Saturday, September 11, 2004

Down to the Wire

The battle over the fate of the Ambassador Hotel heats up next week, as LAUSD superintendant Ray Romer is expected to announce the school district's plans for the site.

Hoping to sway the school board vote, the L.A. Conservancy announced Friday that the site could be eligible for as much as $39.4 million in federal tax credits, which would help bridge the gap between the price tag of a new structure (between $286 mill and $293 mill) and rehabbing the existing, historic structue (between $326 mill and $381 mill).

Writes the L.A. Times: The school district is expected to announce its plan next week for turning the Ambassador into a 4,200-student school and community park. That long-awaited decision comes after years of debate and behind-the-scenes negotiations over the fate of the historic hotel where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot, movie stars mingled and presidents slept.

The Ambassador sits on a vast swath of land, almost 23 acres, in an area of town where open space is scarce and the population is dense. Los Angeles Unified School District officials estimate that 3,800 students are bused from the neighborhood each day because the schools nearby are too crowded.

But the Ambassador also is one of the last intact vestiges of old L.A., an empress dowager of a hotel that once drew celebrities, politicians and foreign leaders through its doors. It closed in 1989.

The hotel, said Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, "is one of Los Angeles' defining historical sites."

For that reason, as well as for its architectural significance, the Myron Hunt-designed hotel qualifies for federal tax credits, she said.
Friday's announcement, just a few days before Supt. Roy Romer will announce his choice among five proposals for the reuse of the site, was meant in part to pressure the Los Angeles Board of Education, which will vote on the proposals soon after.

Dishman said she believed Romer's choice will be to destroy "all but a handful of pieces of the original hotel." The tax credits, said Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues at the conservancy, represented a challenge to the district to rehabilitate the site.


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