3434 S. Grand Avenue

August 2008

In terms of space for administrative, academics and related support functions, the University of Southern California was expanding, and needed more room and a better sense of operational efficiency. To that end, the university decided to renovate an existing warehouse near the main campus – the 3434 S. Grand Building – to provide space in which to fulfill these needs.

“The building was completely renovated inside and out, and is now a prominent facility in a neighborhood that consisted of mostly warehouses and manufacturing facilities,” said Joe Back, AIA, CSI for the University of Southern California Capital Construction Development, owner’s representative/project manager for the 3434 S. Grand Building.

Originally designed as a warehouse for the May Company, the building was later used as a clothing manufacturing and warehouse facility. “The most innovative aspect of the project may well be the vision that allowed a concrete bunker of a building to be transformed into a modern office building with abundant natural light, high ceilings and raised floors,” said Back. The building is approved to hold any academic use, he noted, but it is currently used for academic and administrative support offices. According to Back, most people familiar with the building before its renovation comment they no longer recognize the structure and are amazed at the transformation.

“Externally, the design goals were to transform the existing drab building to one that evokes a positive presence with an identifiable image and prominent entrance,” said Jeffrey Kalban, design principal for project architect Jeffrey M. Kalban & Associates Architecture Inc. To stay within the project’s budget, the team employed creative, cost-effective changes that packed a punch without breaking the bank, such as altering the exterior by adding color, incorporating a few new windows and using only a limited amount of infill, noted Kalban. “The new entrance was fashioned in this [cost-effective] manner by placing and shaping the required stair tower and mechanical screen to create a sculptural, highly identifiable and welcoming entrance,” he added.

Inside, the office spaces are organized around a main ‘street,’ according to Kalban, which was designed to clearly mark circulation and create areas for specific departments. Gathering spaces and conference rooms are situated along this path, along with large writing boards, which promote the exchange of ideas and a free flow of information. In addition, according to Kalban, a concierge station helps direct visitors to the various departments.

Challenging the project was the building itself. “The outdated and poorly maintained building require[d] significant repair and upgrades to the shell and core to fulfill its new use,” said Kalban. According to him, work on the structure was split into two areas, shell and core renovations, and tenant improvements – and a straightforward, cost-efficient approach was applied to the design. “The shell and core repair items were placed as the highest priority and included extensive seismic reinforcing, adding an HVAC system with a central plant, new electrical and data systems, complete accessibility upgrades, new restroom facilities, and the addition of three stair towers to meet egress requirements,” said Kalban.

According to Back, moving several hundred university employees to the building has generated new vitality and a sense of renewal in the area. “In addition, [the] University of Southern California provides and supports data network connectivity for several local K-12 schools,” said Back. “One of the functions of the administrative and support that moved to this building is to ensure the ongoing viability and enhancement of this community connectivity.”

Completed in January 2007, the project provides a direct link to the main university campus to the west and has injected new life into the area. Back said, “The entire project team collaborated throughout design and construction to provide an excellent project for the university.”

- Ian McClure

Real Estate and Construction Review

Southern California Edition

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