Developer Selected to Bring Pan Pacific Arena Back to Life

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County officials this week unveiled a developer's plan to convert the aging Pan Pacific Auditorium in the Fairfax District to a retail and entertainment center featuring an ice rink, five movie theaters, restaurants and offices.

Except for a small service area, the entire 116,700-square-foot complex would be contained in the existing auditorium, prized by preservationists for its curving facade and elaborate ornamentation. The project is expected to cost $14,650,000.

The auditorium and the adjacent Pan Pacific Park are west of Gardner Street between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street.

The proposal, by the development firm of Kornwasser & Friedman-Goldrich & Kest, is one of 10 submitted in response to County Supervisor Ed Edelman's search last year for a developer who would make use of the structure while retaining the facade and the building's architectural character. The proposal was chosen because it can be quickly implemented and because county staff consider the developer to be well-qualified, according to a report by county Chief Administrative Officer Richard B. Dixon.

Approval Pending

The proposal must be approved by Edelman and the Board of Supervisors, which could vote on the matter in about two months, according to Mark Slavkin, Edelman's assistant deputy. Edelman will wait until he has heard from community leaders and neighbors about the project before making a decision, Slavkin said.

"It's a staff recommendation, and the supervisor has not made up his mind," he said. "If it's not workable, we will have to reconsider."

Ronnie Gootkin, president of the Rancho La Brea Neighborhood Assn., which includes the auditorium and park, said he would not comment on the proposal until he has seen the report.

Built as a temporary structure to house an appliance show in 1935, the auditorium was used for political conventions, car shows and hockey games and was the site of Elvis Presley's West Coast debut in 1957. The wooden structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its facade is registered as a city historical-cultural monument.

The auditorium and park, which double as a flood-control basin, were purchased with funds from the state, county, city and flood control district in 1979. Both facilities are administered by the county.

Graffiti Target

In recent years, the auditorium has been the target of graffiti and spray-can drawings by youngsters attracted to the building's broad walls and visibility from Beverly Boulevard.

The other nine proposals for the site were rejected either because they were deemed incompatible with the neighborhood or because officials determined that they would not be economically viable.

Among the rejected proposals were an auto dealership complex featuring a museum and classic-car exhibits, a performing arts academy, a movie studio center and a retail-restaurant complex with a 208-room hotel.

The project that was recommended would include the following uses:

* A 29,000-square-foot, five-plex movie theater.

* An 18,000-square-foot food court.

* Two restaurants totaling 14,000 square feet.

* 4,500 square feet of retail space.

* 3,000 square feet of office space.

* A 13,000-square-foot ice-skating rink.

* An 11,000-square-foot gymnastics facility.

The county report concludes that the project, "with its relatively modest office and retail components, is the least intensive and most reasonable program from a market feasibility standpoint."

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