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Bond Plan OKd for Renovating Million Dollar Theater, Market

December 24, 1987|BILL BOYARSKY | Times City-County Bureau Chief

A plan to use city-backed bonds for a $25-million renovation of the Million Dollar Theater and the Grand Central Market, on historic old Broadway in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, was approved Wednesday by the Community Redevelopment Agency board.

Under the proposal, the CRA would issue bonds to help developer Ira Yellin buy the Spanish Baroque building housing the Million Dollar Theater at 307 S. Broadway, to renovate the nearby market and add loading docks to it and build a parking structure for both the market and the theater at 3rd and Hill streets.

But, according to Don Spivack, the agency's senior project manager for the downtown area, the plan has a long way to go before the bonds are issued and sold.

The major obstacle is the federal tax law, which since it was revised in 1986 no longer permits the issuance of tax-exempt bonds for refurbishing historic buildings, such as the Million Dollar Theater. Congress would have to restore the exemption before the bonds are issued, Spivack said. If the bonds are eventually issued by the CRA, Spivack said, they could be repaid with revenue from Yellin's project.

Yellin said he will try to move ahead with the project even without the bonds, although "the investment community doesn't view it (the Broadway area) as a great value."

The developer already owns the Grand Central Market, a famous food shopping spot packed with fish and meat markets and vegetable, fruit, baked goods and delicatessen stands, all selling food aimed at the market's multi-ethnic, but largely Latino, clientele.

Under his plan, Yellin said he intends to spend $11 million renovating the market.

Another $11 million would be used to refurbish the theater building, completed in 1918 with a facade decorated with terra cotta and stone statues of cattle skulls and bison heads and other reminders of old Spanish California.

The remaining $6 million would be for tearing down a building at 3rd and Hill and replacing it with a parking structure.

The theater would continue its policy of Spanish language films and a week of vaudeville every month under its present operator, Metropolitan Theaters, Yellin said.

Yellin and the owner of Metropolitan Theaters, Bruce Corwin, are leaders of a movement to restore some of the old upscale feel of Broadway, which through most of the 1920s was the film theater center of the city.

Metropolitan operates most of the old movie palaces along Broadway, including the Palace, the Orpheum and the one that was the most lavish, the Los Angeles, at 842 S. Broadway.

The Million Dollar was one of the first and today is considered a prime example of movie palace architecture. It was built by Sid Grauman, who later built Grauman's Chinese Theater (now Mann's Chinese) in Hollywood.

In two other actions important to downtown Los Angeles, the CRA board:

--Approved moving ahead with seeking bids on a contract to begin the remodeling of the downtown Central Library. The CRA hopes to begin work in January and finish the entire project by August, 1992, under a schedule presented to the board.

--Approved spending $360,000 in CRA funds for a 33-unit housing project for chronically mentally ill people. The facility, to be located at Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue in Echo Park, would be operated by the Los Angeles Men's Place, which cares for mentally ill men on Skid Row.

Under LAMP's plan, mentally ill men and women would be first housed in a treatment facility on Crocker Street in Skid Row and, after improvement, would move to Echo Park.

The prospect of rehabilitated mentally ill moving out of Skid Row is likely to please business owners in the area, who have complained about the large homeless population on the fringes of downtown Los Angeles.

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