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Long-Stalled DTLA Gehry Project To Move Ahead With Help From Chinese Investors

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Preliminary designs for Frank Gehry's Grand Avenue Project. (Courtesy of Gehry Partners)
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The Grand Avenue Project has been in the pipeline for a while. The development was first proposed a little over a decade ago. Planners wanted to build it right across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and had expected it to help catapult a two-block stretch of Grand Avenue to new, lofty heights. But then the recession hit, and the project sat idle for what seemed like forever. While it remained in limbo, The Broad was erected just a block away, and The Emerson—a 20-story luxury apartment complex—sprouted up as well.

It seems like the The Grand Avenue Project is now back on track, as Chinese investor CORE has agreed to pony up $290 million for the development, reports Urbanize LA. The firm has come to an agreement with Related Companies, the developers who'd originally put the project on the table. The proposal for the mixed-used building had gone through different iterations in the past. Currently, it’s expected to include two high-rise towers. The larger of the two will host 450 condos, with 20% of them set aside from affordable housing. The smaller 16-story building will be home to a 300-room Equinox Hotel. Planners also expect to put in 200,000 square feet of commercial space, and an expansive public plaza facing Grand Avenue. Construction is expected to start in 2018, with a 2022 due date in sight.

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Designs for The Grand Avenue Project. (Courtesy of Related Companies)
The saga of the Grand Avenue Project is one of many twists and turns. Before the recession, Related had investors staked out in far-flung places like Dubai. Post-recession, the development firm navigated a complicated path to secure additional funding. At one point, Related had partnered with Sam Nazarian, the nightlife mogul who owns the SLS Hotels, but Related would drop the agreement without providing much reason as to why. Earlier this summer, the project saw new life when the Los Angeles City Council voted to allow Related to keep nearly half of the $396.9 million in tax revenue that the project would generate for the city. As to why the project is so expensive (as noted by Urbanize LA, it’s currently estimated at $950 million), it’s partly due to the fact that the project is designed by none other than Frank Gehry. "Frankly, there’s a Gehry factor in the design," John Wickham, an analyst, told the L.A. Times. "It changes the costs of the project." At one point, Related had actually tried to scale back and scrap the Gehry design. The new designs, however, were voted down as being "uninspired" by the Grand Avenue Authority, a panel of city and county officials that oversees the development of the project.