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Hotel operators, restaurateurs and others say a larger facility would improve the city's image, create thousands of jobs and bring in millions of dollars in taxes. : L.A. Convention Center : Expansion Plans Get Agencies' OK

May 08, 1988

Three local agencies have approved preliminary design plans for the $390-million expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center, the biggest development ever undertaken downtown.

With few objections, schematic designs of the project--which would more than double the facility's current size--have been approved by the Los Angeles Convention and Exhibition Center Authority, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Cultural Affairs Commission.

The plans should come before the City Council within two weeks.

The expansion would take place on 26 acres bounded by Pico and Venice boulevards, Figueroa Street and the Harbor Freeway. The current facility fronts Figueroa and 12th streets.

Construction is tentatively set to begin in the middle of next year, with completion expected by 1992.

Plans call for the addition of a 350,000-square-foot exhibition hall, connected to the existing 234,000 square feet of exhibition space by a 2-story conference center bridging Pico Boulevard.

Two tall pavilions of glass and steel would house the lobby areas and serve as "beacons" for the complex and the rest of downtown.

Forty new meeting rooms would be added, raising the total to 60. Parking spaces for 3,200 cars would supplement the current lot's 3,000-car capacity.

Some of the parking space could eventually be converted into another 180,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Architect of the planned expansion is Gruen Associates/I.M. Pei Partners. Los Angeles-based Gruen designed the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and the Pacific Design Center is West Hollywood; I.M. Pei designed the planned Library Tower downtown and the expansion of the Louvre museum in Paris.

The planned expansion would make the Los Angeles Convention Center one of the 10 largest in the United States, said Dick Walsh, its general manager.

Boosting Revenues

Many hotel operators, restaurateurs and other business firms have been pushing for expansion of the existing convention center for years. In addition to boosting their own profits, they say a larger facility would improve the city's image, create thousands of jobs, and bring millions of dollars of new tax revenue into the city's coffers.

Although many trade groups and other organizations would like to hold their conventions in Los Angeles, supporters of the expansion say, they're forced to go elsewhere because the current facility is too small.

An enlarged convention center could inject $504 million annually into the local economy by 1994, according to one recent study.

The expansion project is being funded by the sale of bond-like securities issued by the Los Angeles Convention and Exhibition Authority, funds from the CRA and community block grants through the city Community Redevelopment Department.

Relocating Households

The CRA has already begun assembling the 26-acre parcel needed to build the expansion. More than 400 households and 60 businesses will be displaced by the new construction.

More than 80 of those households and 17 of the businesses have already been relocated, according to a Convention Center spokesman.

The construction is expected to cost $247 million, which would make it the most expensive downtown project ever built. Another $143 million is earmarked for land costs and other items.

Approval of the schematic designs is expected to help marketing efforts aimed at bringing larger conventions to the center by the early 1990s. Trade groups and other large organizations typically pick their convention sites at least three years in advance, and no major conventions have been booked for the expanded facility.

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