By Edwin Folven, 9/20/2012
Damaged terrazzo will be replaced near Hollywood and Highland
While it is common for Hollywood stars to undergo plastic surgery or body alterations, the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame have gone years without a facelift.
That is changing with the beginning of a project near Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue to replace damaged stars and the terrazzo sidewalks in the heavily trafficked area. Workers have temporarily removed stars belonging to Burt Lancaster, Edgar Bergen, Telly Savalas and many others while they install spacers and a thicker concrete base under the terrazzo to stop the cracking that has occurred over the years. Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the Walk of Fame, said the project began shortly after Labor Day and is the culmination of six years of fundraising and planning. The work currently being completed will run from Highland Avenue to the Dolby Theatre, and will occur in three phases. The first and second phases will be completed by the end of the year. Work will then be suspended until March as to not conflict with the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre. Gubler said the third phase will be completed by next summer.
“I think it is critical [that the repairs are made],” Gubler said. “The Walk of Fame is Los Angeles’ top tourist attraction, and as such, we want to put our best foot forward in repairing the Walk of Fame. It’s not an archeological ruin; it is something we want to maintain.”
The work is being paid for with $3 million raised by the chamber through partnerships with public and private entities. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce allocated $500,000, as did the Hollywood Historic Trust. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will provide up to $1.5 million for the repairs, and corporate sponsors such as Absolut Vodka and L’Oreal have contributed undisclosed amounts. The restoration project is supported by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge, and CIM Group, the owner of the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex.
Gubler said the area on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard between Highland Avenue and the Dolby Theatre was selected for the initial repairs because it is the most damaged portion of the Walk of Fame. He said there are several theories on why that section has experienced cracks and other problems, but nothing definitive has been identified. He said one theory is that the subway runs underneath the section and causes vibration, but it also runs underneath Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, where similar damage has not occurred, Gubler said. Another theory is that the large volume of foot traffic passing over the section may damage the terrazzo, or that exposure to the elements may be a factor.
“We really don’t want to affix any blame. We want to focus on how best to fix it, and developing standards to stop the damage from occurring,” Gubler said.
The chamber hired an expert in terrazzo masonry from Florida, Fritz Iselin, to come up with ways to prevent future damage. Iselin recommended doubling the thickness of the concrete base from four to eight inches, and installing spacers to allow for movement. A test strip built to the new standards was installed in the Walk of Fame at Hollywood and Highland more than a year ago, and it has held up very well, according to Gubler.
The chamber plans to repair other portions of the Walk of Fame when funding becomes available, and is hoping more companies and individuals will donate. Members of the chamber and other entities involved credited the late Honorary Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, for getting the project moving forward in 2006.
“To be honest, the real credit goes to Johnny Grant,” said Donelle Dadigan, co-chair of the Hollywood Historic Trust. “Without his leadership, these disparate forces never would have assembled together to develop the plan that has led us to this point.”