UCLA acquires iconic downtown L.A. building, fulfilling its decadelong vision

UCLA Newsroom | 

 

Key takeaways

  • The acquisition advances Chancellor Gene Block’s mission of strengthening UCLA’s ties to the city.​​​
  • The new property will allow UCLA to expand student access and foster greater engagement with Los Angeles’ diverse communities.
  • Located at 433 S. Spring St., the historic high-rise includes 334,000 square feet of space and will initially house programs for UCLA Extension.

For UCLA, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

With its announcement today of the acquisition of the historic Trust Building in downtown Los Angeles, the university, which had long sought to expand its presence in the heart of the city, has taken another major step in broadening access to a UCLA education and strengthening its engagement with the city’s diverse and dynamic communities.

The procurement of the 11-story property, built in 1928 and located on South Spring Street in downtown’s Historic Core, just blocks from Pershing Square, sends a clear message to the people of Los Angeles that UCLA is deeply invested in their future and that of the entire region, campus leaders said.

“Los Angeles is one of the world’s greatest cities, and our university’s location within it both enriches the UCLA experience and provides us innumerable opportunities to serve our local communities,” Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt wrote in a message to the campus. “We are thrilled about the possibilities this new space offers and confident that it will further intertwine UCLA and L.A., helping us to deepen the impact of our teaching, research and public service mission.”

Deepening that impact has become one of UCLA’s strategic priorities, especially as the desire for a first-class public education has skyrocketed locally and statewide — and the campus has continued to build its connective tissue throughout Los Angeles to meet the demand. This latest acquisition comes on the heels of UCLA’s announcement last September of a new 24.5-acre UCLA South Bay campus in Rancho Palos Verdes and an 11-acre residential site, the UCLA South Bay Villas in San Pedro, which will soon enable UCLA to reach and serve more students.

Beyond advancing UCLA’s regional goals, the new downtown site and South Bay locations will aid the University of California in achieving its 2030 systemwide goals of significantly growing enrollment and increasing graduation rates.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass applauded UCLA’s new downtown acquisition and the university’s commitment to serving communities across the city.

“Downtown is at the center of so much of what makes Los Angeles great, like our growing public transportation system, job opportunities, and arts and cultural institutions,” Bass said. “It’s exciting to see institutions like UCLA expanding their presence in downtown Los Angeles and committing to its future as a vibrant urban hub that draws people from all over our city and around the world.”

 

In the near term, a portion of the 334,000-square-foot Art Deco/Moderne–style Trust Building, acquired by UCLA from Rising Realty Partners, will house programs and administrative offices for UCLA Extension, which provides continuing and professional education to thousands each year and which has had a footprint in downtown for more than a century.

The recently renovated historic landmark, originally designed by prominent Los Angeles architects John and Donald Parkinson as the headquarters of the Title Insurance and Trust Company — and which briefly served as the home of downtown’s Central Library after a 1986 fire — has the potential to host classrooms and research, office and social spaces. The building has also earned a LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, exemplifying UCLA’s commitment to a sustainable future.

Located at 433 S. Spring St., the newly acquired site sits in a section of downtown south of City Hall that was once known as the “Wall Street of the West” for its profusion of financial institutions and is today dotted by landmarks like Grand Central Market, the Last Bookstore, the famed Bradbury Building, Broadway’s historic century-old movie palaces and dozens of eateries.

UCLA Extension, with its focus on workforce education and skills training, will anchor the new location. The building, which opened in 1928, was the work of the father-and-son architectural team that also designed City Hall and Grand Central Station.

The nearby Pershing Square Metro station and other public transportation lines provide access to the site from most areas of the city. Further, Metro’s 2027 planned expansion of the Purple (D) Line will link downtown directly to UCLA’s Westwood neighborhood, creating opportunities for Bruins to more easily learn, work and serve across the region.

 

UCLA and downtown: A mutually beneficial partnership

Importantly, UCLA’s newly expanded presence downtown will serve to bolster much of the work the campus has been doing in the area for years, particularly its efforts to address some of the city’s most pressing issues.

Currently, UCLA Health treats patients at its primary, specialty and cancer care facilities on 7th Street, and its Homeless Healthcare Collaborative regularly provides free mobile medical and behavioral health assistance to downtown’s unhoused population. In neighboring MacArthur Park, the UCLA James Lawson Jr. Worker Justice Center has for more than two decades conducted groundbreaking research on low-wage workers, launched projects to benefit Los Angeles’ lower-income and immigrant working populations and fostered community-engaged learning and leadership development for hundreds of UCLA students.

Downtown has likewise been the setting for scores of UCLA research and arts initiatives, service projects, internships and experiential learning programs that have deepened the campus’s connections with local communities and organizations and benefited Bruins and downtown residents reciprocally.

The recently renovated building possesses significant square footage that could be converted into classrooms and research, office and social spaces.

The Historic Core neighborhood, like much of downtown, has experienced an overall revitalization in the past decade characterized by new hotels, apartments, condominiums and other commercial developments, but it has recently seen a number of businesses move out, primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing economic impacts.

UCLA’s world-class reputation and its status as the county’s fourth-largest employer — along with a projected influx of students, faculty and staff — stand to give an additional boost to the area while opening up fresh opportunities for the university to collaborate with a range of community partners, said Stephen Cheung, president and CEO of the nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

“It is exciting to see UCLA continuing to expand its presence across our region with this new acquisition in downtown Los Angeles,” Cheung said. “There are many opportunities for partnership between higher education and the business, nonprofit, governmental, philanthropic and local communities, and having a greater presence downtown is a tremendous way to further strengthen UCLA’s connections across our city and county. I look forward to continuing to work with UCLA to deepen these ties and support our region’s continued economic prosperity.”

In addition to UCLA Extension programs, Trust Building occupants will include the UCLA real estate department and current tenants Rising Realty, KTGY Architecture + Planning and the corporate offices of the José Andrés restaurant group.

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