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Grand Ave. faces a new snag

Frustrated at delays in the $3-billion project across from Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Antonovich wants it put out to bid again.

June 08, 2008|Cara Mia DiMassa | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County supervisor is raising questions about an oversight panel's scheduled vote Monday to delay construction of the much-watched, $3-billion Grand Avenue project.

Related Cos., developer of the Frank Gehry-designed project set to rise across the street from Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., said the delay was necessary because of difficulty in obtaining construction loans amid the real estate downturn. It would push the opening of the project's first phase to 2012.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich issued a statement late Friday calling on the Grand Avenue Authority, made up of city and county officials, to put the project out to bid again.

"If other developers knew that they could delay the start date for 16 months, they would have bid the project differently," the statement said.

Construction was originally supposed to begin last fall, but the start has been delayed several times.

The project's first phase -- which includes a shopping center, Oriental hotel, Equinox gym and two residential towers -- was once scheduled to be completed in 2009. Because Antonovich is not a member of the joint powers board, he has no direct authority over the project's timeline.

But a spokesman for Antonovich said he would argue before the joint powers authority that any major change in the construction schedule should go before the county Board of Supervisors and the L.A. City Council.

Grand Avenue is one of several major developments around the nation that have been delayed because of the credit crunch. In Seattle, developers recently shelved plans for a $7-billion development downtown, citing the poor economy. Huge projects in Las Vegas, Phoenix and New York City have also been scaled back or delayed, including part of the Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and a $14-billion development of the area around Penn Station in Manhattan.

Grand Avenue developers said construction would begin in the first quarter of 2009 and emphasized that the project is not in jeopardy. A fund controlled by Dubai's royal family has invested $100 million.

Although downtown L.A. development is still buzzing, the pace has clearly slowed. More than a third of the approximately 110 residential projects proposed for downtown -- including the 50-story Zen tower at 3rd and Hill streets, the Mill Street Lofts in the industrial district, the multi-tower Metropolis off the 110 Freeway and the conversion of the former Herald-Examiner building -- have been delayed or put on hold amid the rocky real estate market. Park Fifth, which would rise above Pershing Square and be the tallest residential complex west of Chicago, has seen delays as well. But developers say it's moving forward.

Grand Avenue is perhaps L.A.'s most anticipated project, in part because it is backed by philanthropist Eli Broad and a blue-ribbon committee of community leaders. They see the development as bringing high-end retailers and an upscale night life to downtown, using Grand Avenue's cluster of cultural attractions -- the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Music Center, which includes Disney Hall -- as a focal point.


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