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Trump Drops Out of Proposal for Ambassador Hotel Site

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly a decade after proposing to build the world’s tallest building on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel, real estate tycoon Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has pulled out of the project, blaming Los Angeles school officials for foiling his plans.

“The district’s actions have badly hurt the area,” Trump said in a statement announcing the sale of his stake in the partnership that owns the 28-acre site on Wilshire Boulevard. “I look forward to coming back to Los Angeles some day to develop another property in the Trump style and manner.”

Trump was bought out by the remaining partners, who will continue to seek city approval to redevelop the mid-Wilshire property, but on a smaller scale than first proposed by Trump in 1990, according to a real estate broker familiar with plans.

Instead of a 125-story skyscraper, the investors want to build 1 million square feet of retail space and a movie theater complex. The historic hotel, where presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, would be demolished under the plans.

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“We have been directed to accelerate our efforts,” said real estate broker Ted Slaught, who has been working with the remaining partners to attract retail and entertainment tenants to the site. The two remaining partners, S.D. Malkin Group and Amec Corp., have assumed Trump’s role as managing partner, Slaught said.

Trump’s bold skyscraper plans immediately ran into opposition from the Los Angeles Unified School District, which wanted to build a high school on the property. In addition, the recession and real estate bust of the early 1990s dried up demand for new commercial space.

The school district and Trump battled over the site for years. The school district condemned the property but dropped its plans in 1994. However, Ambassador Associates, the partnership that owns the Ambassador, has refused to return the $50 million the school district put down as a deposit to buy the site, despite a legal judgment against the partnership. Trump had promised to appeal the decision.

Recently, the school district began foreclosure proceedings on the property in an attempt to recover its money, according to James W. Colbert, an attorney for the district. He said a sheriff’s sale has been postponed a few times at the Trump partnership’s request.

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The Ambassador opened in 1921 and soon became a favorite for Hollywood movie stars, business leaders and politicians. Its Cocoanut Grove nightclub was favorite nighttime hangout for the city’s glamorous elite, and actress Marion Davies once rode a horse through the lobby for the amusement of her lover, publisher Randolph William Hearst. The hotel ceased operation in 1989.

Times staff writer Doug Smith contributed to this story.


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