We mentioned a few months ago that the Chicago-based Eleven City Diner opened last year in the historic Dominguez-Wilshire building at 5410 Wilshire Blvd., but we’ve also noticed that the overall building has been looking rather spiffed-up in recent months…and recently we learned that local architecture firm JKA, headed by architect John Kaliski, a former member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (and its Land Use Committee), has been quietly working on an ongoing restoration of the property .
A few weeks ago, we met Kaliski for lunch at Eleven City, and he walked us through the buidling’s history and some of its most recent improvements.
First of all, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, which calls the Dominguez-Wilshire “one of the iconic Art Deco towers on the Miracle Mile,” the building was designed by the firm Morgan, Walls and Clements, and completed in 1930. It was the second big office tower on that stretch of Wilshire (after the Wilshire Tower, built by Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1929). Originally, the Dominguez-Wilshire’s lower floors were leased by Myer Siegel, a womens’ clothing store.
According to Kaliski, the building is now owned by Carnegie-Hill Properties, founded by Kayvon Hakim, an Iranian immigrant who began his career in the US as an elevator operator and now owns many properties in both New York and Los Angeles. Kaliski said Hakim did a “cosmetic” renovation in 2000, under the guidance of the Conservancy, and the building received a Preservation Award from the Conservancy after that work.
But Kaliski said the building still needed some other major work after the first restoration, including seismic reinforcement, which is very expensive. And for most of the last 20 years, the building – along with many along the Miracle Mile – kind of struggled along with low-rent tenants that made it hard to afford the work it needed. About four years ago, however, said Kaliski, a number of tenants in creative businesses began to move in, attracted by the building’s unique combination of a “sense of authenticity” and “corporate” vibe, and rents increased enough that another round of renovations became more affordable.
Also, Kaliski said, when Bank of America relocated to the western side of the building (after Purple Line Subway construction took its old building at Wilshire and La Brea), it requested some additional improvements, which helped to move the process along…as did the addition of the new Eleven City Diner.
So since then, JKA has been working with owner Hakim’s daughter, Michelle Hakim, who has a degree in historic preservation, to restore many of the windows and doors in the ground-floor storefronts to their original widths, patterns and profiles (with plans approved by the Miracle Mile HPOZ, and the Office of Historic Resources)…and is also in the process of repairing (or replacing, where necessary) the decorative fascia panels along the building’s exterior. (Note that – except for the entry “sequence” of the Eleven City space, which was restored to much of its original configuration while also adhering to modern ADA accessibility requirements – JKA did not work on the interior design of the restaurant, which was handled by another firm.)
In addition to the exterior work, Kaliski said JKA has also been working on modernizing some of the building’s bathrooms and interior systems, and has completed that work on the 2nd and 9th floors so far, with more to come. (And luckily, said Kaliski, says the building’s creative tenants “like the rawness,” of the building’s spaces, so the gradual upgrades are OK with them so far.)
So while the building is still not entirely restored, it is definitely an ongoing process. And in the meantime, it’s nice to see one of our local beauties slowly being brought back to even more of her original elegance.