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Shubert Theatre to Be Razed for Offices

Commercial Real Estate

Real estate: ABC Entertainment Center will be replaced by complex that includes shops and restaurants.

August 28, 2001|BRAD BERTON and DON SHIRLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The ABC Entertainment Center and the Shubert Theatre, since 1972 the home of many of the longest-running theatrical productions in Los Angeles, will be razed as part of plans to construct a striking 15-story office building on the site, officials said Monday.

Dallas-based Trammell Crow has been operating the ABC complex and adjacent 44-story Century Plaza towers for more than four years.

Now Trammell Crow will oversee the redevelopment on behalf of the property owners, which are major corporate pension funds advised by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

The group purchased the entire Delta Towers complex--Century City's signature development--in 1997 for about $485 million. The redevelopment project designed by architectural giant Gensler is expected to cost about $280 million and be completed within three or four years.

Although businesses seeking a Century City address will presumably welcome the additional facilities, Shubert executives lament the plans.

Shubert Organization, which ran the theater on a 30-year lease that expires next year, "is saddened and disappointed" by the decision to tear down the theater, Shubert Senior Vice President Robert E. Wankel said Monday. "We have been in negotiations, and we would have liked to have extended our lease, but it was not an option."

Development executives characterized the 30-year-old ABC complex as outdated and in need of major improvements.

"The goal of our revitalization plan is to create a very inviting yet functional environment within the urban context of Century City," said Daniel J. Niemann, the Trammell Crow senior vice president overseeing the redevelopment.

The theater company must leave the building by Sept. 30, 2002. Wankel said Shubert Organization "certainly will explore" the possibility of presenting shows at another L.A. venue, "but we have nothing set." The company definitely won't try to build another L.A. theater, Wankel said.

"The economics of big theaters are very difficult," he said.

Besides the "legit" theater, two five-story office buildings, a four-screen Loews Cineplex and a plaza and fountains will be demolished.

The offices housed the West Coast headquarters of ABC for decades, but the network recently relocated its operations center to Burbank, home of its corporate parent, Walt Disney Co.

Plans for the new 769,000-square-foot complex require the approval of Los Angeles city officials, in part because of the change in the use of some of the property, Trammell Crow Area President Bob Ruth noted. Existing structures currently total about 678,000 square feet. The complex's twin 44-story office towers--nearly 100% leased--will remain.

The 2,100-seat Shubert Theatre was the star attraction of the entertainment center. Opening in July 1972 with "Follies," it was designed to present limited runs of shows for a subscription audience.

However, after a few years, Shubert Organization decided to keep shows at the facility for as long as they could attract business. "Evita" played at the Shubert for nearly two years, from 1980 to 1982, and "Cats" ran from 1985 to 1986.

The theater was enlarged in 1993 to accommodate "Sunset Boulevard," a seven-month run that ended prematurely when composer Andrew Lloyd Webber fired Faye Dunaway as she was about to assume the starring role that had been played by Glenn Close.

The last long run was "Ragtime" from 1997 to 1998. The original subscription policy was all but forgotten until last year, when the company--in recognition of the declining supply of big musicals--revived the subscription rolls at the Shubert for a season of four limited runs. One of them, "Mamma Mia," was a major hit this year.

"Kiss Me, Kate" opened Friday as the last in the four-show Shubert-sponsored series. "The Who's Tommy" has been booked at the Shubert in December by the rival Nederlander Organization, whose own flagship theater, the Pantages in Hollywood, is occupied by "The Lion King."

The redeveloped ABC portion of the property--tentatively called 2000 Avenue of the Stars--is to include the new office space as well as restaurant and retail facilities.

Plans also include a landscaped plaza area of three acres. The underground parking garage will remain intact.

*

Berton is a correspondent and Shirley is a Times staff writer.

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