City officials back Chinese Theatre-area redo

Plans to revitalize the historic Mann’s Chinese Theatre and the area around it moved closer Thursday with the announcement that the project has received the backing of key officials with the city’s redevelopment agency.

The announcement was made by Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who in a “state of Hollywood” speech cited the project as a reason for optimism that the long-troubled area was bouncing back.

City and business leaders are looking to the massive project on Hollywood Boulevard as a boost for the area akin to the revitalization of New York’s 42nd Street.

The proposal calls for renovating the historic theater and constructing an adjacent 12-screen multiplex, retail and restaurant complex at the corner of Highland Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard (Daily Variety, Dec. 10). The 485,000-square-foot center, to cost about $145 million, is being built by TrizecHahn Centers, which also built San Diego’s Horton Plaza; Mann Theatres would be the anchor tenant.

The project was one of three proposals submitted to the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, which has been seeking bids to revitalize the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in conjunction with the opening of a new Metropolitan Transportation Authority station at the site.

Staff of the CRA have recommended that TrizecHahn be the winning bidder. The CRA board next week will decide whether to approve their recommendation; if approved the bid would next go to the city council.

That would give TrizecHahn the exclusive right to negotiate with redevelopment officials over a period of 180 days. Among the negotiating points: a lease for property owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and any tax incentives.

Catalyst of resurgence

Officials with TrizecHahn call the project an “entertainment destination that is designed to portray an interpretation of the glamour and excitement of Hollywood as well as be the catalyst to stimulate the resurgence of the area.”

The plans call for tearing down the present theater annexes at the Chinese. A free-standing, 1,000-seat Babylon Premiere Theatre would be built, along with the 12-screen multiplex and 285,000 square feet of retail space and 60,000 square feet of restaurant space. Also included in the plans is a 2,200 space parking structure.

Among the possible retail tenants would be stores generated by the studios. Warner Bros. and Paramount, for instance, co-own Cinamerica Theatres, the parent of Mann Theatres.

“It will be a place that pays off people’s expectations when they come to Hollywood,” said David Malmuth, senior vice president of development for TrizecHahn. “If you do it properly it will be a Cadillac project.”

A former Disney development executive, Malmuth managed Disney’s renovation of the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York and played a role in spurring development along 42nd Street. The revitalization efforts there have won high praise. He moved to TrizecHahn in 1996.

Nostalgic but distinctive

“One of the thoughts was, ‘Why don’t we do this in our own back yard?’ ” he said. Malmuth added that the complex would have a nostalgic feel but would be “totally distinctive.” Among the landmarks, according to city officials, is a “grand staircase” evoking old Hollywood. “This is a real place with a great history associated with it,” Malmuth said.

If the project goes forward, completion is projected for 2000, in conjunction with the opening of the new MTA station.

In her speech, Goldberg gave Hollywood’s revitalization efforts a C+/B- grade. Among the accomplishments she cited were the recent deal to keep Capitol Records in Hollywood, the expansion of Panavision’s headquarters, and the reduction of violent and property crimes by 33.4% and 40.9%, respectively, over the past three years, and the construction of new housing units.

But there continue to be problem areas, such as the area of Hollywood Boulevard east of Gower Street. And many civic officials still complain about the preponderance of T-shirt shops along the boulevard and around the Chinese. That could change with the Mann/TrizecHahn development.

“We are excited, but not thrilled,” she said of the progress. “We know there is so much more potential here.”

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