Commission Considers Landmark Status for Avon Building, Site of Proposed Home Depot

Published : Tuesday, September 17, 2019 | 5:49 AM

The City’s Historic Preservation Commission will meet Tuesday and consider landmark status for the Avon Distribution Center, even as the complex’s new owner, Home Depot, runs the permit gauntlet for siting a new store.

The Commission will meet on the site at 2940 East Foothill Boulevard at 5 p.m. ahead of 6 p.m. formal meeting in City Hall.

If ultimately approved by the City Council, the designation would result in Home Depot’s having to apply for a certificate of appropriateness before modifying the building’s exterior. Like certificates might be required for alterations, additions, new construction or demolition of any portion of the property.

“The exterior of landmark buildings are protected,” explained Sue Mossman, executive director, Pasadena Heritage. “They cannot be demolished and any changes must meet the Secretary of Interior’s standards. We just wanted to be sure the original building is protected as plans unfold for the new retail use.”

Pasadena Heritage nominated the site for a landmark designation in June and the Planning Department staff have completed their research and recommended the status be granted.

Home Depot’s corporate office in Atlanta responded to a query with no comment, though there does not appear to be any acrimony associated with the issue.

“Through meetings with Councilmember Gene Masuda’s task force we were pleased that Home Depot listened to our concerns and considered keeping the original building, while reusing parts of the early warehouse/assembly building for their store,” said Mossman.

According to Planning Department staff, the Avon Products Company office building is eligible for designation as it,“embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, architectural style, or method of construction, or represents the work of an architect, designer, engineer or builder” of note, as per the City’s municipal code.

The style the complex embodies is “corporate modern” and the architect of note is one Stiles O. Clements.

Corporate Modern is typical of commercial structures built by companies to meet the workforce’s post-World War II migration into the suburbs. It thrived, roughly, between 1945 and 1965.

Like the residential modern, it is rational and utilitarian with clean block shapes for maximum space utility that have been constructed with mass produced materials, steel and glass, curtain walls and such.

For his part, architect Clements was a partner in the firm of Morgan, Walls, & Clements who made his mark with iconic structures such as Hollywood Boulevard’s El Capitan Theater (1926) and the Mayan Theater on Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles (1927).

He was a prominent practitioner of the Art Deco style that thrived in his time, best captured in his design of the Wiltern Theater (1931), still a lively venue on Western Avenue in L.A.’s popular Koreatown district.

The Planning Department also said the property could include landscaping designed by noted architect Edward Huntsman-Trout, though more research is needed to confirm the hypothesis.

Mossman said Pasadena Heritage does not often nominate buildings for landmark status, though it has the option to do so. Home Depot would not do the nomination itself, but said it would not object to the preservation group taking on the challenge.

The Commission’s site visit will be followed by a full discussion and public hearing at the 6 p.m. meeting, before a recommendation to the City Council is made.

Home Depot, a hardware and home appliances supply chain, has occupied the complex since 2016. Its plans are for a large commercial and retail configuration; a residential component having been dropped from the original proposal.

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