- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood’s best days were behind it. The glamour of the ‘20s had long ago been replaced by crime and grime. Teenage runaways mingled with prostitutes at the city’s most storied intersection, Hollywood and Vine.

Yet something curious happened. Hollywood refused to fade away.

The first signs of life surfaced a decade ago with new nightclubs and restaurants. Now, people are flocking to Hollywood to live in thousands of luxury condos and apartments.

More than $1 billion in residential development is slated for a few blocks surrounding Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street — an unprecedented buildup designed to bring the “it” factor back to a place that once was the epicenter of cool.

“Five years ago, we were desperate for any development. Now we can pick and choose,” said Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, whose district includes Hollywood.

The turnaround began in the mid-1980s, when the city created a redevelopment area in Hollywood. Subway stops were added, and a group of merchants banded together a decade ago to form a business improvement district and step up security patrols.

All this prompted developers to invest hundreds of millions to revitalize the area’s entertainment core, anchored by the Hollywood & Highland Center, home of the Kodak Theatre and the Academy Awards.

Now Hollywood is a place to be rather than flee, with more than 3,500 residential units in the works.

“Everywhere we looked, we saw an opportunity,” said Shaul Kuba, principal and founder of CIM Group, owner of Hollywood & Highland and developer of several pending residential-retail projects.

The renaissance is reshaping Hollywood and Vine, where two major developments are leading the residential makeover.

The Kor Group, a real-estate investment company, is renovating the old Broadway department store for a project that includes 96 luxury lofts and cinematic views of the Hollywood sign and the landmark Capitol Records building.

The Broadway Hollywood is nearly sold out after just two weekend sales events, with prices from the high $500,000 range to $3 million.

Celebrities are also taking another look at Hollywood. Actress Charlize Theron has reportedly purchased a penthouse, and starlet Lindsay Lohan is looking.

Rents now run as much as $2,400 a month for an 800-square-foot apartment, compared with about $800 a decade ago.

Challenges remain, however. Crime has dropped, but teenage runaways and prostitutes can still be seen off Hollywood Boulevard.

“It’s really still a work in progress,” said Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Entertainment District, the merchant group. “Hollywood took many decades to fall into a state of decline, so it’s not going to be rebuilt in a decade’s time.”

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