After years of legal maneuvers and often bitter disputes, ground-breaking ceremonies will be held Friday for the massive Hollywood Promenade complex in the heart of the tattered movie capital.
The $300-million project is expected to include a 350-room hotel, 275,000 square feet of upscale shops and restaurants and a 19-story office tower.
The complex will also be home to a film and broadcast museum known as the Hollywood Exposition and will provide a permanent home for the American Cinematheque, a complex of state-of-the-art theaters showing new and classic films and videos.
The Promenade will be located on the southern half of a two-block area bounded by Hollywood Boulevard, Orange Drive and Highland and Franklin avenues. The project, billed as a major step toward revitalizing the Hollywood area, would form a horseshoe around Mann's Chinese Theatre at 6925 Hollywood Blvd. It is the first large development to be constructed as part of the city's controversial, $922-million redevelopment plan for Hollywood.
Much of the site is now used for parking, although a handful of small buildings--including a fast-food restaurant on Hollywood and a rental-car agency and small print shop on Highland--will have to be demolished.
The developer is Melvin Simon & Associates Inc. and the primary architect is the Jerde Partnership Inc., which designed the Westside Pavilion in West Los Angeles and Horton Plaza in San Diego.
Design plans have not been made final, but the project will make extensive use of limestone, concrete, terrazzo and glass. Each major component of the complex will have its own design to give it a unique character, a Jerde architect said.
Mayor Tom Bradley, Councilman Mike Woo, several entertainment figures, a handful of local residents and executives from Melvin Simon will gather Friday to toast the official start of the project and view renderings of the complex.
Area homeowners, city officials and the developer have been bickering over the Promenade almost since its inception in 1984. And while Simon has city approval for the project, the Promenade may still run into trouble.
An attorney for Save Hollywood Our Town, a group of residents and environmentalists that has unsuccessfully challenged the complex in court, indicated that the group may fight the builder again when it asks the city for additional exemptions needed to complete the project.
"I don't think we've thrown in the towel on this project yet," said SHOT attorney Chris Sutton. "It's going to create terrible traffic problems and the office tower is going to be taller than the nearby hillsides."
The Promenade's prominence and size has raised the ire of many residents, who say the complex--combined with the other redevelopment projects--will raise noise levels, ruin views, worsen traffic and draw more crime.
Although the lawsuit that Save Hollywood Our Town filed against the Promenade failed in court, the developer agreed to reduce the size of the project from about 1.1 million square feet to about 900,000 square feet, and to pay $5 million for a computerized traffic system and other transit improvements in the area.
In addition, the company agreed to provide a permanent home for both the movie museum and the American Cinematheque, instead of renting the space to tenants who would likely pay much higher rent.
"We've made many concessions, and I think they're enough," said Michael Marr, a Melvin Simon vice president who has been supervising the Promenade project. "I expect SHOT will come back at us before this project is done, but we'll win again."
The Promenade and the rest of the redevelopment plan has drawn the support of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and several large employers in the area--many of whom have seen their property values soar since they began pushing for redevelopment almost five years ago.
"Ground breaking for the Promenade is one of the most important steps that will ever be taken in the 30-year development program in Hollywood," said Bill Welsh, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
"When ground is broken, the naysayers will be silenced: No longer will they be able to say 'redevelopment will never happen in Hollywood.' "
Councilman Woo, who represents the area, also backs the project and boasts that it will "help bring back Hollywood to Hollywood."
Still, many local residents are unconvinced.
"All that stuff about 'bringing back Hollywood' is a bunch of malarkey," said Norton Halper, chairman of the Hollywood Homeowners and Tenants Assn. "You can't recreate what Hollywood once was by building a bunch of skyscrapers and hotels and then jamming in thousands more people and cars."