Earl Carroll Theatre | Los Angeles Conservancy
Earl Carroll Theatre, now Nickelodeon Studios. Photo by Laura Dominguez/L.A. Conservancy

Earl Carroll Theatre

Good news! The Los Angeles City Council designated the 1938 Earl Carroll Theatre Building (ECT Building) as an Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) during its meeting on December 7, 2016. The local landmark designation grants important protections to the historic entertainment venue.

In September 2016, City Council also approved Palo Alto-based developer Essex Portfolio's proposal to construct a new mixed-use building on the western portion of the site of the ECT Building. The project will retain the historic building and incorporate new construction on the adjacent surface parking lot. 

Known as the 6250 Sunset Project, the new development will be seven stories in height and linked to the ECT Building via a pedestrian paseo. The project calls for 4,700 square feet of ground floor commercial space, as well as 200 residential units. 

Designed by renowned Los Angeles architect Gordon B. Kaufmann, the ECT Building has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historical Resources, and as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). 

The project site is also located adjacent to the Pete's Flowers/Morgan Camera Shop building, a National Register-eligible property distinguished by its innovative signage. 

The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was released in January 2016. As part of the project, Essex agreed to nominate the ECT Building for local designation in response to community feedback. The Conservancy applauds the decision, as it will help protect the building from demolition and inappropriate alteration in the future. 

 

Completed in 1938, the Earl Carroll Theatre Building (ECT Building) is a rare remaining example of a modern entertainment venue from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The glamorous and technologically innovative nightclub reflected the rise of modern radio, television, and entertainment venues in the neighborhood around Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street prior to World War II. Its development is linked to such properties as CBS Columbia Square (1938) and the Hollywood Palladium (1940). 

The proposed project will not demolish or significantly alter the National Register-eligible ECT Building, but the Conservancy raised questions during the environmental review process about the preparation of a clear rehabilitation plan. The building has been modified intermittently since the closure of the original nightclub in 1948, most recently by its current tenant, Nickelodeon. Nonetheless, the building retains sufficient integrity to communicate its historic significance. 

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) also indicated that the project would have an adverse impact on the adjacent Pete's Flowers/Morgan Camera Shop, located at 6260-62 Sunset Boulevard. Constructed in 1938, the vernacular brick commercial building features distinctive signage above the primary storefronts and on secondary elevations. The design has been attributed to master architect Rudolph Schindler. According to the Draft EIR, the project will obscure a painted advertisement for Morgan Camera Shop located on the building's eastern elevation. 

 

The Conservancy is pleased that the 6250 Sunset Project will retain the Earl Carroll Theatre Building (ECT Building) and incorporate it into a new mixed-used development. We believe that the historic building will maintain its eligibility for listing on the National Register, California Register, and as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). 

In our comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report, we expressed concern that the proposed project did not commit to the rehabilitation of the ECT Building, nor did it include a clear operating or reuse plan that would ensure the viability of the entertainment facility in the future. We pressed for the inclusion of a detailed preservation plan for the ECT Building to guide an interior and exterior rehabilitation in conjunction with the proposed project, and we encouraged a more meaningful exploration of reuse options to ensure that the building remains a successful part of the Sunset entertainment corridor. 

In addition, the Conservancy expressed concerns over the potential adverse impact of the project on Pete's Flowers/Morgan Camera Shop. We believe that the scale of the new seven-story building had the potential to overwhelm the modest commercial building, in addition to obscuring a significant character-defining feature that has been visible historically from Sunset Boulevard and the project site. We urged the applicant to consider additional mitigation measures or design elements to reduce the negative impact, including introducing new setbacks and incorporating an interpretive feature.

The Final Environmental Impact Report addressed many of our concerns, and the Conservancy has had ongoing conversations with the project team regarding key project elements, including proposed restoration of key exterior features like the Beryl Wallace zeon signage. We greatly appreciate the applicant's decision to nominate the ECT Building for HCM designation, as it will create a public process for any future changes to the building.