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UCLA relocates planned hotel and conference center

The university backs away from knocking down its five-decade-old faculty club, instead opting to level a parking garage to make way for the new facility.

November 02, 2011|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • UCLA Chancellor Gene Block on Tuesday said that continuing opposition to the first location for the hotel and conference center influenced his decision to move to what he described as a "second excellent site."
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block on Tuesday said that continuing opposition… (Annie Wells / Los Angeles…)

UCLA has chosen a new site for an on-campus hotel and conference center, abandoning a controversial plan to demolish the university's faculty club to make way for the new facility, officials said Tuesday.

The meeting spaces and 250 guest rooms would replace a multilevel garage at the campus center, sparing the faculty club, a 52-year-old structure on the school's eastern edge. The revised plan is also expected to ease concerns about increased traffic in neighborhoods east of UCLA.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block on Tuesday said that continuing opposition to the first location influenced his decision to move to what he described as a "second excellent site."

"We did feel there was significant faculty concern that we listened to, and we tried to listen to our neighbors," Block said. He also said the planned hotel should not cut into business at Westwood hotels, with the conference center expected to generate additional demand for off-campus rooms too.

In January, alumnus and local businessman Meyer Luskin and his wife, Renee, donated $100 million to UCLA, giving $40 million of that total for construction of the conference center and $10 million for its programming. The gift still will be used at the new spot, Block said. The remaining $112 million in construction costs will be financed by bonds, expected to be repaid with revenues from meetings and hotel guests.

A faculty committee last spring questioned the first proposal's financial viability. On Tuesday, Andrew Leuchter, a psychiatry professor who is the faculty senate chairman, said he expects many faculty members will be pleased with the changes, which include reducing the number of rooms from 282 and cutting the expected nightly rate to $185 from $250. "The location in the heart of the campus will really make the facility more useful," he added.

Some faculty members, however, said they remain worried that the center could become a financial drain.

If approved by the UC regents, construction on the seven-story building is expected to start in summer 2013 and be completed by winter 2016. Administrators said there is enough campus parking nearby to compensate for losing the 750-space garage.

Built in 1959, the faculty club needs repairs and has lost some business during the recession, but its leaders are considering improvements, said film professor William McDonald, who heads its governing board.

"Now that the bulldozers have been removed from over our heads, we can look at a long-term strategy," he said.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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