if we were pitching this building. Mad Men meets Entourage. Hip, contemporary but timeless. They came back with 10 schemes.”
The completed building is not blocky, nor closed-off from its surroundings. Instead, the graceful, curving structure with its unique shape (dictated by the lot’s unusual dimensions) stands eight stories, with a smooth concrete and stone facade. An oculus pieces the roof and allows sun to pour in, drenching the pool area and 87 residential units with light and warmth. Inside the apartments, views stretch from downtown, toward the Hollywood Hills and west on to the Pacific. “We pushed this to be iconic,” explains Williams. “New York has the Flatiron Building. We have a corner akin to that. Hopefully, this corner has an iconic, organic LA feel and feels like its rooted here.”
It’s well on its way. Since the property officially opened late last year, Williams says 8500 Burton Way has already become part of the neighborhood fabric. “The landscaping around the building brings a softness and lushness to that block and to that neighborhood. There are more pedestrians on the street—and the sidewalk café, where you can get a glass of wine or a snack in the evening didn’t before.”
Ultimately Williams and his Caruso Affiliated colleagues see the property as the beginning of a new chapter for the area. “We’re at the intersection of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles,” he says. “This can set the stage for the quality of development in both communities.”