Hollywood’s latest star: urban living

Times Staff Writer

Making over Hollywood is no longer nip and tuck.

Look no further than the neighborhood around Hollywood and Vine to see a major urban transformation underway.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. July 27, 2007 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 27, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Hollywood apartments: A photo illustration with a July 18 article in Business about an apartment development near the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood incorrectly outlined the project’s perimeter. The illustration should not have included a 5,200-square-foot parcel at 1621 Vista Del Mar Ave.

The city Tuesday cleared the way for a $400-million development with 1,000 apartments next to the Pantages Theatre. Across the street, an upscale W Hotel is being built -- just one part of a $600-million complex that also includes more apartments, condominiums and stores.

Across Vine Street from the W site, finishing touches are being put on a $70-million condo conversion of the former Broadway department store.


Condo buyers are moving in to the $55-million conversion of the Equitable office building across Vine, and the same developer recently broke ground across the street on a $50-million condo and apartment complex.

When it’s all done, about 2,500 upscale condos and apartments will remake this Hollywood corner.

More construction is underway nearby, and some officials say the result will offer a look into Los Angeles’ future.

It is an urban vision heavy on density, development and diversity with new emphasis on subway transportation, “green” construction techniques and the hippest of shops and nightclubs around one of Los Angeles’ most storied crossroads.

It was a gateway to the San Fernando Valley in pre-freeway Los Angeles and had been a draw for the movie industry from the very beginning.

Later, radio and then television stations set up operations in the neighborhood and KFWB-AM announcers chirped often that they were broadcasting “from Hollywood and Vine,” historian Marc Wanamaker said. “It was considered the downtown of Hollywood.”

Such mass appeal was a distant memory by the 1980s, when the neighborhood fell prey to such activities as drug dealing, prostitution and panhandling.

The 1,000-unit apartment complex, considered the most ambitious, privately financed, large-scale redevelopment project in Hollywood, got the go-ahead Tuesday from the Los Angeles City Council. The eight-building complex is called Blvd6200 for its Hollywood Boulevard address.

“By casting the legendary Pantages Theatre as the centerpiece of this major project, Blvd6200 will bring a dynamic mixed-use community into Hollywood while respecting the area’s heritage,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement Tuesday.

“The addition of new retail and dining opportunities will also be pivotal in the transformation of Hollywood Boulevard,” he said.

The development “continues the incredible momentum we have seen in Hollywood during the past five years,” said City Council President Eric Garcetti, who represents the area.

“It’s a picture of what the future of Hollywood will be as well,” he said.

Some neighbors have expressed concerns about the project’s potential effect on area traffic, but Garcetti said there has been little community opposition to the project. “That’s pretty rare.”

Construction is expected to begin early next year and be completed within four years.

After decades of being dismissed as seedy and unsafe, much of Hollywood’s business district has been on a growth spurt since 2001, as many new commercial and residential projects are turning the area into a more sophisticated urban locale.

The latest project is located on property leased from well-known Nederlander Organization Inc., which owns several venues for live performances including the Pantages and another Los Angeles site, the Greek Theatre.

Theater mogul James Nederlander Sr., whose family business dates to 1922, endorsed the project and said in a letter that it had been a long time coming.

“We believed in Hollywood when many people did not,” he said. “I think it’s great for the city.”

The project is located next to a Metro Red Line station. The developers hope their apartments will appeal to young professionals who might take the subway to work downtown or in the San Fernando Valley.

“People aren’t necessarily going to commute that way every day of the week and nobody is going to give up their car to get to the beach on the weekend,” said developer Veronica Hackett, managing partner of Clarett Group. “But we think it will help subway ridership.”

Clarett Group signed a 99-year lease with the Nederlanders for control of more than seven acres around the Pantages that the family owns. The land is now mostly parking lots serving the Pantages and other businesses.

Blvd6200 will house 2,696 parking spaces that will be underground or concealed behind stores on the first floor.

“We had to get everything inside so we don’t have ugly parking garages,” Hackett said. “They’re not inviting to walk by.”

The project includes some low-income housing, which helped Clarett get city approval to develop 140 units per acre, which makes Blvd6200 one of the densest projects in Los Angeles.

The Pantages was completed in 1930 by Alexander Pantages, a colorful theater mogul who got his start selling risque dance hall entertainment to miners in the Yukon.

Pantages opened his Art Deco outpost in Hollywood as a combined movie palace and legitimate stage. From 1949 to 1959, it was the site of the Academy Awards. It received a $10-million restoration and upgrade in 2000 and is now home to the musical “Wicked.”

The large scale of the apartment development threatens to add to the congestion on Hollywood streets, local resident Paul Woolsey said.

“There is going to be a lot of traffic impact,” he said. “It’s going to cause traffic problems around that part of Hollywood Boulevard.”

Neighborhood groups support the project, said Orrin Feldman, vice president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council.

“This is one of best success stories in the Hollywood redevelopment era,” he said. “This is a great achievement the community needs to keep the Pantages viable.”