By JOYZELLE DAVIS
Hollywood's rising star just got brighter.
Regent Properties is expected to announce this week that it will build a 500,000-square-foot "urban village" office/retail project at the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street.
The project by Beverly Hills-based Regent marks the third major revitalization effort in the works for the faded movie capital.
Regent's plans call for a 200,000-square-foot entertainment/retail center and a 300,000-square-foot mixed-use office and restaurant project. The developer also plans to build a 1,000-space parking garage and is in discussions to reopen the Doolittle Theater on Vine Street.
Regent's project joins TrizecHahn Corp.'s proposed $360 million entertainment-retail project near Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and Pacific Theatres' $70 million redevelopment of its Cinerama Dome property directly across the street from the Regent site.
Between the Cinerama Dome and Regent proposals, the intersection of Sunset and Vine is slated to get more than $150 million of new development.
Unlike those more entertainment-oriented proposals, Regent's $70 million project is aimed at serving local residents' broader retail needs.
The developer is already negotiating with several anchor tenants such as apparel stores and bookstore chains as well as a movie theater operator, said Doug Brown, a co-partner at Regent. No lease contracts have been signed yet, but Brown said "the interest from prominent retailers is incredible."
"Hollywood is a void. It's under-retailed, and it's a natural retail market," said Brown, adding that residents of Hancock Park, Larchmont Village and Los Feliz have to drive to the San Fernando Valley "just to buy a Garth Brooks CD."
Home Depot was one of the first major retailers to locate in Hollywood when it opened its store near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue about a year ago, according to Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
The three-acre Regent site currently contains a smattering of parking lots, a mini-mall, offices and the fire-scarred TAV Celebrity Building, which years ago housed ABC's first radio studio, and then in the 1970s hosted "The Merv Griffin Show."
A fire gutted the inside of the 1930s Streamline Moderne-style building two years ago, and it has been sitting vacant ever since. Much of the facade, including the frieze panels depicting film scenes, remain intact.
"What can't be saved from the historic building will be worked into the new project's design," said Jeff Dinkins, co-partner at Regent.
Regent intends to invoke Hollywood's glamour days with its development, replicating the turret-type structure that sits atop the TAV building and incorporating the frieze panels into Regent's new project. Venice-based architectural firm Jerde Partnership Inc. is designing the art deco-themed project, called Hollywood Marketplace. The firm designed the Westside Pavilion and Universal CityWalk retail projects.
Brown said he wants Regent's Hollywood project to have a "town square" atmosphere, incorporating benches, outdoor dining and water fountains.
Regent plans to close down Morningside Court a north-south street that bisects the site to vehicles after 5 p.m., creating a pedestrian promenade stretching from Sunset Boulevard to Selma Avenue.
Regent's commitment to renovate the site's 300,000 square feet of existing office space would create an infusion of product that Hollywood hasn't seen for almost 20 years, according to Gubler.
"One of the reasons that we've lost so many (office tenants) is that we haven't had any class-A office space to offer them," Gubler said, noting that the Mercedes-Benz tower at 6353 Sunset Blvd., built in 1984, was the last office building constructed in Hollywood.
The entire Hollywood/West Hollywood office submarket contains about 3 million square feet of space, of which 20 percent was vacant as of year end, a rate considerably higher than the countywide rate of 15.8 percent, according to Grubb & Ellis Co.
Traditional corporate tenants have been skittish about leasing space in Hollywood, which has a reputation as a high-crime district. But Frank Buckley, managing director of commercial brokerage Ramsey-Shilling Co., said Regent's renovated office space probably will attract interest from entertainment-industry tenants that prefer "creative and unique" space.
(Buckley is handling leasing for the recently renovated office space at the El Capitan building on Hollywood Boulevard.)
He added that "some nice, clean and conventional space" might attract "back-office" corporate users looking for bargain rents.
"Hollywood is going to be a much more interesting place to have an office once these proposed projects go up," he said.
Regent has had its plans in the works for more than a year, Brown said, and it entered exclusive negotiations with the city's Community Redevelopment Agency in December. The environmental impact report recently began circulating, and Brown said he expects the project to break ground later this year.
Directly across Sunset, Pacific Theatres is undertaking a $70 million entertainment/retail project of its own on the site of its Cinerama Dome theater. The 245,000-square-foot project is scheduled to break ground this spring, said Neil Haltrecht, vice president of Pacific Theatres Realty. It calls for a health club, some restaurant and retail space and a 15-screen multiplex, as well as a major renovation of the existing Dome theater.
Haltrecht said he views Regent's project less as a competitor than as a complement to Pacific's proposal.
"Anything that adds to the critical mass and helps attract more nightlife to the area is great," he said.
The other major Hollywood development is TrizecHahn's 620,000-square-foot project planned for the area flanking Mann's Chinese Theatre. The Toronto-based developer plans to build a new 10-screen movie theater, retail shops, a live-broadcast theater to host the Academy Awards, and a renovation of the Holiday Inn and Chinese Theatre. TrizecHahn has extended its negotiations with the CRA and Metropolitan Transit Authority until late spring.
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