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One Day Before Heading to Planning, Wilshire Grand Project Announces Labor Agreements

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, December 15, 2010, at 10:52AM
Wilshire Grand Project A.C. Martin

Rendering of the corner of 7th and Figueroa with the pair of towers proposed to replace the Wilshire Grand Hotel.

One day before the pair of towers proposed to replace the Wilshire Grand Hotel heads to the city's Planning Commission, city officials and project representatives gathered at the hotel to announce a pair of agreements they hailed as a milestone for the project.

Hotel owner Korean Air and Thomas Properties Group have proposed to build a 45-story hotel tower and a 65-story office tower as part of a complex that would include retail and transportation amenities off of a street-level plaza.

A $10-million closure agreement between the hotel and the UNITE HERE/Local 11 will provide existing hotel workers with severance pay and health care benefits, as well as offering them the chance to return once the new hotel opens. A project labor agreement will govern construction jobs, providing local hires and training in the development process.

"Los Angeles is a young city, so this is the first big-time redevelopment we've done," said First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner. "To be able to do it in partnership with labor was really important."

If all goes to schedule, the project would complete entitlements by March of 2011 and demolition of the 1952 hotel structure would start at the end of the year. The new 560-room hotel, which could include 100 residential units, would open in 2015.

The timeline for the office component is a little more dependent on market and economic conditions.

"Obviously the unemployment situation has to pick up," said Jim Thomas, CEO of Thomas Properties.

As one of the namesakes for Maguire-Thomas Properties, Thomas was involved in the development of many of Downtown's office towers.

"The one thing I keep in mind is that every project that we've built in Downtown ... was always started at a time like this," he said. "Everybody said 'things are terrible, this isn't going to happen.'"

Still, the project will need to achieve commitments for at least 50 percent of its office space before moving forward.

Before any of that can happen, though, the project will need to clear the city's planning process. While the project itself doesn't have any real opposition, an agressive plan for LED signage on the sides of the towers has generated controversy and will likely be the main topic of discussion at Thursday's meeting.

2015 could be quite the year for Downtown. The hotel's planned reopening would coincide with AEG's targeted opening date for an NFL stadium and events center that would rise a few blocks south at L.A. Live.

"Everything that happens Downtown is good for Downtown," said Thomas. "I think this all bodes well."


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