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'Green' industrial park planned for lot

L.A. officials hope to create jobs with a downtown cluster of environmentally sustainable companies.

September 24, 2008|Marla Dickerson | Times Staff Writer

It's a vacant lot now, but Los Angeles officials hope to turn the former brownfield site downtown into a cluster of "green" manufacturing businesses to meet the region's growing demand for solar and wind power and other clean technologies.

The proposed CleanTech Manufacturing Center would be established on a city-owned 20-acre parcel in an industrial area near the intersection of 15th Street and Santa Fe Avenue, south of the 10 Freeway and west of the Los Angeles River.

The development, which city officials say could accommodate as much as 1 million square feet of industrial space, would essentially function as a green industrial park and incubator.

Officials are looking to generate jobs and turn a tattered pocket of Los Angeles into a hotbed of environmentally sustainable companies.

"We are rolling out the green carpet . . . for visionary clean-tech companies and sustainable green manufacturers that will call Los Angeles home," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday.

The plan is to offer tax breaks and other financial incentives to attract businesses to the site, which the city hopes will become the centerpiece of a so-called CleanTech Corridor along the Los Angeles River.

The city's Community Redevelopment Agency is going to shop the proposal directly to green businesses from now to the end of the year, then put the project out for bid in early 2009, said agency Chief Executive Cecilia Estolano.

She said the city planned to retain ownership of the land and that potential developers must come to the table with tenants in hand. Estolano said she expected the CleanTech Manufacturing Center's first companies to open their doors in 2010. She could not put an estimate on the cost of the development or the value of potential financial incentives that might be used to lure firms to the site.

The 20-acre parcel has a long and contentious history. Once home to a bus manufacturing plant, the site became contaminated with industrial waste, requiring an expensive cleanup.

Subsequent efforts to put a garbage incinerator and a state prison there raised the ire of community groups, which successfully defeated those projects.

Whether green tech can revitalize the neighborhood remains to be seen. Creating "green collar" jobs in depressed blue-collar areas is generating a lot of buzz in development circles, but so far not a lot of employment.

But Tom Soto, managing partner in Los Angeles-based Craton Equity Partners, said renewable energy and clean technology held tremendous opportunity for investment firms such as his.

"The silver lining in the dark cloud of economics we're living through right now really is clean tech," Soto said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find another sector with the velocity of growth and job creation that's occurring right now."

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marla.dickerson@latimes.com

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