By JIM HALL
To County Council:
I suggest extending the due diligence period.
I was surprised and disappointed by a recent study estimating the cost of replacing the CB Fox building. Building costs seem high, but I have no experience with a multistory commercial building. However, resulting costs for someone to own a part of it seem REALLY high.
Maybe think about a different approach? Perhaps LAC could remodel the building into business condos: primarily shopfronts and offices. Since the building is more than 10 years old, it may not run afoul of current difficulties with newly built condominium buildings.
The most important use would be a diversity of retail, food places, etc. If one considers downtown housing as nice, but not necessary on this property, an architect/engineering firm might be able to maximize first floor space for businesses for a lot less than the kind of money (and associated risk) being contemplated now. One might even be able to create business office condos that are not on the street front (upstairs or on the sides?) or an open arcade with interior shops or businesses. Also, it might be possible to put apartments upstairs, although opening up building walls to let in light is challenging.
The Reel Deal
Using the Reel Deal is also a challenge, albeit a different one than CB Fox. It doesn’t face the same age problems, but it was well designed for a specific purpose and converting it to other uses is challenging.
If LA County were to proceed, I suggest the primary goal would be to extend “downtown” to the Reel Deal. Then the value proposition is the same as the rest of downtown: getting people there and keeping them in the downtown area.
Here are a couple of ideas, some of which have been discussed. One is to maintain at least one movie theater, maybe showing a G rated movie in the afternoon, a pg-13 in the early evening, etc.
A second would be to create a small/medium size “performance/lecture” space.
Management of such space? Follow the example of PEEC. Create a Downtown Entertainment and Experience Group (need to find a better acronym!) starting with an expanded little theater board and adding to its responsibilities with:
- Movie selections
- Little Theater plays
- Emerging playwrights, e.g., Bob Benjamin
- Organizing summer concerts
- Indoor music events
- Los Alamos lectures
- Meeting rooms
- And ?
Their job would be to fill the place based on the concept “The measure of any capital investment is how much it is used”.
If this works, lease space in the building for one or two food/wine/ale establishments.
I would NOT use this facility for Tweens. While a tween facility is really important, a much better place would be the middle school. The County could make it happen by funding additional infrastructure and after-school programs at the middle school.
Similarly, for LA Cares: having a type of social services operation mixed in with a downtown entertainment venue seems incongruous. If the County were to buy the Little Theater as part of the development, perhaps LA cares could be in the current Little Theater building, although a friend of mine has suggested that the building could be an “antique 1940’s soda fountain and/or cafe” as it apparently was in the past and be part of the historic walking tour.