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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Grand Plan Approved to Give L.A. a Heart
By Cara Mia DiMassa, Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles city and county officials Monday approved plans for a cluster of high-rise towers, parks, shopping centers and entertainment venues around Walt Disney Concert Hall, declaring that the Grand Avenue project would bring an urban heart to a city that has long been without one.

The approval came as developers unveiled for the first time detailed plans for the project, which would significantly alter the downtown skyline and create a 16-acre park linking Bunker Hill with the Civic Center.

The plans call for five new skyscrapers, including a 45- to 50-story building that would house a boutique hotel and condominiums, and four other towers of approximately 30 stories each that would include condominiums as well as affordable housing.

The buildings would be situated around 400,000 square feet of retail shops, including a multi-screen movie cinema and a high-end supermarket designed to serve downtown's burgeoning residential population.

The concept, backers said, would bind the landmarks in and around Grand Avenue — Disney Hall, the Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels — into something like a city square.

"In some ways, Los Angeles has always been a divided city, a divided county," said Eli Broad, co-chairman of the Grand Avenue Committee, which is shepherding the project on behalf of the city, county and Community Redevelopment Agency. "That will all change with the creation of a vibrant city center where people can work, live and play."

But while Broad and a host of city and county officials hailed the milestone Monday, some questioned whether the plans really measure up to Broad's famous vow to turn Grand Avenue into Los Angeles' version of the Champs Elysees in Paris. Some critics believe the design shares more in common with a shopping mall than a unique public space.

Robert Harris, a professor of architecture at USC and the former chairman of the city's downtown strategic plan advisory committee, said he was "infuriated" that the plan seems to focus businesses and public attractions inward rather than having them line the main streets, such as Grand Avenue and 1st Street. As a result, the streets themselves would remain void of life, with the action happening inside the confines of the developments, he said.

"The plan doesn't make a fantastic promenade…. It's got to do that," said Harris, who lives downtown. "We should lie down before the bulldozers if it doesn't do that."

The approval, by a city and county joint powers authority made up of top officials, including county Supervisor Gloria and City Councilwoman Jan Perry, came after more than a year of planning and public meetings.

The unanimous vote allows the Related Cos., the project's developer that recently completed Time Warner Center in Manhattan, to hire architects and landscape designers to create the signature look of the development.

Some names being discussed include Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry. But Thom Mayne, the architect of the new Caltrans building, who was listed as a key member of the development team last year, is no longer involved in the effort, officials said Monday.

The project is expected to cost $1.8 billion and would be funded privately. Officials said Monday that they should have no trouble raising the capital.

Bill Witte, president of the Related Cos. of California, said that the developer had paid particular attention to the public spaces of the project, especially after listening to community concerns at a series of public forums.

"We're knitting all of these uses together in a way that works," Witte said. "We've paid a huge amount of attention to the streetscape and pedestrian levels … to make sure that there was great, usable public space."

Planners envision Grand Avenue as the spine of a nearly mile-long row of cultural and religious institutions, with the new development sprinkled around them. The tallest tower, described by Related as "the iconic tower," would rise at the corner of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street, across the street from Disney Hall.

On the other side of the street, two residential towers would be built along with the movie theater, a bookstore, a grocery store and other retail businesses. A 35- to 40-story residential tower would rise a block south near the corner of 2nd and Olive streets. Nearby, the developers plan a 15- to 20-story office building at Hill and 1st streets above a Metro Rail stop and a 25- to 30-story residential building on 1st and Olive streets.

Many of the parcels where development would occur are now either vacant or used as parking lots.

In an effort to help pedestrians navigate the area, Related wants to build a pedestrian bridge over Olive between 1st and 2nd and make major improvements to the look of Grand Avenue. The idea is to better link all the new buildings to the 16-acre park, which would be located a few blocks north, adjacent to the Music Center.

The park would follow the sloping contour of Bunker Hill, providing a dramatic unobstructed view from the Music Center down to City Hall. The park, Witte said, could be used for festivals, farmers markets, political rallies and other public events that now go elsewhere in the city.
Related plans a series of "urban steppes" through the 16-acre park, including what developers have called a Grand Terrace and Great Lawn, as well as public gardens and a civic plaza. They plan to design escalators and steps to take pedestrians through the park, which rises about 80 feet between Spring Street on the east and Grand Avenue on the west.

The Grand Avenue project has been hailed by backers as an effort to bring night life and a sense of community to a downtown that for decades was known for closing down when the sun set.

