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Grand Development Downtown

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Large-scale development in Downtown took a new turn yesterday when the Grand Avenue Committee announced the developer selected to undertake the massive project on oft-contested Bunker Hill.

The Committee chose New York-based Related Cos. to develop the four parcels, for which design proposals are still pending. Local patron of the arts and real estate magnate Eli Broad and representatives from the City and County of Los Angeles are directing the effort. The parcels are owned by both public entities, and Los Angeles City Council and the County Board of Supervisors will have final project approval.

Related Cos. undertook the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, the latest major addition to the Manhattan skyline. The Grand Avenue project cost is estimated to slightly exceed that of the $1.7 billion Time Warner Center, and the projects will share an architect. [Correction: cost is estimated at $1.2 billion.] David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will collaborate with local contemporary architecture luminary Thom Mayne of Morphosis. Mayne is already busy Downtown with Caltrans District 7 headquarters under construction nearby. The firm is making its mark elsewhere; Morphosis recently won the New York 2012 Olympic Village design study.

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This project is rife with debate about architecture, urbanism, Downtown’s needs, and financing (just to name a few issues), hence people are talking. The Los Angeles Times quotes Sci-Arc director Eric Owen Moss’s assertion that Grand Avenue "shouldn't rise or fall strictly in terms of commerce. It shouldn't just be another mall." Despite his support for the redevelopment of downtown, urban historian Joel Kotkin remains skeptical: "Maybe Grand Avenue doesn't need to be so grand. You have a thriving garment district, a jewelry district, a vibrant Little Tokyo.... There are a lot of great things happening downtown organically. Why aren't we focused on things that may not need as much money?"

Although the developer is allegedly committed to determining what Downtown and Los Angeles specifically needs, LAist will anxiously question and follow how these moving targets will be handled, and if a version of the über-glitzy Time Warner is what this city really "needs."