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Tasty Progress on Broadway

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011, at 10:19AM
Irene Fertik

Councilman Jose Huizar speaks at a press conference at the Orpheum, celebrating the upcoming openings of two restaurants as part of the Bringing Back Broadway initiative

Councilman Jose Huizar closed out the third year of his Bringing Back Broadway initiative with a tasty bang on Tuesday, presiding over a press conference to tout the signings of two hot restaurants for the southern end of the stretch that he has spent much of his tenure trying to bring back to life.

While he emphasized that the effort is a ten-year plan, Huizar is pleased with what he is seeing on the street.

“We are actually seeing more businesses interested in Broadway than we had anticipated,” said Huizar. “We actually thought we would see that interest in locating new businesses on Broadway later on.”

It’s also the kinds of businesses that are expressing interest hat has Huizar pleased.

“We’ve always wanted to have sort of an organic, grassroots feel to the revitalization of Broadway, and it’s happening,” he said. “The types of businesses that are coming in are not these fast-food chain types, they’re specialties.”

The two eateries participating in Tuesday’s press event weren’t even the block’s only news. Buried in the release was word that property owner Steve Needleman plans to begin work this summer on a live/work conversion of the Singer Sewing Machine building at 808 S. Broadway.

Both that conversion project and the restaurant deals might not have happened were it not for work by Bringing Back Broadway to intercede with city departments on their behalf. Upgrades required by the Department of Water and Power would have added hundreds of thousands of dollars in expense to the projects, making them impossible financially.

Huizar praised the work that First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner had put in to get some of those rules changed for Broadway’s historic structures, but said that more still needs to be done.

“It shouldn’t be the exception to the rule,” said Huizar. It should be the rule that when people that when people want to open up there’s assistance, there’s help and all this red tape doesn’t have to be taken down.”

Broadway’s historic theatres remain both its greatest asset and its toughest challenge. Needleman’s Orpheum is the only fully restored venue of the dozen that line the street. In 2009, Huizar received a pledge from the Delijani family that they would restore the Los Angeles and Palace theatres if the city built a new parking garage on Broadway. That effort was on track until the city’s budget issues left the council office without the funds to get the project started.

“My biggest disappointment so far in my three years of the initiative was the funding we lost for the parking garage,” Huizar said. “When we lost that money, it set us back.”

“It taught me a lesson: never loan the city $10 million that is dedicated for your district. You’ll never get it back.”

While work continues on that and other pieces of the initiative, Huizar says that business owners are already calling him.

He’s not that surprised.

“It’s a great location to have kind of a unique type of business.”

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