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Planners OK Office Complex for Site of Shubert Theatre

The project, if approved by the City Council, will replace the ABC Entertainment Center in Century City. It is to include a cultural space.

February 14, 2003|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

City planners Thursday unanimously approved a strikingly designed office complex that would replace Century City's aging ABC Entertainment Center and Shubert Theatre.

As part of the $300-million project, developer Trammell Crow Co. of Dallas also plans to build a cultural facility to ease the loss of the 2,200-seat Shubert, which went dark months ago after 30 years of offering such Broadway hits as "Evita" and "Beauty and the Beast."

The planned 10,675-square-foot cultural space is expected to be devoted to visual exhibitions and occasional performances. The developers said they are in discussions with a variety of cultural organizations to come up with a proper mix of programs.

Before voting 8 to 0 to approve the project, members of the Planning Commission in a City Hall meeting room listened carefully, if at times impatiently, as a parade of individuals spoke for and against the proposed complex. At 768,000 square feet, it is 100,000 square feet larger than the existing structures.

Several representatives of neighborhood groups complained that the project will add to the heavy traffic on the Westside, jamming streets in Cheviot Hills, Westwood and other surrounding neighborhoods. Their concerns about traffic were echoed by Renee Schillaci, a planning deputy for Councilman Jack Weiss, who represents the area.

But they were outnumbered by union representatives, Chamber of Commerce officials and others who praised the project as something that would help restore luster to a fading pocket of the well-heeled community and provide jobs.

The dual 15-story glass-and-steel structures planned for 2000 Avenue of the Stars will feature an eye-catching 90-by-110-foot "window" between them that will open onto a three-acre plaza. The two buildings, which will be bridged at the top and bottom, will house offices, restaurants and services such as dry cleaning, shoe repair and coffee stands.

Designed by Gensler, a noted architectural firm, they will supplant not only the Shubert but also the shops, cafes and movie theaters between the Century Plaza Hotel and the twin 44-story Century Plaza Towers office buildings. Many of the speakers described that area now as a ghost town.

Kim Adams, a Westside resident, said the outmoded complex that once housed ABC's West Coast headquarters "has seen better days and is dying on its feet." The new complex, she added, will bring new life to Avenue of the Stars.

The City Council is expected to vote on the project in late April. Demolition of the existing buildings would take six months, said Daniel J. Niemann, a senior vice president at Trammell Crow. The Texas company is operating the property for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which bought it in 1997. The presence of asbestos, Niemann said, will require that the buildings be shrouded and taken down piece by piece.

If the project moves forward, much of Century City will be a construction zone for years to come. MGM is set to be the primary tenant of a 35-floor office tower being built atop a former parking lot on Constellation Place. An overhaul is also planned for Century City Shopping Center.

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