Former Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles to become UCLA science center

The former Westside Pavilion, a long-shuttered shopping center, will be transformed into a UCLA biomedical research center aimed at tackling such important challenges as curing cancer and preventing global pandemics, officials announced Wednesday.

The sprawling three-story structure will be known as the UCLA Research Park and will house two multidisciplinary centers that will focus on immunology and immunotherapy, as well as quantum science and engineering.

The establishment of the public-private research center is a coup for Southern California that will “cement California’s global, economic, scientific and technical dominance into the 22nd century and beyond,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

The mall’s former owners, Hudson Pacific Properties Inc. and Macerich, said Wednesday they sold the property to the Regents of the University of California for $700 million.

By purchasing the former mall, UCLA saved itself several years of potential work to build such a facility on campus. UCLA is the most-applied-to university in the country, but its Westwood campus is among the smallest of UC’s nine college campuses, leaving it limited room to grow.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (center) on a tour of the former Westside Pavilion shopping center, which is being converted into a new scientific research and learning center connected to UCLA.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

The former shopping center sits on prime real estate in the heart of the West Side at Pico Boulevard and Overland Avenue, about two miles from the UCLA campus. The mall was owned by commercial developers who spent hundreds of millions of dollars to dramatically remodel the old mall into an office complex intended to attract technology companies, which signed some of the largest office leases in Silicon. Beach in Los Angeles before the pandemic.

Google agreed to become the sole tenant and began paying rent last year, but never moved out. The interior is largely unfinished, but is ready for UCLA to build to its specifications in a process that Newsom said would take about 40 months.

The UCLA Research Park “will serve as a next-generation research and innovation center that brings together academics, corporate partners, government agencies and startups to explore new areas of research and achieve breakthroughs that serve the common good,” the chancellor said. from UCLA, Gene. Block said.

In addition to flexible work areas, the former mall’s 12-screen multiplex theater can be converted into conference rooms or performance spaces offering programming in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences, the chancellor’s office said.

One of the tenants of the research park will be the new California Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy.

Newsom recounted how two Los Angeles billionaires approached him at an event to pressure him to invest more in the state in medical research.

“We wouldn’t be here in terms of the state’s commitment if I hadn’t been cornered by Michael Milken at the Milken Institute and Gary Michelson, who said we need to talk to you,” Newsom said.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, right, talks with financier Michael Milken

California Governor Gavin Newsom, right, speaks with financier Michael Milken after touring the former Westside Pavilion shopping center.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Milken, an investment banker who dominated the junk bond market in the 1980s, pleaded guilty to securities violations in 1990 and was pardoned by President Donald Trump in 2020. His philanthropies have invested in medical research and other causes. .

Michelson, a retired orthopedic surgeon and medical device inventor, said in the annual report of his philanthropic activities that he had “co-founded” the California Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy and had advocated for the state to donate $500 million to fund it. The mall project was made possible in part by a planned investment of $500 million by the state, of which $200 million has already been allocated, according to a statement from UCLA.

Michelson has spoken of his desire to build a “Field of Dreams” research center with 500 or more scientists.

According to a UC Regents document, the institute will operate as an independent nonprofit organization and will be funded by a public-private partnership. UCLA would name four of the institute’s 11 board members.

The institute will pay UCLA 7.5% of the net revenue generated from the sale of new drugs and other inventions its scientists create, according to the document.

Immunology, or the study of the immune system, has produced drugs like Humira, which generated more than $20 billion in global sales last year. In recent years, immunology has been a high-growth area of ​​medicine, in part due to high drug prices. Analysts say it has now become much more competitive because it has attracted more scientists, companies and research investments.

The former mall will become the new home of the UCLA Center for Quantum Science and Engineering, which was established in 2018 and brings together academic and industrial partners to advance cutting-edge research and development in quantum computing, communication and sensing, he said. the chancellor’s office.

The purchase of the nearly 700,000-square-foot Westside Pavilion marked the third major acquisition for the Los Angeles public university system in less than two years.

Looking to expand its presence, UCLA announced last summer that it acquired the Art Deco-style Trust Building in downtown Los Angeles and renamed it UCLA Downtown. Just nine months earlier, UCLA spent $80 million to buy two other major properties owned by Marymount California University, a small Catholic university that closed last year. The purchase included Marymount’s 24.5-acre campus in Rancho Palos Verdes and a 11 acre residential site in nearby San Pedro.

Designed by noted 20th century shopping center architect Jon Jerde, the Westside Pavilion was both acclaimed and reviled by locals who saw it as a way to market their community when it opened in the 1980s. The three-story shopping center It was full of buyers. But decades later, the rise of e-commerce and changes in consumer tastes helped spark a slow death that was affecting brightly lit indoor shopping malls across the country.

Google signed a 14-year lease in 2019 and had plans to build a massive campus there. Then COVID arrived. Those ambitions never came to fruition amid a slump in the office market and, more recently, a general pullback by technology companies in the face of real estate expansions and rising interest rates.

Earlier this year, Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, announced it would cut 12,000 jobs, or 6% of its workforce, amid “a different economic reality.”

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