It appears Jon Mueller is at it again. Los Angeles city officials confirmed that they were investigating the appearance of a new supergraphic on the surface of Mueller's Westwood Medical Plaza. The building has been ground zero for the city's battle over billboards and supergraphics, mural-size ads for movies and other products.

Dave Keim, the city's chief of code enforcement, said that complaints had been filed with the city regarding the appearance of a "supergraphic-sized" advertisement for the movie "Pearl Harbor." The city is trying to determine whether Mueller had a permit for the advertisement.

The latest ordeal might have nothing to do with Hollywood mural artist Mike McNeilly, whose Liberty mural a painting of the Statue of Liberty, a jet fighter, a veteran's cemetery and the Declaration of Independence is gone. McNeilly couldn't be reached for comment, but a version of his Liberty mural has appeared on the western face of 8899 Beverly Blvd.

The whole building brouhaha started in 1996 when Mueller allowed the installation of a supergraphic for the Touchstone Pictures release "The Rock." ("Pearl Harbor" also is a Touchstone Pictures film.)

Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood and a candidate for City Council, said that many area residents think Mueller is in cahoots with The Walt Disney Co., Touchstone Pictures's parent.

"I think it's the same thing it's always been, which is a movie billboard contract," Lake said. "If there was any ambiguity before, it's gone now. This is an outlaw billboard."

Mueller declined to comment when reached at his Orange County office.

David Keim, chief of code enforcement for the city's Building & Safety Department, said Mueller does not have a permit for the supergraphic and that the city will issue him an order to comply.

Disney officials said they had secured the proper permits for the advertisement. Keim disputed that claim and said an order to comply dated March 2 would be delivered to Mueller. Mueller would then have five days from the date of the order to comply or face misdemeanor charges. Keim said the offense carries penalties of a $1,000 fine and/or 60 days in jail.

Digging the Grove

Even as Nordstrom is pulling back on expansion plans around the country and as the Nordstrom family considers selling its chain the company seems fully committed to its 28th California store at The Grove at Farmers Market.

Provided the struggling Seattle-based retailer finds a reversal of fortune, the site could be a boon to both the retailer and project's developer, Caruso Affiliated Holdings.

Scheduled to open March 15, 2002, the store will have 122,000 square feet of space. The building itself will be accented with Spanish glazed tile and ornamental ironworks. Inside, the store will have the traditional mix of Nordstrom retail offerings and a coffee bar.

In other development news, Kilroy Realty Corp. has picked Insignia/ESG to lease the 151,000-square-foot Phase III of Kilroy's Westside Media Center in West Los Angeles. The space is slated to be complete in January 2002.

Insignia/ESG will be looking for tenants for that space, as well as tenants to fill another 151,000 square feet at Phase II left vacant by eToys Inc.

Construction Action/b>
Matt Construction of Santa Fe Springs has been hired to build a new store in Beverly Hills for luxury goods peddler Cartier. The high-end retailer has been at 370 N. Rodeo Drive for 21 years, but will tear down its existing store and replace it with a four-story, 14,500-square-foot store with a glass facade, balcony terrace and larger sales floor.

Cartier hopes that its other Rodeo Drive location, at 220 N. Rodeo Drive, will take up some of the slack during construction of the new building. That store will be remodeled and enlarged to accommodate the anticipated increase of customers while the store at 370 is being rebuilt.

In what is perhaps the less sexy but nevertheless quite active El Segundo market, Phoenix-based Opus West Corp. will try to loosen up what is becoming a very tight office market. The developer announced plans to build the Grand Avenue Corporate Center, a four-story, 126,000-square-foot office building at Grand Avenue and Nash Street, which has become known as El Segundo's "superblock."

Downtown Revival?/b>
Still more good news for the Downtown Business Improvement District as Blue Cross of California has committed to moving from the Westside to 801 S. Figueroa St.

A subsidiary of WellPoint Health Networks, Blue Cross of California leased 22,946 square feet of space to house 65 sales and marketing personnel.

The deal offers some evidence to support the conclusion of a recently released market study, as well as the BID's claim, that interest in downtown office space is heating up.

According to Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Borkerage Co., downtown is ripe for a tenant influx. The company's report indicates that downtown's average monthly rental rate of $1.64 per square foot makes the area an attractive alternative to high-priced Westside and South Bay markets. Marcus & Millichap is projecting that downtown office rents will inch upward.


Staff reporter Christopher Keough can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 235 or by e-mail at ckeough@labusinessjournal.com.



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