Thursday, February 4, 2010

GOOD LA WEEKLY ARTICLE about FAILED Grand Ave Project (See Eli Broad/Jan "Downtown Decimater" Perry)

An obscure body of five will decide if Eli Broad gets public land for his art museum
By Paul Teetor in LA Weekly


If it ever pans out, the (Eli Broad) museum (that this article is about in conjunction with the Grand Ave Project) will be part of the stalled, fiscally floundering $3 billion–plus Grand Avenue project, which has yet to turn a shovel of earth and has taken up thousands of hours of city and county government and legal time the past five years — and has been awarded $100 million in taxpayer incentives and other breaks.

City and county politicians led by Perry cut a deal with wealthy sheikhs from the nondemocratic emirate of Dubai to become major investors in what they now call The Grand. But the Dubai sheikhs are in fiscal crisis due to the Wall Street crash, and this month they "cleaned house" by firing the CEO of the emirate's investment arm, Istithmar World. The project developer, the Related Companies, says it is seeking a new principal investor in the project.

Meanwhile, with some analysts saying the condos envisioned at The Grand would take seven years to sell, the authority has granted the Related Companies repeated extensions of its construction deadlines.

"It's a fantasy project that will never be built," says Paul Novak, Land Use and Planning Deputy to Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the lone county supervisor to vote against forming the Grand Avenue Authority five years ago.

Novak says it's time for The Grand's cheerleaders to face reality. "That piece of public property has been tied up for three-and-a-half years. ... Mike [Antonovich] says it's time to cut and run," he says. "Related [Companies] has already had four extensions and has had its performance fine waived," he adds. He's referring to the fact that Perry and the Grand Avenue Authority have, for now, waived the Related Companies' $250,000 monthly late fee, which the developer promised to pay if it failed to start construction.

The project, Novak tells the Weekly, needs to be completely rethought. "It would only duplicate what's already going on at L.A. Live" near Staples Center, he says. "The big draw for Phase 1 was supposed to be a five-star hotel. Well, there's a brand-new five-star hotel at L.A. Live. There's only capacity for one."

Novak wants to see the five-member authority dump Related and start afresh to determine the best use of the land, which is owned by city and county taxpayers, rather than peeling off pieces of land for surprise projects pushed by insiders like Broad.

But Novak doubted such top-down rethinking will unfold because "the [authority] has turned into a cheerleader for the project" even though, he notes, "that's not their job."

To critics who say Grand Avenue will — and should — never happen, Witte responded: "We could always just give up on Grand Avenue, but we haven't done that. And we won't."

ALSO: Zuma Dogg's review of Grand Ave Project COMMITTEE MEMO that original LA Weekly Grand Ave Project article was based on. (Stuff that didn't make it into the published article.)

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