Charles Cohen, owner of the Pacific Design Center, assured the West Hollywood City Council tonight that he is committed to engaging the community in developing plans for possible construction of a residential and commercial project on the site now occupied by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus maintenance and operation facility.
Cohen, whose Cohen Bros. company is based in New York City but who himself also maintains an apartment in West Hollywood, said he sees the project he hopes to construct on the MTA site as becoming a “center of civic life” for West Hollywood. Cohen said it will add to the city’s pedestrian-friendly atmosphere by including restaurants and paseos, or pedestrian walkways.
As conceived, the project would include two high-rise towers and an 800-seat open air amphitheatre. The project would have 600,000 square feet of residential/hotel space, 400,000 square feet of office space 120,000 square feet of retail shops, a 2,500-seat movie theater complex, the amphitheatre and parking for 3,000 cars. It would be built on 10.4 acres — equivalent to ten football fields — on the southeast corner Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards.
Current plans also propose an underground facility for the MTA buses, an expanded West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and potentially a 50,000- to 70,000-square foot replacement for the current West Hollywood City Hall.
Last year Cohen Brothers Realty Corp. of California signed an agreement with the MTA and with Los Angeles County that gave it the exclusive right for two years (with a possible 12-month extension) to negotiate deals to build the massive complex.
Cohen’s comments came as the city’s Community Development Project released to the Council a memo raising several concerns about the proposed project. Concerns raised in that memo include:
• Its impact on traffic flow,
• The size of its proposed buildings, which would include more than one million square feet of space for a hotel, apartments, offices, stores, a movie theatre and an open-air amphitheatre.
• Its lack of any pedestrian walkways,
• The possibility that it would, by its size, overwhelm the small nearby businesses catering in the gay community in the area known as Boystown, and
• The possibility that it might inhibit the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from ever installing a rail station on the property or running a rail line from Santa Monica Boulevard south to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Lauren Meister, a resident of the nearby West Hollywood West neighborhood, urged the Council to seek more proposals for use of the site. “My hope is that West Hollywood and the county do not settle on ‘bigger, faster, louder’,” she said. Steve Martin, a former City Council member, said the project would have a negative impact on traffic and on the small businesses in the nearby Boystown gay nightlife district.