By MORRIS NEWMAN
Hollywood’s decade-long attempt to stage a comeback appears to be gaining momentum, in historic preservation and renovated office buildings.
While government efforts by the Los Angeles Redevelopment Agency and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have helped clear the path, the big energy on Hollywood Boulevard is coming from private enterprise.
The centerpiece of the revival is a $145 million shopping and entertainment project at Hollywood and Highland, located above the Metro Rail station currently under construction. The developer, a partnership of San Diego-based TrizecHahn Centers, promises specialty-retail, restaurants, and a 12-screen multiplex theater operated by Mann Theatres.
The train station will eventually provide “a natural tourist linkage” between Universal Studios Tour and Hollywood, according to David Malmuth, senior vice president of TrizecHahn.
“We can start imagining a tourist itinerary in which visitors will spend half a day strolling the streets of Hollywood and then shooting over to Universal and spending time there, as well,” he said.
The designers of the TrizecHahn project are providing extra wide sidewalks in front of the fanciful project. “A little congestion on the sidewalk would make Hollywood Boulevard more of a vibrant place,” said Malmuth. Another natural gathering place is a giant staircase, which offers a view of the Hollywood sign.
Approved by the City Council in early April, the developer has entered a 180-day period of negotiation with public agencies to work out the details. Construction dates have not been announced.
Other notable projects in Hollywood include:
– The Hollywood Spectacular, a movie theater that would go into what is currently a parking lot immediately west of the Chinese Theater.
Announced last month by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, the theater design is notable for a row of free-standing, 40-foot letters that spell “Hollywood.”
The developer, Hollywood Orangeland LLC, plans to start work on the $20 million, 47,000-square-foot project in July. Completion is expected eight months later.
– A 225,000-square-foot retail and entertainment complex is proposed at Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street, to be developed by Regent Properties Inc. of Beverly Hills. The project is being redesigned to gain the support of both the community and redevelopment agency. No construction date has been set.
“We’re looking at themed restaurants, outdoor cafes and neighboring-serving retail. The center will have a high level of social amenities, and will serve as a neighborhood center and regional attraction,” said Larry Kosmont, a real estate consultant to the project.
– The historic Egyptian Theater, built in the late 1920s, is being restored for use by the American Cinematheque, a non-profit theater operator that specializes in historic and unusual films. The redevelopment agency is the developer.
– The Hollywood Entertainment Museum has given the area another tourist attraction. Museum operators have refused to disclose attendance figures, and the museum which received a $2 million grant from the CRA had to recently get a $642,000 advance from the city to pay off construction loans.
Even so, Hollywood boosters believe the attraction will ultimately help bring more visitors to the area.
– The Hollywest Project at the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, also being developed by the CRA, is a residential-mixed use project to include 96 units of senior housing, as well as 118,000 square feet of commercial space including a Ralphs grocery store and a Ross Dress-for-Less outlet.
The current crop of construction projects may fill Hollywood’s long-standing need: more tourist destinations.
“For years, people have been bringing their friends and relatives to Hollywood, and leaving with unmet expectations,” said John Ash, architect of the Hollywood Spectacular theater project. “We had 9 million visitors a year with no place to go.”
“If we cleaned the streets and made it safe, things could work here and provide some authentic experiences for all of our visitors,” he added.
Even Hollywood boosters acknowledge that the highly visible population of panhandlers, and the perception of high crime in the area, are obstacles to drawing tourists.
“There’s no magic bullet out there and anyone who thinks there is, is kidding themselves,”
said Goldberg aide Roxana Tynan.
To help deal with the problem, there are special patrols by Los Angeles Police Department and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officers. A private security firm has also started providing patrols in Hollywood’s business improvement district.
Overall, the new construction seems to have created new confidence in local property owners. At least four office buildings are undergoing major renovation: the upper stories of the El Capitan building, the Hollywood Entertainment Plaza, the Steven J. Cannell Productions Building and Hollywood Metro Plaza.
Office broker Rob Waller of CB Commercial Real Estate Group Inc., who has worked the Hollywood area for 13 years, says he’s seen the area “come full circle.”
“It appears that we have the right elements for what hopefully will be the renaissance,” said Waller. “What’s particularly striking is that the area has a lot of new (building) owners and new asset managers who are putting their money where their mouths are,” said Waller.
Hollywood’s long-awaited turnaround is due to a number of factors, according to TrizecHahn’s Malmuth. He cites the support of Goldberg, the general growth of the entertainment industry, and the formation of a business improvement district in a six-block area centering on Hollywood Boulevard from La Brea Avenue on the west to MacCadden Street on the east.
The business improvement district, known as the Hollywood Entertainment District Property Owners Association, plans to raise $3 million in the next five years. Most of that money will be spent on street improvements, beautification, security and marketing.
“We are trying to achieve a critical mass in Hollywood, not just in massive projects like the Egyptian Theater, but making a difference on the boulevard market banners, benches, street widening, lighting, special trash cans and benches little things that add up to a lot. After a while, you begin to see the changes,” says Donna de Bruhl-Hemer, CRA project manager of the Hollywood Redevelopment Project Area.
A new emphasis is “in-fill retail,” she added.
The sense of Hollywood as a one-of-a-kind location must be supported by merchants who are unusual, according to de Bruhl-Hemer.
“We don’t want mall-type stores. We want unique venues where tourists can buy things they can’t buy in Idaho,” the redevelopment official said.
– TrizecHahn Centers announced plans for a 210,000 square-foot project for shops, restaurants, and a 12-screen multiplex theater operated by Mann Theatres on Hollywood Boulevard at Highland Avenue.