Since the project was proposed five years ago, downtown has seen an infusion of residents attracted by both high-end condos and lofts. On the south end of downtown, Staples Center has sparked an economic revival, bringing new residential construction and downtown's first new chain grocery store in decades.

But the kind of mixed-use development that Related is proposing for Bunker Hill has met with mixed success elsewhere in Southern California.

Although the Grove shopping center near Park La Brea is booming, other developments such as Paseo Pasadena and Hollywood & Highland have struggled to find the right mix of tenants.

Witte, however, said the unique nature of the Grand Avenue project — with a marriage of retail and resident with existing museums and fine arts centers — sets it apart. "This is also a much larger template to play with here, he said.

The park would be bordered on the north by the county Hall of Administration and on the south by the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, two buildings that Molina, chairwoman of the joint powers authority, said have "significant seismic issues" and eventually may have to be razed.

Witte said that the park has been planned with such a possibility in mind. If those buildings are knocked down, he said, their footprints could be incorporated into a larger park with relatively little cost or effort.

If that happens, one idea that has been bandied about is for the county to relocate many of its core offices from the Hall of Administration to one of the new office buildings.

But Joel Kotkin, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of "The City: A Global History," called that idea "outrageous" and would lead to a public subsidy of the developer — a prospect that government officials have taken pains to avoid. "We ought to be questioning where the demand is coming from," he said.

Downtown Los Angeles already has a glut of unused office space, much of which was built in the 1980s, Kotkin said. "Why can't we put them in there and cut a better deal?" he asked. "What a bunch of chumps we are."

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimates that the Grand Avenue project would create 5,000 full-time jobs and generate approximately $565 million in annual business revenue to the city and the county.

Officials said that they expect an environmental impact review of the Grand Avenue project to be completed by the end of the year. The first phase of the project's construction could begin as early as December 2006.

Broad pointed out that in the five years since its inception, the project has spanned the administrations of two mayors and is poised to overlap a third's. All three of those men were in attendance Monday, and all voiced their support for the project.

Mayor James K. Hahn sat in the front row; former Mayor Richard Riordan and Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa sat side-by-side in the next.

The plan, Broad said, "is one thing all three of you can agree on."
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Grand plan cost jumps $600 million

By Troy Anderson, Staff Writer

Pursuing a dream of developing a "civic heart" in downtown Los Angeles, the Grand Avenue Authority on Monday unanimously approved the master plan for the massive project - at a price tag $600 million more than first estimated.

The master plan of the $1.8 billion project knits together commercial and residential uses with an emphasis on creating a great public park and connecting the corridors that highlight the city's architectural icons - Disney Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and City Hall.

The project will require substantial public investment in public buildings and infrastructure improvements and the increased property tax revenue will go to pay off redevelopment bonds.

"People say Los Angeles does not have a civic heart downtown," said Stephen M. Ross, chairman and chief executive officer of The Related Cos., which won the contract to develop the project. "The goal is really to create that civic heart, making downtown a real destination, which is something that is a real challenge and something I look forward to being involved in."

Plans call for Related to pay a $50 million, non-refundable deposit to lease four parcels from the city and county and to create a 16-acre civic park.

The rest of the public spaces will be paid for by tax-increment financing - bonds sold by redevelopment agencies, which are repaid with the increased property tax revenues generated by the redevelopment projects themselves.

Taxpayers will have to foot the bill for renovating the parking structure under the Court of Flags, as well as $200 million for a new county Hall of Administration and an undetermined amount for a new courthouse. Both of the existing buildings have earthquake damage and officials say they need to be replaced soon.

Last year, some authority members had expressed concerns about where they would obtain an estimated $300 million to develop the park and underground parking structures and to make street improvements. But officials are now confident that no city or county general fund dollars will be used on the project.

"There is no public money at this point, other than redevelopment money, which is tax-increment money that will be reinvested back into the property," said Grand Avenue Authority chairwoman Gloria Molina, who also heads the county Board of Supervisors.

The estimated cost for the project has soared by $600 million, in part because the authority wants to buy an adjacent parking lot in order to expand the project. Officials also say the true costs emerged as the plans were fine-tuned.

"I'm proud I ran the first leg of this relay," former Mayor Richard Riordan said to Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa, who was joined at the press conference at the Founders Room at the Walt Disney Concert Hall by Mayor James Hahn. "And when it closes under your administration, give us both a little bit of the credit."

