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YWCA to Build Job Center in Downtown L.A.

The nonprofit plans to break ground in the fall on a $40-million, seven-story facility in the South Park area.

April 12, 2004|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

The YWCA is planning a $40-million development in downtown Los Angeles that would put the organization's Job Corps training program in a new facility after four decades in an old hotel.

Executives of the Young Women's Christian Assn. expect to complete the $3.5-million purchase of one square block by the end of this month and break ground in the fall on a seven-story building with 150,000 square feet. Facing Olive Street between Olympic Boulevard and 11th Street, the building is scheduled to be completed in 2006.

The new Los Angeles Job Corps Center would house 400 residents in a federally administered program that provides job training for low-income and so-called at-risk people between the ages of 16 and 24. About 900 people, about 60% of whom are women, participate in the Los Angeles program annually, said Faye Washington, chief executive of the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles.

The new building would allow student-residents to move from the former Case Hotel, a nearby tower built in 1926 that has housed the program for 39 years. It also would bring 130 students from the Studio Club, a Hollywood landmark designed by architect Julia Morgan that opened in 1926.

The Studio Club on Lodi Place was built by the YWCA under the volunteer leadership of such early Hollywood luminaries as actress Mary Pickford and Constance DeMille and Bessie Lasky, the wives of studio bosses Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse Lasky. It was to "provide adequate quarters for feminine players and workers in motion picture studios," The Times reported in 1924.

Alumnae of the Studio Club include actresses Donna Reed, Rita Moreno and Marilyn Monroe.

The YWCA plans to renovate the Studio Club and use it as transitional housing, mostly for students who have completed the job training program and just entered the workplace, Washington said.

The Case Hotel has been sold for $5 million to Jade Enterprises, a real estate investment firm that owns several properties in the Garment District. The new owners plan to convert the 13-story building to office space for tenants in creative businesses, Washington said.

The Olive Street property where the new Job Corps building is expected to be built is being sold in two parcels by L&R Parking and the Irving Horowitz Trust, said real estate broker Phillip Sample, a principal of Newmark of Southern California who represented the YWCA. The site is now mostly used for parking.

The YWCA move is another boost for the South Park area of downtown that has seen substantial real estate development since the completion of Staples Center in 1999, Sample said.

Funds for the Job Corps building will come from a variety of sources, including the Los Angeles Redevelopment Agency, Washington said. There will also be a fundraising drive.

The new building would include a cafeteria and medical facilities, along with classrooms, child care, offices and a library. It would be the first building in what YWCA officials hope will become a campus that covers the entire block. Other plans include a culinary-arts training center, a vocational-training building, a recreation facility, more housing and a small park.

Participants in the Job Corps program earn high school diplomas and get job training in skills ranging from welding to healthcare. The Department of Labor requires that graduates be capable of performing jobs that pay a minimum of $8.80 an hour. Los Angeles graduates average $11 an hour, Washington said, and the program is ranked in the top 20 in the nation based on students' success.

Among Job Corps supporters in the public sector is CIM Group, a Los Angeles developer that is allowing students to receive on-the-job training at its downtown residential projects and will fill posts at a new Ralphs grocery store being built at 9th and Flower streets with program graduates.

"It's a good marriage, because downtown becomes their classroom in an even greater sense," said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who helped arrange funding for the YWCA project in her district. "These are young people eager to be trained and work."

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