By Aaron Blevins, 10/18/2012
Project promises new housing and retail
According to Hollywood BID executive director Kerry Morrison, Hollywood’s favorite bird is the crane, specifically those that migrate to the area to assist with construction projects — even at the beginning of winter.
The “metal” species is expected to descend upon Hollywood again in the very near future, as officials celebrated the groundbreaking of 6201 Hollywood Boulevard, which will bring more than 500 residential rental units, 74,000 square feet of retail space, more than 1,300 parking spaces and a pedestrian plaza to the area.
“We have created something that meets the needs of Hollywood, and is a testament to the fact that well-designed density is density that can still be well received,” Frank Stephan, of Clarett West Development, said.
The project is the result of an eight-year effort to put a mixed-use structure at the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue by Clarett and DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners. The property is owned by the Nederlander Organization.
Stephan said that, due to multiple issues that surfaced during the planning stages, the companies were not going to hold a groundbreaking until they were certain that the project was underway. The event was held Thursday at the W Hotel.
“I’ve been to a lot of groundbreakings in my career, but none as special as this one,” Stephan said. “I also haven’t been to a groundbreaking that took place when you actually reached the bottom of a 200,000 cubic yard hole.”
He said the project is the culmination of multiple discussions with nearly 24 local organizations and several city departments. In one year, planners conducted approximately 70 meetings and presentations, Stephan said, heaping praise on those who assisted with the work.
“I take great pride in the start of this project,” he added. “Failure was not an option. I simply needed to finish what I started.”
Stephan said the excavation of 6201 Hollywood Boulevard — or BLVD6200 — began four months ago. The southeast corner of the intersection will be developed as well, though officials did not supply a timetable for that work.
“Upon its completion, it will contain 535 residential rental units — 10 percent affordable housing — 74,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving retail, a large public open plaza facing Hollywood Blvd [and] ground floor live/work units to satisfy a growing demand in Hollywood and to serve as a buffer to the residential neighborhood adjacent,” Stephan said, adding that the parking spaces will be for residential, retail, theatre, transit and public use. “All this, directly across the street from the Hollywood and Vine Metro stop.”
Jay Glaubach, the head of DLJ’s Los Angeles office, said Hollywood is an area that his company wanted to be.
“If you look around Los Angeles, there are very few neighborhoods, if any, that compare to Hollywood,” he said. “It goes beyond the famous names and the lights. It goes beyond the entertainment industry. Hollywood is diverse. Hollywood is walkable.”
Glaubach said DLJ purchased the Taft Building, which is adjacent to the W Hotel, nine months ago, and the company is investing $15 million in renovations at the location.
“We are voluntarily restoring the historic façade of the building, and doing improvement to the interior that will attract the type of retail and office tenants that belong in Hollywood and are looking for a home,” he added.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the project is going to be successful, though it could have failed many times. He said there is a negative public image of developers — and politicians — though developers are the risk-takers, especially in a tough economic environment.
“You forget that people who are willing to risk capital, eight years of their life — they’re really the best of the what the country has to offer in so many ways,” Villaraigosa said.
He said he is aware of how difficult it is to develop property in Los Angeles, and that he’s sought to change that. However, despite the difficult task of getting the project approved, it is fitting for the area and officials’ vision for Hollywood’s future, Villaraigosa said.
“We are absolutely committed to reimagining L.A. …This is, without question, a poster child for that vision,” he said, adding that the project will be enhanced if the transportation sales tax is extended.
Villaraigosa said the city is looking to make smart investments in transit corridors. He said the Hollywood Community Plan will help that effort, and that he hopes to have another six or so community plans approved by the time he leaves office next year.
“People are afraid of what they don’t know,” Villaraigosa added. “When we finally get through these community plans and they realize, ‘Wow, this is good for us.’ This is a smart way to grow into the future.”
James Nederlander Sr., of the Nederlander Organization, said he decided to purchase the land 33 years ago to serve as parking for the Pantages Theatre. He also mentioned the difficulties that planners encountered while trying to make 6201 Hollywood Boulevard a reality.
“It fell apart a few times, but with Frank Stephan and [the other companies’] help, we put it back together,” Nederlander said.
Morrison said the project is an example of the renewed faith in Hollywood. She said few people had reason for optimism at the eastern end of the boulevard in the 1970s and ‘80s, though the Nederlander family did.
“They did not bolt, they did not leave and, in fact, they persevered,” Morrison said, adding that the creation of the Hollywood Business Improvement District helped restore the eastern end of the boulevard.
She, too, praised Clarett for finishing what it had started. Morrison said the project seemed impossible at several stages.
“It seemed as though Frank was trying to hold on to a squirming whale and was just trying to keep this under control,” she added. “How he did it, I’m not sure.”
When Clarett entered Hollywood in 2005 under different leadership, company representatives sought out Morrison, described the company’s vision and asked what she thought Hollywood needed.
“That was emblematic of the value system that Clarett came to Hollywood with — that they really cared what the community needed,” she said. “And they listened to the community.”
Morrison said the recession hit Hollywood hard, and officials could see areas where several projects had been shelved and the developers had packed up and left. She said Stephan got new investment partners, started a new company, divided the project into phases and addressed new neighborhood concerns. Morrison said other projects in the area seem to be following suit.
“We’re hearing great things about the projects that are coming back to life again. …Hollywood is on its way back,” she said.