westwood/mark2nd

By ELIZABETH HAYES

Staff Reporter

Developer Larry Taylor had grand visions last year for leading a gentrification effort in Westwood Village. With Wall Street money behind him, he wanted to upgrade several retail properties in the area.

But Taylor apparently wasn't moving fast enough to please his partner, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Real Estate Capital Partners, and the upshot is an additional management firm brought on to help handle the large block of storefronts.

Cincinnati-based Madison Marquette will work with DLJ and Taylor's Malibu-based Christina Development Corp. to develop a leasing and development plan. Joel Mayer, vice president at Madison's Santa Monica office, declined to elaborate, but sources said the firm will take a lead role in the project.

In 1997, Christina and DLJ acquired more than 180,000 square feet of retail space for about $35 million. Taylor set out to spruce up the properties by commissioning Getty Center architect Richard Meier to design the renovations. Then he looked to lease them to high-caliber retailers like Tiffany's and Armani.

At the same time, rents for those properties were escalating from less than $3 per square foot per month to more than $4.50. But after more than a year, no new tenants have been announced. The renovation that is farthest along involves the former Bel Air Camera building, where construction is ready to begin.

Sources said friction developed between Christina and DLJ, which wanted the renovations and leasing to move faster. At the same time, Christina no longer wanted to be associated with a project that it didn't believe was of high quality, sources said.

Locally, Madison Marquette recently opened The Gardens on El Paseo, a $50 million shopping center in Palm Desert, and is developing Beverly Lane, a retail-entertainment project in the Beverly Hills Golden Triangle. The company is also in discussions to acquire the Westwood Macy's, which is near the DLJ-Christina properties.

Madison also had an edge with DLJ: The two firms, along with Simon DeBartolo Group Inc., announced plans last spring for a joint venture to develop lifestyle-entertainment retail projects.

Meanwhile, sources said last week that the nearby Village Center Westwood is going through a major revision in response to community concerns about a sunken plaza within the project.

Project developer Ira Smedra declined comment, but has said previously he was looking at design changes after the project hit a snag over the proposed closing of Glendon Avenue to make way for a sunken plaza.

The original 450,000-square-foot proposal, approved by the L.A. Planning Commission last spring, included a Ralphs supermarket, Long's drugstore, multiplex cinema, shops and restaurants.

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