|By Rick Orlov, Daily News, Los Angeles|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 2, 2004 - Seeking to capitalize on the downtown boom it helped create with Staples Center, Anschutz Entertainment Group said Tuesday it plans to build a new downtown hotel and entertainment center at a cost of up to $1 billion.
AEG President Tim Leiweke said he expects next month to announce details of the plan, which includes a long-anticipated Convention Center hotel with a related entertainment and retail complex.
"It is a total announcement, the whole ball of wax," Leiweke said at a news conference announcing a trip by local officials and business leaders to New York City to seek downtown investments.
"We have been focused on this for eight years. Whatever credit they give Staples for building downtown, this will be even more so."
The news caught local officials by surprise, with Mayor James Hahn saying he wanted to see the details and wanted to work with the developers. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the area and has been provided broad outlines of the plans, said she also wanted to see what is in the final package.
"They have a tendency to get ahead with this kind of announcement," Perry said. "Obviously, I'm interested. I've wanted a hotel down here for years. They couldn't build it fast enough. But we have to see specifics of what they're proposing and what would be involved."
When Staples Center was first constructed, the Anschutz group was given development options for land on 11th Street facing the arena.
Perry, however, said she believes any new development will occur south along Figueroa Street in the same area.
"It really is the only place where there is land to develop."
Officials with the Community Redevelopment Agency said they also were unaware of any specific proposals or what role the agency would be asked to play in helping assemble the properties needed.
Perry also said she expects nearly all the investment to come from the Anschutz group and its investors.
There have been discussions about a potential increase in the hotel bed tax charged at the new facilities, with that money to go back into the development.
Among the broad plans outlined in the past for the area is one 1,500-room hotel, with the possibility of a smaller luxury hotel nearby. In addition, the plans called for constructing a 7,000-seat arena that could serve as a new home for the Emmy Awards coupled with an entertainment and retail development.
Hahn had cited Staples Center as an example of how investors can successfully develop Los Angeles and said it had helped prompt $7 billion in investments in the three years he has been mayor.
Leiweke is part of the delegation to New York City that includes billionaire Eli Broad and developers Rob Maquire, Bobby Turner and John Cushman.
"We are prepared to add another $1 billion to that investment," Leiweke said. "We are very excited about being part of downtown and its revitalization. We are prepared to spend hundreds of millions to make this a 24-hour zone."
Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Economic Development Corp., described the plans as exciting and long-needed.
"If we are able to get the hotel here, it moves Los Angeles up to the first tier as a business and tourist destination," Kyser said.
"One of the things that has been holding the city back is a quality Convention Center hotel."
Staples Center has proven to be one of the most successful arenas in the country and is credited with helping revitalize the downtown area that has seen a resurgence in activities and residents.
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