Thursday, September 28, 2006

Eric Garcetti Saves Hollywood Landmark!

City Council President Eric Garcetti found a way to allow a major development to go forward at Hollywood and Vine while also allowing a part of Hollywood's increasingly vanishing history to be saved. Hopefully, this will establish a precedent in requiring new projects to incorporate hisoric buildings within their developments rather than just taking the expendient route of bulldozing our past.

One upcoming example would be to save the old Workman Building, which is now the current MJ JHiggins Gallery Building, on Main Street by building the new police garage around the last 1890's commerical building left on that part of South Main Street.

Hollywood Luggage Shop Won't Have to Pack Its Bags

Owner wins his fight against the plan to raze his luggage store, so a massive development at Hollywood and Vine will be built around the 1928 landmark.
By Bob Pool
Times Staff Writer

September 28, 2006

Hollywood's luggage king refused to pack his bags and go when Los Angeles officials tried to seize his 60-year-old family business to make room for a high-end hotel development.

Shopkeeper Robert Blue fought back by blasting the city's use of eminent domain with a mocking billboard atop his Bernard Luggage store on Vine Street just south of Hollywood Boulevard.

Then he filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of his right to due process, and in the process became a symbol of what some residents considered Hollywood redevelopment run amok.

And on Wednesday the luggage man bagged a victory.

The city and Community Redevelopment Agency leaders announced that Blue's business will stay — and the largest commercial development in Hollywood history will literally be built around the historic 1928 building containing his valises, suitcases, trunks and travel accessories.

The planned $500-million Hollywood and Vine project will include a glitzy, 300-room luxury W Hotel and 150 condominiums, 375 modern apartment units and 61,500 square feet of upscale retail space.

Tucked into it will be the Bernard Luggage building, set back from the street an additional 12 feet and restored to its original, vaguely Spanish Colonial Revival glory.

Architects changed the plans for the sprawling development to notch in the building, which will be bordered on two sides by the new construction.

Blue, 46, will retain permanent ownership and use of the one-story, 5,475-square-foot structure, originally called the Herman Building.

The structure cannot compete with Hollywood's more glamorous architectural landmarks like the El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and Capitol Records building.

But fans see it a symbol of Hollywood's golden era. It was designed by architect Carl Jules Weyl, who also drew the plans for the now-destroyed Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant next door. Weyl went on to win an Academy Award for art direction on the 1938 Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood."

"This is a proud day for Los Angeles!" Blue shouted over the noise of a 12-story crane parked a few steps away on Vine Street. It was hoisting building materials onto the roof of a former Broadway department store building that is being converted into posh condominium units in another city-sanctioned redevelopment project.

The fate of the luggage store had become an issue of much debate in Hollywood, which is in the midst of a major revitalization and building boom. Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, both symbols of decay in the early 1990s, have seen a string of new retail and housing projects rise in the last few years as the neighborhood has become a hip destination again.

But some merchants and community activists have expressed concern that rebirth has come at the expense of Hollywood's past, including several movie houses and TV studios. Preservationists have battled to save the Florentine Gardens, the Hollywood Palladium and CBS Columbia Square.

Blue credited Hollywood-area City Councilman Eric Garcetti for setting up negotiations with developers and the city's redevelopment agency that led to Wednesday's breakthrough. But he still got in a dig at eminent domain.

Such government land seizure should be reserved for public projects, not commercial developments like the one that will rise around his tiny shop, he suggested. "You can't always count on a good City Council president" being there to help the small property owner, Blue said....

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