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Shen Yun Group Continues Bid for Top Billing on Grand Avenue

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, August 04, 2010, at 08:23AM
IMG_1954-2-3 Ed Fuentes

At a July 29 press conference, Shen Yun spokesman Shizhong Chen made the group’s case that it had been unfairly blocked from developing two Grand Ave parcels that are part of Related Companies’ stalled Grand Avenue Project.

When the Shen Yun Performing Arts Group reintroduced its proposal for a 3,000-seat theater and training facility last week, it reasserted its claims that the City of Los Angeles has “ignored” the group’s request that other developers get a chance for two prized Bunker Hill parcels.

The group tours internationally and says that it has 400 performances in 30 countries scheduled for this year.

The Downtown parcels that it seeks are not on the market.

One is the site of philanthropist Eli Broad’s proposed art museum, which this week begins the process of City Council approval.

It was during Community Redevelopment Agency discussion of the museum last month that the Chinese performance group first publically unveiled its rival plans, which would include a 30-story tower adjacent to the Disney Concert Hall.

At a press conference held on the sidewalk next to the target site, Shen Yun spokesperson Shizhong Chen stated the Chinese Arts group was being blocked and that it found the city’s suggestion to consider using a parcel in Chinatown inappropriate.

It was after the news conference that the rhetoric got even more interesting.
The L.A. Times reported that a spokesmen for the arts center made the development showdown a human rights issue. Chen and Winston Xia were reported to be suspicious that the Chinese government could “intimidate” city and business officials to prevent the center’s approval.

“This has been taken way out of context,” Chen now says, stating that he is the project’s only authorized spokesperson.

There is still the matter of access to a bidding process that began seven years ago. When the Grand Avenue Joint Powers Authority was formed in 2003, a request for proposals was issued that solicited ideas for the land shared by the County of Los Angeles, the city and the redevelopment agency. The Related Companies were awarded a development agreement fair and square, says Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes Grand Ave.

“The land on which the Broad Foundation proposes to develop an art museum still falls under this development agreement because the site is under ‘contract’ to the Related Companies,” Perry explains. “They are able to assign their assigning rights on the development to the Broad Foundation.”

And the councilwoman confirms that no one from the Chinese government has been in contact about Shen Yun.

The arts group has not detailed its ability to finance the proposed project, but has insisted that it will present the proper backing when it is time.

Despite its protests, the group has not ruled out other sites entirely. “If after reviewing our plan CRA/LA still considers it a China[town] project then I would not think the [suggestion to build there] insensitive, even if I may not agree with that conclusion,” says Chen. Still, it doesn’t sound like he is ready to settle.

“Isn’t that stereotypical, to say the least? An outstanding global phenomenon deserves an outstanding venue. Its appropriate place is the city’s best theatre and cultural district.”

Story appears in August 5 edition of blogdowntown Weekly.

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