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Say Goodbye to La-La Land

Culture: The pieces are in place for the city to emerge as the 21st century's leader.

January 26, 1998|ELI BROAD | Eli Broad is chairman of SunAmerica Inc. and a trustee of the L.A. County Museum of Art and the California Institute of Technology. He is also chairman of the Walt Disney Concert Hall oversight committee

Los Angeles, it has been said, has no center, no cohesiveness. Its residents are too geographically dispersed and emotionally detached to care about the city or each other. We're called a modern-day Babylon or dismissed as "La-La-Land." For a city that creates fantasy and stories for the world, Los Angeles, ironically, has a major image problem.

The truth of the matter is, Los Angeles is on a roll. The new Getty Center further legitimizes our city's arrival as a major cultural force among the great cities of the world and signals Los Angeles' leadership role in the coming century. And as magnificent as the Getty is, it is but one part of the incredible cultural revival that is taking place here.

In December, the Walt Disney Co. donated $25 million to the Walt Disney Concert Hall project, joining corporations like Arco, Ralph's/Food For Less, Times Mirror, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Southern California Edison, Toyota and others in assuring that this remarkable new performance venue will be built. With its magnificent Frank Gehry design, Disney Hall will do for Los Angeles what the opera house has done for Sydney, the Guggenheim for New York and the Eiffel Tower for Paris.

In tandem with the Disney donation, an announcement was made that our new downtown sports/entertainment arena had obtained a $100-million, 20-year commitment from Staples Inc. This state-of-the-art facility will rival any in the country, and will complement our recently expanded convention center in revitalizing the southern end of downtown.

These milestones suggest far more than monetary commitments. They reveal that the legendary disparate factions of Los Angeles are coming together.

But no world-class city has ever achieved greatness without a center, and Los Angeles is no exception. For myriad compelling geographic, economic and cultural reasons, our center must emanate from downtown Los Angeles. Downtown is sprouting rapidly and will blossom fully just as we enter the new millennium.

The southern end will emerge as the sports, entertainment and convention district, highlighted by our new arena. To the north, there will be the arts and cultural district, replete with world-class architectural buildings, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels designed by Raphael Moneo, the Colburn School of Music and Disney Hall. Moreover, the Japanese and Korean American museums will each reach completion in the next five years, underscoring Los Angeles' role as America's gateway to Asia.

The only remaining hurdle is our image. For some of our East Coast brethren, Los Angeles remains a city ravaged by earthquakes, floods and fires, and characterized by O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers and the excesses of Hollywood. Sadly, reality lags behind perception in the case of our great city. It's up to the people of Los Angeles to change that through pride, commitment, optimism and confidence. It is only a matter of time before the world recognizes the arrival of Los Angeles.

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