Billionaire Eli Broad said the idea for the project started when he and Riordan walked down Grand Avenue five years ago and decided a beautiful central park should be built so Southern Californians could have a place to celebrate major events.

"This all started when Dick Riordan was our mayor," Broad said. "And thank you Jim (Hahn) for picking this up. The mayor-elect also supports this. So it's nice to have one thing all three of you agree on."

Hahn said the project "was a leap of faith" for the city and county, but he said he was glad to have played a role in creating a "boulevard we can all be very, very proud of."

Villaraigosa said he wanted to reaffirm his steadfast commitment to make the project a reality.

"I know the hard work is coming," Villaraigosa said. "We have to finance all this."

In addition to the park, the master plan calls for up to 3.5 million square feet of development on 9 acres in the Bunker Hill area. The mixed-use plan also includes 400,000 square feet of retail shops, a 275-room boutique hotel and up to 2,600 residential units.

The project on two city-owned and two county-owned parcels, and an adjacent site to be acquired by Related, is expected to generate 5,300 jobs, plus $28 million in annual revenues for the city, county and state.

Construction on the first phase of the project is expected to begin in December 2006 if the plan is approved by the City Council, Board of Supervisors and Community Redevelopment Agency.

A distinctive 40- to 50-story "iconic tower" at Second Street and Grand Avenue is planned, along with the hotel with 200 condominiums on the upper floors. At meetings last year, members of the public had suggested the project include an icon like the Eiffel Tower or Barcelona Fish.

"We don't have a formal design idea, but the goal, and what the public really exhorted us to do, is to create a real identity for this district," said Bill Witte, president and managing partner of Related.

"We've worked with (Disney Hall designer) Frank Gehry on this. We want to take advantage of Disney Hall, not overshadow it."

Plans call for the city and county to maintain ownership of the properties, giving Related a 99-year ground lease on the parcels. In addition, Related will also pay to the city and county a percentage of condominium sales, hotel room revenues and gross rents after Related has achieved an undisclosed return.

Asked privately what he thought about the project, Riordan was a bit more candid.

"Oh, it's a bunch of baloney," Riordan joked. "It's just rich guys getting richer. I'm one of them.

"No, this is what the dream of the city has been about for years, making something like this happen - getting a true downtown for Los Angeles. This is going to be sensational. Grand Avenue is going to be one of the great avenues of the world."

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985 [email protected]
 

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LosAngelesSportsFan said:
The first phase of the project's construction could begin as early as December 2006.
brings a tear to my eye... :applause:
 

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2006..hmm..that means everything should be done by 2010. By everything I mean Grand Ave, LA Live, Metropolis, the Expo Line, and the Gold Line Eastside Extention. Boy..LA is going to look vastly different.

:righton:
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
ya, not to mention all the other projects currently announced, such as the two 30 + buildings next to the Stock exchange building, the phase two and three of the South group project (elleven) and then the second part of the project with 3 - 4 more towers all done by then, all the residential towers on 9th, olympic figueroa and hope, all the conversions on spring, 7th and that area and all the new projects that will be announced shortly!! Cant wait to see all the changes.
 

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I wish Emporis would update their LA section. I still don't know what all is going up in LA.

*Edit* Awesome picture.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
three hundred, check out the stick thread in the LA forum, somewhere in the middle, where i updated the list of buildings that are going to get built. i updated a while ago, but ill look at it again soon to make corrections.
 

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Imagine in 2010 when everything is done..I'll be 26 and sitting in the middle of the Grand Park in the summertime listening to a beautiful outdoor concert surrounded by beautiful buildings and beautiful greenery.

I am never more excited to be living in Los Angeles as I am right now.
 

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POLA said:
Except for the damn rent. This is a great city to be young in!
And the good news here is I think developers are building their way out of the scarcity of rentals downtown, so I'd expect a drop-off in rents pretty soon.

Despite the conventional wisdom, I'd say DTLA is today one of the best in the country. In 5-10 years--awesome. Let's see: all the great lofts and new condos, rail transit galore, MOCA, Music Center/Taper, Disney Hall, Staples, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, 3rd largest downtown workforce in the nation (little known but true fact), Central Library (one of my favorites), tons of new restaurants and nightspots, hub of the largest freeway network in the world, then add LA Live, Grand Ave, all the City West activity...the list goes on. In a word, rockin'. Wish I would've had a few mil to plunk down on an old building a few years ago! :)
 

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sounds great
im looking forward to being in l.a. live when done.
 
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