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THEATER

Panel favors developer's theater plan

For-profit vision for the L.A. Theatre Center passes an initial hurdle.

August 08, 2003|Don Shirley | Times Staff Writer

Downtown developer Tom Gilmore's proposal to add for-profit entertainment and dining to the mix of attractions at Los Angeles Theatre Center leads in the race to determine the next operator of the city-owned complex on Spring Street.

A panel appointed by the city's Cultural Affairs Department recommended the adoption of Gilmore's proposal over five others. Gilmore has renovated old office buildings near LATC into modern housing and is restoring the 1920s-era Palace Theater and the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral. Under the plan, he would work with Garson Entertainment on developing for-profit performances at LATC and with Will & Co. -- currently a resident company -- on leasing spaces to nonprofit companies. He also would install a cafe, street landscaping and extra lighting and security. "By properly managing the property, I hope to find commercial uses that can feed the deficits," Gilmore said.

Panel member Lars Hansen said Gilmore's properties in the neighborhood give him "a vested interest in the success of the immediate surroundings." He added that Gilmore "has the financial depth to weather the ups and downs of the business."

Gilmore, who said he had not been notified of the panel's recommendation, said LATC would be "an incredible challenge." If he wins the contract, he added, "I'll be taking the first step over the river Styx. I'm scared to death."

The proposal must still win the approval of cultural affairs general manager Margie Johnson Reese and the City Council. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the district, declined to comment.

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