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New Life for L.A. Central: Moinian Extends Financing, Parking Returns

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, March 26, 2010, at 12:08PM
Parking Signs Eric Richardson [Flickr]

A crew erects a new Staples Center parking sign on the L.A. Central property on Wednesday. The four-acre site just reopened after being left vacant and fenced off for nine months.

After nine months fenced off and vacant, an $80 million piece of land across the street from Staples Center has been buzzing with life this week. Parking operations returned to the site over the weekend, and crews have been busy working to clear weeds, trim landscaping and patch cracked asphalt.

The four-acre site, to be developed into a project known as "L.A. Central," has spent the last two years embroiled in lawsuits, but property owner Moinian Group said today that it has extended the project's financing. That will allow it to move forward on what may end up to be a scaled-back version of the development.

"This is a major step forward in ultimately developing the site," said Oskar Brecher, Moinian's director of development. The property occupies the entire block bounded by Figueroa, 11th, Flower and 12th streets.

Original plans called for two towers 53 and 37 stories, 860 market-rate units, a 222 room hotel and 250,000 square feet of retail. While the firm is working to extend those entitlements, what gets built will "straddle between the very ambitious project we had designed for the site and what the current possibilities happen to be," Brecher said.

In November, Wachovia declared Moinian to be in default on a $55 million loan it had given the company for the property. More recently it filed a lawsuit against founder Joseph Moinian and developer Henry Shahery, claiming that the two were liable for the amount under a personal guaranty they had signed.

That suit was withdrawn last week, and Brecher said that Moinian has "extended the financing on the property for several years."

The site was fenced off in June of 2009 after an injunction was issued forbidding Moinian from operating parking. AEG, who sold Moinian the property in 2006, had filed a suit claiming that the sale agreement gave it the exclusive right to parking operation. That case has now been settled.

"We have an agreement with AEG to jointly operate the parking on the property," Brecher said. "That, I think, is in everybody's interest. Now we have worked it out so that we're both happy."

Still unresolved are several smaller cases related to services provided in project design and entitlement. One of those was filed by architecture firm RTKL, who alleges that it is owed $3.6 million on a $14 million design contract. That case is scheduled to go to trial in April, but settlement talks are underway.

"We made some progress, but we need to come to an understanding all around," Brecher said. "It's not entirely clear right now whether we can do that without being adversarial."

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