By Tim Deegan.

The parallels are uncannily similar: two different parts of LA, each beginning with an important, historical movie footprint and evolving into a land use bonanza. Century City, once the very busy 20th Century Fox backlot (and before that a ranch belonging to western silent movie icon Tom Mix), became a real estate behemoth studded with skyscrapers, traffic congestion, and high prices. Central Hollywood, once a folksy, low slung neighborhood, is about to be transformed into its own real estate behemoth with the massive proposed Crossroads of the World project. It, too, will be studded with skyscrapers, traffic congestion, and high prices.

When completed, the four block Crossroads project will bring an increase of 1,259,927 square feet of “net new floor space,” consisting of a hotel, condos, apartments, offices, retail, restaurants, and thousands of underground parking spaces.The backlot at Fox became available when the studio bet badly on the movie “Cleopatra,” taking a huge bath. Selling off the back lot to its original developer, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), was necessary to keep Fox alive. The sell-off in Central Hollywood is driven by something more basic: growth and the profits that will bring.

The Crossroads project site is generally bordered by Sunset Boulevard, Highland Avenue, Selma Avenue, and the Blessed Sacrament Church on Sunset Boulevard.

Some stats from the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report help draw the picture of this proposed mega-development, mixed use project:

  • A 4 city block footprint
  • Over 1-1/4 million square feet of floor space
  • 112 floors
  • 9 Buildings – one at 26 floors, another at 32 floors, and the rest at a maximum of 6 floors
  • 1 Hotel with 308 rooms
  • 192 Condos
  • 682 Rental units
  • 84 very low income apartments to replace the 84 that are being demolished
  • 2,500 subterranean parking spaces
  • Six levels of underground parking
  • Multiple restaurants
  • 22 Liquor licenses
  • Multiple retail stores

The Crossroads of the World was designed by architect Robert Vincent Derrah in 1936 as Los Angeles’ first outdoor “pedestrian village.” The original development included a mix of shopping, dining and entertainment. The new project retains the integrity of the Crossroads of the World, a mix of Spanish, Moorish, and French-Revival style structures, because it has to. The Crossroads of the World has been designated as:

  • Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument #134
  • National Register of Historic Places
  • California Register of Historical Resources

When the project was announced two years ago, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (CD13) told the Beverly Press that “Hollywood is changing, and I want to make sure that it develops into a world-class community that doesn’t leave people behind and that enhances the boulevard. Anything that happens in Hollywood, whether it’s mid-rises or high-rises, we have to look at the overall context….We don’t want it to be a mini-Manhattan, we don’t want it to be Century City. We have to strike a balance.”

Others are taking a wait and see approach, or handicapping the project with informal straw polls. Leron Gubler, President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, told CityWatch, “They have not yet brought Crossroads to our project review committee and so we have no position on it at this time.” A few nights ago, the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee met to provide information to the community. “There’s lots of opposition, lots of it is valid,” PLUM Co-Chair Roger Davis said to CityWatch. “Many luxury units, not enough parking, and 22 liquor licenses in the complex are some of the concerns that were expressed tonight. Bulk of speakers 2/3 against, 1/3 for it,” he continued.

Lots of community activists are also weighing in; the track record of opposition to mega-projects in Hollywood may give them hope:

  • The huge Target store in Hollywood still sits unfinished, victim to a pair of legal opinions against it for zoning violations.
  • The Hollywood Palladium project, twin residential towers designed for 700 apartments, is awaiting resolution of a lawsuit alleging CEQA violations.
  • The Hollywood Community Plan — the “Master Plan” for Hollywood — tanked, having been struck down by a judge who sent it back to the City Planning drawing boards.

Movie-making in Hollywood was launched in 1910 by Director D. W. Griffith, filming for the Biograph Company. Soon, Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO, and Columbia all had studios here. Also spilling into the growing film community were smaller production studios and related crafts and supporting companies.

Within a decade of Griffith’s In Old California” (1910), “Hollywood” was the fifth-largest industry in the nation. It has not lost its luster: the Tinseltown-to-Tomorrow building boom is one more makeover of a fabled section of Los Angeles. Whether or not the stakeholders and spectators stand and applaud or give a thumbs-down is what all the players are finding out right now.

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Originally posted at City Watch LA.

Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at