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Gehry-designed project breaks ground in LA

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-12 23:49

Construction will soon begin on a long-delayed commercial, residential and entertainment project in downtown Los Angeles co-developed by Related Companies and China-based CORE USA.

The massive mixed-use project, a nearly $1 billion venture designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, will feature more than 176,000 square feet of retail space, a 20-story, 309-room Equinox Hotel and more than 400 luxury rentals, 20 percent of which will be affordable housing units.

The Grand, which will be completed in 2021, will sit across the street from Walt Disney Concert Hall (also designed by Gehry). It will be within walking distance of downtown attractions such as The Broad museum, the Colburn School of Music and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“This really is the crossroads of the city, which is the crossroads of the world. This is a city where everybody belongs,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a groundbreaking ceremony for the project Monday.

The Grand is the latest phase of The Grand Avenue Project, an initiative of local officials to redevelop underutilized government-owned parcels directly adjacent to the Civic Center and key cultural institutions to form a dynamic mixed-use district.

Although the idea for the project was conceived as early as 2004, due to factors such as recession in 2008, it has been plagued by delays and financing problems.

In 2016, the project came back to life after receiving a much-needed financial boost of $355 million from CORE USA, a joint venture of China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd (CHEC) and CCCG Overseas Real Estate (CORE).

CHEC is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and CORE is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Group Ltd (CCCG).

On Nov 5, 2018, the New York-based Related Cos also secured $630 million in financing from German lender Deutsche Bank.

Garcetti specifically extended a thank you to the Chinese developers CORE USA for their participation in the project.

“Thank you to our Chinese partners who are here as well. Ni hao ma? Xie xie,” Garcetti said. “Thank you so much for coming through with the capital that will helps us get done.”

Wang Qiang, president of CORE (USA) Investment Holding LLC, said his company’s main business focus is transportation infrastructure, but it has continually turned its attention to the development of real estate projects overseas in recent years.

It is interested in the US market and began looking for opportunities here as early as 2015 and 2016. The company made the final decision to invest in the project at the end of 2016 after careful consideration.

“We are very confident in the project,” Wang said, adding that the core location of the project, the professionalism of the team at Related Cos, and the fact that it’s designed by Gehry, all have contributed to the company’s investment decision.

“With The Grand, we’re not just building buildings, we’re building places,” said Gehry. “We are trying to make a place for people not only to live, but also to gather after concerts or performances, and my hope is that it will spawn other growth in the neighborhood.”

The project is guided by the Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority, which is made up of the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, and the former Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles.

It is estimated that it will generate 10,000 jobs, much-needed affordable housing, $2.2 million annually in county tax revenue and attract thousands of domestic and international visitors, the developers said.

“You are about to see the project unfold like nothing else you’ve ever seen in all of Los Angeles,” said Kenneth Himmel, president and CEO of Related Urban, the mixed-use division of Related.

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