The Chet Holifield Federal Building in Laguna Niguel, California—better known to locals as the “Ziggurat” for obvious reasons—is reportedly at risk of demolition. The six-story, one-million-square-foot government services building is on the chopping block as the U.S. Public Buildings Reform Board, responsible for unloading federal facilities, will likely sell the structure as early as next year.
Designed by modernist William Pereira in 1971 as a manufacturing facility for North American Rockwell, the company ultimately never moved in and the building was acquired by the federal government in 1974, then finally occupied in the mid-’80s as offices after a decade of trying (and failing) to sell it.
The Ziggurat is currently operating at about half capacity across several government agencies, holding 3,000 employees from the Treasury Department, Citizenship and Immigration Services, ICE, and others. In the draft environmental impact statement released by the General Service Administration (GSA) and open to public comment through September 4, the agency laid out three possible alternatives: The first is a private development, wherein the building and 64 acres of the site would be transferred to City of Laguna Niguel ownership, who could then renovate the building or demolish it and develop mixed-use projects. The second option is the wholesale removal of all federal staff and the transfer or sale of the entire 92-acre site, similar to the first option.
The last option, and one the GSA finds infeasible, is holding onto ownership and maintaining the failing Ziggurat. According to The Orange County Register, the 50-year-old structure is falling apart and already looking at a $342 million backlog, with parking lots so rough they’re rented out as basketball courts. The building is also in dire need of an asbestos abatement.
If the federal government does hand over the building, that doesn’t necessarily mean the end; the GSA is reportedly working with the State Historic Preservation Officer to determine possible restrictions for the next owner, although what forms they might take is still up in the air. A final report will be created after the public has weighed in on the draft impact statement, then the Public Buildings Reform Board will issue a judgment after a final public meeting.
The last few years haven’t been kind to Pereira’s remaining buildings. Although the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco remains lauded, it was sold in February to New York developer Michael Shvo. His 1973 Los Angeles Times building addition in Los Angeles is slated for redevelopment after failing to secure landmark status, and in April, demolition began in earnest on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) complex, beginning with the Leo S. Bing Center completed in 1965.
This article was originally published on The Architect's Newspaper.