YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Giving the Big Apple a Taste of L.A.'s Core

Boosters are heading to New York this week to encourage investment in downtown projects.

November 11, 2002|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

L.A. to New York: Our downtown isn't a joke anymore.

That's the message that a squadron of heavyweight Angeleno boosters, led by billionaire philanthropist and businessman Eli Broad, will take to the Big Apple this week when they meet with some of the biggest money managers in the world. Their goal: to convince the New York crowd that much of what they think they know about downtown Los Angeles is wrong or outdated, and that it's now a great place to invest lots and lots of cash.

Confronting the visitors are perceptions such as the one held by New York real estate mogul Donald Trump, who didn't hesitate to thump Los Angeles from his office on Fifth Avenue.

"The downtown area has heretofore been sort of a depressing place," said Trump, who recently bought Ocean Trails Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. "It needs people. It needs life."

L.A.'s emissaries think they can change such viewpoints now that the central city is enjoying a burst of cultural growth accompanying the construction of Staples Center, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Walt Disney Concert Hall and thousands of units of housing.

"Lenders should be more comfortable with our city," said Broad, who has contributed millions of dollars to such downtown cultural institutions as Disney Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

But Manhattan-based lenders and investors often think of the heart of Los Angeles as short on substance and style, and they punish downtown by steering their money to cities such as San Francisco and Chicago, which have more of the street life and culture enjoyed in New York, Broad and other civic leaders say.

"People have looked at Los Angeles and said there is no there there," Broad said. "That's all changing. Our job is to show them what's changing."

Joining Broad on the trip are Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which developed Staples Center; John Cushman, chairman of real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield Inc.; Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry; and Carol Schatz, president and chief executive of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District.

The group will make a two-hour presentation to about 50 financiers at a breakfast meeting Thursday at the posh Plaza Hotel as the high point of a visit Schatz said will cost her organization about $45,000.

"We couldn't expect people to pay attention unless we took the highest-level group of downtown stakeholders and entrepreneurs to meet with the highest level of the investment community in New York," she said.

Backing up Schatz and the other speakers will be a handful of other prominent downtowners including Jonathan Kevles, deputy mayor of economic development, and Bob Graziano, president of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They'll be on hand to chat with guests.

The fact that some of Los Angeles' most well-connected, wealthy individuals are crossing the country with their hats in their hands is a testament to New York's position as the financial center of the country.

"Investment spins out of New York," said Tim Walker, a partner at MaguirePartners, the largest landlord in downtown Los Angeles. "Foreign investment, pension funds -- most of it transfers through Manhattan."

MaguirePartners has refinanced some of its downtown properties over the last few years, and Walker said some of his New York financial partners didn't realize that the pace of improvement in central city L.A. has accelerated.

Having two measures on the Nov. 5 ballot to break off parts of Los Angeles didn't help its image, Anschutz Entertainment's Leiweke said.

"I travel a lot and so I hear a lot of different impressions," Leiweke said. "People think L.A. is about the secession battle. In the eyes of others we're dysfunctional. There is an impression that L.A. is a tough city to get things done in."

One of Leiweke's goals in New York is to make a case for funding a large hotel as part of a retail and theater complex. Anschutz Entertainment plans to build a 1,200-room, $280-million hotel next to Staples Center.

"It is the most important piece of economic development that has to be accomplished and realized here" because the convention center, other hotels, retailers and restaurants would all benefit from the big conventions it could support, Leiweke said. "A lot of the financing will probably come from the companies based out of New York."

At least one New York money man already is bullish on downtown Los Angeles. Peter Ginsberg, a director of fund manager Capital Trust, said that in the last eight months his company has placed $130 million in loans on four office buildings including Library Tower.

Downtown is "a relatively stable to strengthening market, with good relative value compared to the Greater Los Angeles area and other central business districts in the country," Ginsberg said. It's also getting more interesting, he said. "When the Disney Concert Hall opens [next year], it will become even more dynamic."

Los Angeles Times Articles