Higgins Building Lofts

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108 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles

Higgins Building Lofts
HigginsBuilding-la.jpg

Historic Higgins Building
Building Information
Developer Thomas P. Higgins
Architect Arthur L. Haley & Albert Carey Martin
Number of Units 135
Number of Floors 10
Year Built 1910
Construction Method Concrete
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108 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles
Distance to Public Transit More than 50 bus and rail options nearby
Region Los Angeles
Municipality Los Angeles
Zoning C4-4D
Title of Land Condominium


Contents

Background

Thomas Higgins was born in 1844 in Ireland. In the late 1880s he traveled west to America seeking his fortune...and he found it! He worked at several jobs in the next twenty years before striking it rich in the copper mines. By the turn of the century, he was living in Los Angeles and and running a property business. In 1903, as construction on his last building (Bisbee Hotel) was finishing up, he paid $200,000 in cash for the property at Second and Main.


Higgins wanted the building on this lot to leave a lasting impression on the city. He planned an office building that would tower over the other buildings and be "absolutely fire and earthquake-proof."[1] Higgins hired architect Arthur L. Haley and engineer/architect Albert Carey Martin to make his dream a reality. These three men worked together to design a building that was then and is still considered one of the best monolithic concrete buildings in the country. This was pushing the accepted limits of concrete construction. In fact, they originally wanted a taller design, but city officials limited concrete buildings to 120 feet--or eight stories. Before the Higgins was finished, the officials raised the limit to 133 feet, which allowed the Higgins Building to add two stories to its design.


Higgins planned the building to have an impressive set of amenities including electricity. There would be no power poles in the city for another six years, but Higgins installed one of the earliest electrical generating stations in the basement of the building.


When the Higgins Building opened in 1910, it became the landmark that Higgins had envisioned. Several prominent businessmen rented offices there as did the General Petroleum (GP) company. By 1934, GP was renting six floors of the building. When GP left in 1949, the County of Los Angeles bought the structure. The Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering was located there for almost thirty years. The county sold the building at auction in June of 1977, but it was not actively used by the new owners. The doors eventually had to be welded shut after vandals and transients continued to break the locks.


In 1998, Andrew Meieran and Marc Smith bought the building. It had stood derelict and partly flooded for many years, but they planned to bring it back to life. First, Developer Barry Shy converted the upstairs offices into rental lofts in 2003 (later converted to condominiums in 2005). Then, in 2007, Meieran and Smith opened the famed Edison Bar in the basement. The building now boasts several other popular retail properties on the ground floor as well. In 2006, it was declared a Historic-Monument by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission. [2]


Location

The Higgins Building is located at the corner of Main and Second Streets in the historic core district of Los Angeles. The Historic Core is a neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles between Hill and Main streets on the west and east, and 3rd and 9th street on the north and south. In the 1940's and 50's Los Angeles' downtown area slowly began to decline. Many of the financial institutes moved and the area became known for prostitution and drugs. In 1999, the Los Angeles City Council passed an Adaptive Re-Use Ordinance, allowing for the conversion of old, unused office buildings to apartments or "lofts." This began the dramatic turn around of the area which is now known for it's converted loft residences, restaurants, shops, and cafes. The Higgins Building is surrounded by other historic landmarks including the Caltrans headquarters, the LA Times building, City Hall, and the LAPD headquarters.


As it is located in downtown Los Angeles, the Higgins Building is within easy walking distance of many restaurants, cafes, and shops. In the basement of the Higgins Building, is the popular Edison Lounge. and on the street level there is Pit Fire Pizza, an Art Gallery, Groundworks Coffee, Lilya Chinese Cafe, and the Edison Jazz Club.


The Higgins Building has easy freeway access (just two and a half blocks from the Santa Ana Freeway) and is also well-served by public transportation. Biking is also a good option as the ground is flat and bike lanes are available.[3]


Construction

1910 artist rendering of what the Higgins Building would look like with two more floors

Construction on the Higgins Building began in 1909 and finished in 1910. The primary architect was A.L. Haley and A.C. Martin was the secondary architect and the engineer. Contractors included MA Rowland and Kenneth Pruess (concrete), A. Barmann (steel), the San Francisco Cornice Company (doors and windows), B.V. Collins (tile and marble) and H.J. McGuire (excavation).


