The religious group that owns the Great Western Forum wants to redevelop the Inglewood landmark, and possibly even tear down the arena, to build housing and a shopping center.
Forum Enterprises Inc., a for-profit arm of the Faithful Central Bible Church that owns the arena, is asking some of the region's largest developers to come up with proposals for the 29-acre site.
The group wants to lease the property, located at the southeast corner of Manchester Boulevard and Prairie Avenue, to a developer. The income stream would give the congregation lasting financial stability, according to Gerard McCallum II, executive vice president of Forum Enterprises.
The arena, which was the longtime home of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and was once known as the Fabulous Forum, has been used for Sunday services since 2000. Forum Enterprises also leases the site for concerts, such as an upcoming Rolling Stones show.
"When we first bought the property, the church never planned for the facility to be a church," said McCallum.
At the outset, church leaders said they wanted to build a hotel and convention center on the site. Those plans, however, were shelved after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Now, with Inglewood home prices soaring, the church wants to build a mixed-use project with several hundred units of condominiums and townhomes, an open-air shopping center and an upscale grocery store.
Church leaders would consider proposals that call for tearing down part or all of the Forum. However, the congregation still wants a place to meet somewhere on the site, McCallum said.
"We have kind of been straddling the fence," he said. "Our members can fill the facility, but we also don't want to have an empty building six-and-a-half days a week."
Preservationists are alarmed at the prospect of the arena's demise. "The Forum really put Inglewood into the national consciousness," said Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues at the Los Angeles Conservancy. "The Forum is significant to Inglewood's history and development and the history of major league sports in Los Angeles."
Already, some Inglewood city council members are concerned about the redevelopment plans. "I wonder whether the infrastructure will be sufficient," said Councilman Ralph Franklin. "It's an ambitious project, but I don't know how realistic it is at this point."
While McCallum said the church is still waiting for proposals to come back from developers, he said the development is envisioned to revitalize the area and complement other nearby projects.
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