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Stalled and Fenced Off, L.A. Central Site Awaits a New Future

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010, at 06:32PM
12th Street Sidewalk Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Fencing has blocked off this block of 12th street sidewalk since June, as the fate of the $80-million property it adjoins is decided in the courts.

One block away from the fanfare of L.A. Live's nearly completed, $1-billion hotel and condo tower, an $80-million piece of land sits vacant, with weeds growing through cracks in the asphalt.

The city is investigating the closure of a stretch of 12th street sidewalk next to what was to be the L.A. Central project, but that is likely the least of the New York-based Moinian Group's problems when it comes to the site. Wachovia Bank has initiated foreclosure proceedings on the site, and a law firm that has been defending the developer is asking out, saying that its bills haven't been paid since August.

While three sides of the project remain open to pedestrians, the sidewalk along 12th was caught inside the fencing and blocked off. "Normally, when a permit to close the sidewalk is issued, it has a time limit," explained Gregg Vandergriff, B-Permit Manager for Public Works - Engineering. In this case, though, no specific permit allows the closure.

The city is currently investigating the project and the closure. "We're still in the fact-finding process at this point," said Vandergriff. "I think that we'll conclude that before the end of this month." If the city finds the sidewalk should be open, it would then order the property owner to comply.

Moinian, though, may not be the property owner for much longer.

Architecture firm RTKL filed a lawsuit against the project in October of 2008, alleging that it is owed $3.6 million on its $14 million contract. To recover its money, the firm is seeking to foreclose on a lien it has on the property. The case is scheduled to go to trial on February 1, but Moinian law firm RKMC last month filed an application for relief asking that it be removed from the case. Partner Yakub Hazzard testified that the firm's invoices had not been paid since August.

In November, Wachovia Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings on its $55 million loan on the project. Moinian still owes the bank $46.5 million.

Moinian bought the four-acre site from AEG in 2006 with plans to build a project that would include 860 market-rate residential units, a 222 room hotel and 250,000 square feet of retail. The lot encompasses an entire block, stretching from Figueroa to Flower and 11th to 12th. RTKL, the firm responsible for Staples Center and much of the L.A. Live complex, was brought on board to do the design.

The project appeared ready to break ground in July of 2007, when construction fencing was erected and parking operations on the site were stopped.

Then, nothing.

After three months, pieces of the fence were pulled down and cars were again allowed to park on the site. That was stopped in June, when an injunction was issued in a lawsuit filed against Moinian by AEG. Again the site was fenced, and it has sat empty ever since.

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