While recession and crime were seen by many as the primary threats to business, other merchants pointed to what they considered a future, subterranean threat: the extension of the Metro Rail Red Line, which will run under Hollywood Boulevard from Highland to Vine. Construction is set to begin next August and is expected to be ongoing for about three years.
Business owners worry that construction will create traffic tie-ups and parking problems. They also say the construction will disrupt the Walk of Fame, deterring even more tourists.
"We're set for condemnation," lamented Michael Garfinkiel, owner of Memories of Hollywood, a souvenir emporium across the street from one of the planned subway stops. Despite assurances from Metro Rail officials that Hollywood construction will proceed smoothly, Garfinkiel said, "We got stuck with a baby we didn't want."
"If that construction starts, my main concern is how do I get the hell out of here with at least $2 in my pocket," said restaurant owner Hakman.
Responding to merchant's concerns, Hollywood planners and officials are quick to point out that such projects are improvements. The boulevard is still attractive to many investors and the area is not without those who think that better days are ahead, they say.
Smith pointed to some recent developments that she said would bring people and money to the boulevard. A $3-million Guinness World of Records Museum is set to open this summer in the former Hollywood Theater building. A new cinema district, aimed at promoting the businesses on the boulevard began recently; Pacific Theaters poured $6 million into the refurbishing of the El Capitan theater. Also, a farmer's market, operating on Sunday's, opened at Hollywood and Ivar in May.
These projects, coupled with the redevelopment agency's efforts to refurbish properties, prompt business owners like Hollywood Boulevard travel agent Adele Klate to say: "I just have a very up feeling. . . . There's life in this town."
On a similar note, Sheldon Weisman, manager of World Book & News Co. at Hollywood and Cahuenga, said: "There may be less tourist traffic, but Hollywood is still Hollywood. Anywhere east of L.A., people want to come and visit because it's Hollywood."