The 1915 Merritt building was built in the style of the ancient Roman template of Minerva, using white marble from the same quarry used for the Lincoln Memorial. At its opening, it claimed to be “the finest office block in America.” However, it fell into disrepair in the later part of the 20th century. In 2016, the building was purchased by Bonnis Properties, who retained architectural and historical consultants to help return it to its original grandeur.
Saiful Bouquet developed a voluntary seismic strengthening program for the historic building that addressed significant deficiencies in the building’s pre-earthquake code systems, which included soft story, torsional irregularity, and falling hazards. The retrofit involved an innovative set of steel Special Concentric Braced Frames set inside the main façade, as well as new concrete shear walls and strengthening of the building’s existing lightly reinforced concrete property line fire walls with FRP and shotcrete. New foundation systems included micropiles and enlarged shallow foundations. Structural models were separately prepared for the design of new seismic force resisting elements per ASCE 7-10 and evaluation of the effects of the new systems on existing building elements per ASCE 41-13.
The floor slabs consisted of a composite system of concrete over hollow clay tile infill, a fire resistive system common to that vintage. No structural drawings were available for the building. Materials testing and load testing were conducted to validate the capacity of the structure. The team worked with the City of LA’s Department of Building & Safety to validate certain existing building systems and retained the original stairs and elevator shafts. The project takes advantage of the City’s “Bring Back Broadway” initiative.
Renovations included an accessible roof deck and 4th floor outdoor garden in the building’s existing light well, as well as restoration of vintage finishes throughout. Completed in 2020, the building consists of 50,000sf of office space, and matches its original architectural splendor, joining several other renovated classic buildings on the reenergized Broadway corridor.