L.A. LIVE: Entertainment Never Looked So Good

Posted on 01. Sep, 2008 by in Lifestyle

words by Jason Dean

When the Nokia Theater and Plaza opened across from the Staples Center in October of last year, it was an alluring addition to the neighborhood: A 7,100-seat premier entertainment venue flanked by 40,000 square feet of open-air plaza with humungous LED display screens. And there’s more to come. Much more.

Later this year, the complex will welcome an array of restaurants and clubs, as well as the Grammy Museum and the ESPN West Coast Broadcast Headquarters. In 2009, work begins the hotel/residence phase. It’s enough to make New York’s Times Square seem quaint by comparison.

The ambitious project, known as L.A. LIVE, will extend more than a full six city blocks: That’s 27 acres, or 5.6 million square feet, if you prefer. The price tag? Close to $2.5 billion when all’s said and done.

“We started creating a master plan for this right around time the Staples Center broke ground in 1998,” says Ted Tanner, senior VP of real estate for Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which is managing the project. AEG also own the Staples Center. “There’s no direct model for what we’re doing here,” he continues. “It’s quite remarkable….We basically put the Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, and Times Square in a tight, urban location.”
Club Nokia, a 2,300-person capacity venue, will open in December, as will The Conga Room and about a dozen restaurants, including ESPN Zone, Katsuya, The Farm of Beverly Hills, Fleming’s, Rosa Mexicano, and a new Wolfgang Puck eatery.

The Grammy Museum will also celebrate its opening with a gala event. The facility will feature interactive and distinctive artist/music exhibits – both permanent and traveling, a 200-seat performance theater, and a rooftop event space. “It will be the permanent home to the Grammys,” says Tanner. “It contributes to the rich cultural landscape and reaches out to young kids, emphasizing art and [the] science [used] to create music.”

In late 2009, Phase 3 begins. Plans call for a JW Marriott & Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which together will house 1,001 guest rooms and 224 luxury condos. The two buildings will be adjoining, but will operate as separate entities. “The hotel is 54 stories,” he says. “It’s an iconic building with great views; there are no other high-rises to interrupt full ocean or city sightlines.” Work is expected to be completed by 2011. “[The Ritz] will be the first luxury hotel-sponsored condo project ever in L.A. and will set the benchmark for downtown urban high-end living,” says Tanner. “We’ve already sold 130 units.”

Tanner points out that the architecture of L.A. LIVE bears similarity to the Nokia Theater and Staples Center in terms of aesthetics and materials used. “We went with contemporary metal and glass wall treatments, but used warmer stone materials in areas of pedestrian traffic. We used similar set-backs to allow for 8-to-15 ft. walk space and double rows of street trees. All restaurants were obligated to put tables outside to create a livelier pedestrian area.”

Tanner mentioned that from the very beginning, the city saw the project as a way to drive business back to the Convention Center, located adjacent to Staples Center. “We’ve had great cooperation from the mayor, the development commission, and the planning commission. The city has been very helpful.”

Yes, as usual, L.A. has been getting some cosmetic “work” done. But this is deeper than a facelift, more extensive than lipo, and infinitely more impressive than a pert, new set of 38DDs.

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