Plans for a $1.2 billion facelift of Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles received a key approval on Monday, helping pave the way for one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the nation.

The Grand Avenue Authority, a joint agency of the city and L.A. County, unanimously approved the plan from Related Cos. to develop four government-owned parcels into 3.2 million square feet of retail, housing, office and hotel space along a nearly mile-long stretch around Walt Disney Concert Hall.

"Bringing more housing along with jobs to this area of downtown are critical elements of this plan. Everyone will benefit from the new revenue that will be generated," said L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, vice chair of the Grand Avenue Authority, in a prepared statement.

If Related wins final approvals from the city and the county and can secure the needed funding, construction could begin as early as December 2006.

Eli Broad, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist who has long championed the Grand Avenue project, said it will "create an exciting downtown center" for the L.A. region.

Related's plan calls for 400,000 square feet of retail, up to 2,600 residential units, a 275-room boutique hotel and condominium tower, and up to 5,500 new parking spaces. The $500 million first phase of the project including the hotel tower and a residential tower of up to 30 stories is slated for the four-acre parcel directly across Grand Avenue from the Disney Concert Hall.

Related also announced on Monday that it has brought in architects Frank Gehry, David Childs of Skidmore Owings & Merrill and Howard Elkus of Elkus-Manfredi Architects for its master-plan team.

Simultaneously, city and county officials are drawing up plans for streetscape improvements and a 16-acre park connecting the Music Center on Grand Avenue with City Hall. Funding for the park would come from Related Cos.' initial $50 million installment payment on a 99-year ground lease from the city and county for the Grand Avenue project.

Plans call for Related to also pay to the city and county a percentage of condominium sales, hotel room revenue and gross rents after achieving a preset rate of return. Those revenues and rents would then be used to fund streetscape improvements other public spaces in the project. Other financial terms of the project will be finalized as the project moves through the approval process, officials said Monday.

Related Cos. was chosen last August over rival Forest City Enterprises Inc. to draw up the master plan for the Grand Avenue project. Related has redeveloped Time Warner Center in New York and developed major mixed-use projects in Reston, Va. and West Palm Beach, Fla.

The Grand Avenue Authority is chaired by L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Other members are: Councilwoman Perry, L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency Chief Executive Bud Ovrom and L.A. County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen.

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