Grove entertainment complex bows tonight

Location blends entertainment, spectacle, commerce

Hollywood’s newest star premieres tonight: the Grove, a $160 million retail and entertainment complex adjacent to historic Farmers Market and CBS Television City.

The 575,000-square-foot development — which features an upscale, 14-screen Pacific Theaters multiplex as a key anchor — will be feted tonight with a grand opening gala starring tenor Russell Watson. Ribbon cutting is slated for Friday morning at 10 a.m.

Complex reps the continuing retail trend of blending entertainment and spectacle with commerce. While not gaudy and larger than life like Universal City Walk, the Grove seems cut from the same cloth as faux urban retail environments such as the Las Vegas’ Forum Shops at Caesars Palace or the Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Hotel.

Indeed, the Grove even has its own theme song, penned by James Dunne, which will be piped in through speakers as shoppers stroll by a huge dancing water fountain.

Aiming for distinction

“The idea is not to be Disneyland or City Walk,” said Rick Caruso, whose Caruso Affiliated Holdings developed the property.

Instead, Caruso said, the Grove aims to copy how a real street in 1930s Los Angeles might have looked had the original Farmers Market been extended along First Street. There’s even a classic (yet state-of-the-art) wireless trolley to shuttle passengers from the enormous 3,500-space parking lot to the point where the Grove intersects with the original Farmers Market.

“Whenever you go to a great downtown city street, just being on that street is entertainment,” he said. “Entertainment starts with walking on a property — what you see, what you smell, what you hear.”

Caruso considers the movie theater to be one of the key highlights of the Grove. Indeed, Caruso Affiliated insisted on owning the actual theater in order to control its design; Pacific Theaters manages the site.

While not as upscale as Pacific’s soon-to-open ArcLight near the Cinerama Dome, the Grove 14 was built to be “one of the great theaters of Los Angeles,” Caruso said: Lobby features Venetian grand chandeliers; there’s a winding staircase to the mezzanine level; and patrons purchase tickets at a counter that has more in common with a hotel front desk than a box office.

Theater also has videoconferencing facilities built in as well as a conference room. Caruso also installed a direct video line to CBS Television City, allowing the Eye to plug in live broadcasts to theater screens.

Biz seen as customer

Caruso already is talking to the nearby Writers Guild of America about potential events that could be held at the Grove 14. Staffers from nearby CBS, Par, E! and Spelling Television also are all seen as potential Grove customers. “The entertainment industry is a real key part of the Grove (base),” Caruso said.

Other key Grove tenants include Nordstrom, FAO Schwarz, Barnes & Noble, Apple Computers, Amadeus Spa and Crate & Barrel. The Farm of Beverly Hills will open its second location at the site, while Hollywood eatery Madame Wu’s is being revived at the Grove.

About 70% of the retail tenants will be ready for opening day; rest will follow over the next several weeks.

Opening gala, to be capped with fireworks, will be a benefit for the National Institute of Transplantation.

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