Faring Capital has announced that it will restore most of the historic Factory building on Robertson Boulevard and integrate it into its Robertson Lane hotel, restaurant and shopping complex.
The decision, by Faring CEO Jason Illoulian, won immediate praise from the the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) and from the L.A. Conservancy, the most prominent historic preservation group in greater Los Angeles.
“The redesigned proposal for Robertson Lane incorporating The Factory is the result of continued efforts between preservationists and Faring Capital and should be a template for future cooperation as a win-win for all involved,” said Roy Rogers Oldenkamp, WHPA’s president.
“We appreciate Faring’s willingness to work closely with us over the past year and listen to the concerns of the preservation community,” said Linda Dishman, president and CEO of the L.A .Conservancy. “They have made meaningful changes by removing full demolition from their proposed project and we look forward to the details.”
Preservation of The Factory has been an issue for some in the local gay community because it was the home of Studio One, a nightclub that opened in 1975. Scott Forbes, the optometrist who opened the club, told the Los Angeles Times that the club was “planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people. Any straight people here are guests of the gay community. This is gay!” Others have argued for its preservation because the Factory, built in 1929, housed the Mitchell Camera Company, which supplied cameras to the young movie industry.
“Robertson Lane and The Factory’s preservation is a perfect example of community collaboration and environmental guidelines working exactly as they should — enabling responsible development to move forward,” Illoulian said. “We now have a project that both celebrates our community’s history and gives these important structures new life.”
Faring plans to relocate a 140-foot long, two-story portion of The Factory so that it runs north-south along Robertson Boulevard. In a press release, Faring said it “will become the centerpiece of the forthcoming Robertson Lane project.”
Faring also will restore The Factory’s facade, replacing the current windows with salvaged original windows, reusing embossed steel cladding and removing non-historic elements from the building. Faring will commission an oral history project and installations celebrating Studio One and the Factory’s significance to the LGBT community.
Illoulian, a West Hollywood resident whose pending projects include a condo building on Doheny Drive and a proposed office building with restaurants on the site of the now-closed French Market, said he has worked with local preservation groups for two years. He said he also has worked with small businesses in the area, which are happy to see that the Robertson Lane project will include more parking for the area and is designed to make it more pedestrian-friendly. The underground parking area will have more than 1,000 spaces The project includes a “paseo” that links Robertson Boulevard with LaPeer Drive to its west. The hotel will have 241 rooms, and there will be small retail spaces that Illoulian says will be “curated” to ensure a variety of interesting shopping experiences.
Jeff Apter, co-owner of Hedley’s, the restaurant across Robertson Boulevard from The Factory, said the project will have a good impact on the neighborhood. “Right now there’s not enough parking in West Hollywood. And from what I understand from the plans, which are quite beautiful, they are going to put parking spaces in it. When you look at successful cities such as Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, you think ‘I never have to think of parking.’ When you come to West Hollywood, you wonder ‘Where am I going to park?’
“I also think it will bring local people out into the streets. Right now everything is bars and clubs. With this project having more daytime things like restaurants, it will bring more people out and increase the vibrancy of the city.”
Over the years The Factory building transitioned from a camera manufacturer to a military salvage company to a nightclub for Hollywood celebrities to a Spaghetti Village family-themed restaurant. The building has housed numerous other venues, including the “Axis” club that helped make Sandy Sachs a lesbian icon, and has served as home to nights such as “Rasputin” and “Ultra Suede.” An effort to have it designated a cultural resource was rejected by the City Council in 1995.
The Robertson Lane project’s environmental impact report, required under state law, soon will finished by city development officials. It then will go before the city’s Planning Commission. The project also will likely be reviewed by the Planning Commission’s design review subcommittee and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
More information about Robertson Lane and the future plans for the Factory building can be found online.