Boxing star Oscar De La Hoya has thrown in the towel in his attempt to purchase the landmark Sears building site in Boyle Heights, which was to be redeveloped into a mixed-use retail and residential project.

The deal fell apart Dec. 31 when De La Hoya and his joint venture partners did not release their initial deposit of $2 million to owner MJW Investments Inc. MJW put the 22-acre site back on the market last week.

De La Hoya, who has moved into real estate development as he steps away from boxing, had hoped the project would help revitalize the low-income neighborhood where he grew up.

The deal was hammered out in the summer, and escrow on the property had been extended from October to the end of December to give the buyers more time to attract retail tenants to the project, which is at Olympic Boulevard and Soto Street.

De La Hoya's company, Golden Boy Enterprises LLC, in conjunction with two Southern California developers, Manarino Realty and Highridge Partners Inc., agreed in July to purchase the property for more than $70 million. The deal was set to close by Feb. 15.

Mark Weinstein, president and founder of MJW Investments, said that De La Hoya and the other buyers hinted in mid-December that they might not release the deposit because they wanted to discuss a reduction in the sale price and needed five more months to work on the deal. The request was turned down

"They wanted more time to tie up all loose ends," said Weinstein. "In a perfect world I'd like that too."

Richard Moody, the chief operating officer of Santa Monica-based MJW, said his company wanted to move forward with other possible buyers especially given the declining real estate market.

"We aren't going to take the additional risk of four to five months and find out they need more time when we have other buyers interested in the property," Moody said.

Representatives from Golden Boy, Manarino Realty and Highridge Partners, either could not be reached for comment or declined to speak about the deal.

The setback at least temporarily kills off one of the most important redevelopment projects in the East Los Angeles area and it couldn't come at a worse time. The credit crunch has already roughed up the local single-family housing market and is now slowing larger multifamily and mixed-use projects.

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