The ten-story building is built in the Beaux-Arts style with French Renaissance influences. The structural parts of the building are of poured concrete reinforced with steel rebar. The exterior detailing is of poured concrete covered in cement. Architects Haley and Martin collaborated together to show the city that tall buildings could be made from concrete. The city originally said the building could only be eight-stories high, but Haley and Martin managed to convince the city to allow them to build to ten stories.


The building has a rectangular plan, a flat roof, and is built around a single interior light well. The exterior facade is built in the classic base-shaft-capital style. The south-facing facade is unadorned, but the other three are fully ornamented. The lower two levels have storefronts which are capped by a bracketed cornice. The building has visible structural columns as well as architectural belts at the second and eighth floors. The eighth and tenth stories have two bands of wall pillars topped with a cornice. Pairs of large six by eight feet windows line the facade.[4]

Layout and Features

The Higgins Building Lofts live up to their grand Beaux-Arts beginnings. The public areas in the building have many original details such as marble staircases with ironwork handrails, zinc-covered doors, and tile flooring. The units share some of these features as well as sporting modern kitchens and bathrooms, individually controlled air-conditioning, and open floor plans.[5]


Unit features include:

  • Mosaic tile flooring
  • Zinc-covered doors and windows
  • Over sized windows
  • Modern bathrooms
  • Polished concrete floors
  • Exposed ceilings
  • Gourmet stainless steel kitchens
  • Individual air-conditioning in each loft
  • Glass top stoves and dishwashers
  • Washer and dryer (in most units)
  • Penthouses with split level mezzanines & spiral staircases


Floor Plans

The Higgins Building lofts offer studio, one, and two bedroom floor plans from 650 to over 1,700 square feet. The lofts feature open, spacious floor plans.


Amenities

Building amenities include:

  • Classic Beaux-Arts architecture
  • Original 1910 fixtures in the lobby
  • Imported marble wainscoting throughout hallways
  • Period iron-worked handrails
  • Iron-caged elevators rebuilt in birds-eye maple
  • Underground parking
  • Basement storage units
  • Landscaped second-floor courtyard
  • Rooftop common area
  • 24/7 security-guarded entrance


Bylaws

Higgins Building Lofts Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes
Age No
Barbecues Yes



  • This building allows pets
  • The building allows rentals
  • No restrictions on age are placed on residents
  • Communal rooftop terrace is available for barbecues


Sustainability

The Higgins Building is a historic 1910 building and was therefore not designed as a green building. Residents seeking to shrink their carbon footprint can make use of the excellent location of Higgins Building Lofts. The building is close to many different public transportation options and bike lanes are also available in the area. The building's proximity to all restaurants, bars, markets, and cafes also allows residents to choose walking when seeking out these amenities.[6]


Trivia

Clarence Darrow had an office in the Higgins Building in the early 20th century
  • There have been numerous disputes between residents and developer Barry Shy. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, residents claim Barry Shy has exhibited a pattern of deceit and intimidation. Disputes and lawsuits continue to this day with Higgins and other buildings developed by Barry Shy. Numerous articles can be found by clicking on the reference at the bottom of the page.[7]
  • Because it is a historic landmark, the Higgins Building Lofts building qualifies for Mills Act property tax exemptions.
  • Clarence Darrow, a famous lawyer from the early twentieth century, had an office on the ninth floor of the Higgins Building.
  • Part of Nicolas Cage's 2007 film Next was filmed on the roof of the Higgins Building.[8]


References

  1. Cultural Heritage Commission: Higgins Building
  2. Blog downtown: Have a happy hundred Higgins Building
  3. Walk Score
  4. Cultural Heritage Commission: Higgins Building
  5. LA Loft Guy
  6. Walk Score
  7. Barry Shy
  8. Next filming locations

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