The Housing Chronicles Blog: The Dubai-enabled Grand Avenue Project in L.A.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Dubai-enabled Grand Avenue Project in L.A.

After months of concern about how the the first phase of the $3 billion Grand Avenue project in downtown Los Angeles will get funded, a Dubai-based sovereign wealth fund has ponied up $100 to get things started. From the L.A. Times:

Armed with $100 million from Dubai and a refined design plan, officials Monday said construction will finally begin next month on the Frank Gehry-designed residential and shopping plaza along Grand Avenue that is considered a linchpin to downtown L.A.'s revitalization...

The fund stepped in with $100 million after one of Grand Avenue's big early investors, California Public Employees' Retirement System, exited the project, saying the organization was already too heavily invested in the downtown real estate market.

The investment from Dubai gives the developer, Related Cos., the money needed to secure construction loans -- allowing it to finally tear down a parking structure across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where the first phase of the development will be built. The $2-billion plan calls for shops, condo towers and a boutique hotel -- as well as a civic park -- on city and county land on Bunker Hill.

There remain skeptics who wonder whether downtown L.A. is being overdeveloped with condo projects. In addition to Grand Avenue, there are a slew of residential towers rising around Staples Center, a 76-story tower proposed next to Pershing Square and other older office buildings being renovated for apartments.

In the last year, about a third of all proposed housing developments downtown have been put on hold or canceled. They include the 50-story Zen tower on 3rd and Hill streets, the Mill Street Lofts in the industrial district, the multitower Metropolis off the 110 Freeway and the conversion of the former Herald Examiner building...

The three-phase Grand Avenue project ultimately could include eight condo and office towers, retail stores, a boutique hotel and public park. The first phase includes two towers at opposite ends of the block east of Disney Concert Hall -- set that way to preserve sightlines to the venue from many parts of downtown. The taller tower -- 48 stories -- would include rooftop pools, 264 high-end condo units, a 289-room Mandarin Oriental and an Equinox health club.

The second, 19-story tower would include nearly 100 rental units -- designated as affordable housing -- and 126 condominiums. Phase one also includes the civic park northeast of the concert hall.

The second phase is to be built on the block south of Disney Hall, with preliminary plans calling for two 30- to 35-story residential towers, one five- to six-story residential building and more retail stores and parking. The third phase would go two blocks east of the concert hall. Preliminary plans call for a 35- to 40-story residential building that would include some retail shops and possibly a 15- to 20-story building with office space or condos.

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