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Discussions to Keep CRA in the Historic Core Moving Forward

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, January 05, 2010, at 12:43PM
Popular Center Eric Richardson [Flickr]

A move by the Community Redevelopment Agency would leave the upper floors of the 1902 building at 354 S. Spring almost entirely vacant.

Two weeks after the board of the Community Redevelopment Agency authorized interim CEO Calvin Hollis to move to City West's Garland Center, talks are still underway to keep the agency in the Historic Core.

According to a story published today in the L.A. Times, reluctance to make the move was what led to the November resignation of CEO Cecilia Estolano. In an email, Estolano accused Deputy Mayor Robert "Bud" Ovrom of pushing his own agenda in supporting the move.

The move seemed a done deal when it went to the CRA board, but the landscape has since changed dramatically. Developer Allen Gross, currently finishing up a residential conversion of the Blackstone department store at 901 S. Broadway, has entered into an agreement to purchase the Banco Popular building at 354 S. Spring, and appeared at the meeting to pledge his commitment to resolve the agency's issues with deferred maintenance in the 1902 structure. According to Gross, CRA Interim CEO Calvin Hollis told him at the time that the move was too far along, but negotiations have progressed in the weeks since the meeting.

The scene inside the Mayor's office has changed as well. Ovrom was recently made head of the Department of Building and Safety, and a source familiar with the negotiations told blogdowntown this week that he believes the Mayor's office is now open to having the agency stay.

Gross today provided blogdowntown with a cover letter to the proposal he yesterday sent to the agency and Travers Realty, the broker representing the CRA. It details a renovation schedule for the structure and rent terms that Gross says would save the agency $2.7 million over a 15-year lease.

Still, complications remain. A source involved in the purchase discussions told blogdowntown today that Travers' commission demands remain a point of contention between the parties. A broker would traditionally receive a much larger commission for moving a major tenant into a new building than for renegotiating a lease in their current quarters.

The redevelopment agency has been a tenant at 354 S. Spring since 1980. It occupies nearly 100,000 square feet in the building.

Update (Wednesday, 11am): The lease discussion at 354 S. Spring is a closed session item on the agenda for tomorrow's CRA board meeting.

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