Staff Reporter

A giant monument to Los Angeles, dismissed a few months ago as pie-in-the-sky, is closer to becoming reality.

The City of Angels Monument Corp. has been quietly moving to acquire what could be in excess of $100 million worth of property on the west side of the Harbor (110) Freeway, including the Pacific Stock Exchange building, real estate sources said.

Several parcels bordered by the freeway on the east, Emerald Street on the west, and Second and Third streets are currently in escrow for premium prices, according to sources. The corporation has tied up about 40 acres of land but not all of that property is in escrow, sources said.

"They're trying to acquire a landmark location," said one real estate source, who added that the properties may be used for retail, office and residential purposes.

The corporation is headed by sculptor and monument builder Brett-Livingstone Strong. Corporation attorney Timothy Lappen declined to discuss any property deals or plans.

In the past, Gary Clayman, a consultant on the project, has said that a New York bank and Orange County-based investment firm are financing the $1.6 billion development that Strong hopes to complete by March 2003.

Strong said in a statement last week that he "conceived, developed and financed this amazing project with support gathered from many credible organizations, ranging from architectural and engineering firms to banks and experienced development and legal advisors."

The project includes an 1,100-foot tower topped with a bronze sculpture of an angel holding a giant sword. The angel would be twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. The tower beneath the angel would house exhibit space, shops, meeting space, restaurants and a concert hall, surrounded by botanical gardens.

Strong's statement said the monument celebrates the history of L.A. and the tower will contain exhibits showcasing the city's history. The angel's face will be modeled from 12 L.A. women of different nationalities. The sword will be illuminated at night.

Strong created the design, with assistance from the Santa Monica office of the architectural firm Gensler.

Strong is Australian-born but has lived in Los Angeles for several years. His other projects include a sculpture of John Wayne, carved from a boulder in Malibu. After towering over Pacific Coast Highway, it was removed about 20 years ago and eventually donated to a university in Texas. He has also done sculptures of Lawrence Welk and John Lennon.

It's not clear how the stock exchange building would be incorporated into the City of Angels project.

The future of the site's equity trading floor has been in doubt for years. With the collapse earlier this year of merger talks with the Chicago Board of Trade, plans to establish an electronic trading system are likely to speed up.

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