Don't Hold Your Breath
In February, the Angels Flight funicular will have been closed for seven years. Although a railway official said operations could resume in early 2009, numerous reopening dates have been missed. Photo by Gary Leonard.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - It's always good to be optimistic when a new year comes around. No matter how many times you've been disappointed in the past.

It's with that hope that we look at five projects Downtown Los Angeles has long watched and anticipated. For various reasons, these have failed to get off the ground. Maybe, just maybe, things will change in 2009.

Grounded Angels: Angels Flight, the short, historic railroad that once connected Bunker Hill to the Historic Core, has been closed since a fatal accident in February 2001, and several announced reopening dates have come and gone. So it seemed like a ray of hope on Nov. 1 when the rail line's two cars, named Olivet and Sinai, were brought to Hill Street and lifted onto the track. Although no date was set then for when the railway could resume operations, Dennis Luna, chairman of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation, said he was hopeful it would open by early 2009. Thousands of Downtowners yearn for the rail line to resume operations - those are hard stairs to climb.

Homeless Center Still Homeless: A series of ads touting the coming of Donald T. Sterling's $50 million, 65,000-square-foot homeless center in Skid Row have appeared in the Los Angeles Times from time to time. Back in 2007, the real estate tycoon and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers told Los Angeles Downtown News that he had acquired the land at 600 Wall St. and was moving forward with the project. However, Downtown officials and local homeless agencies have still heard little from Sterling about his plans. Now, with city leaders favoring decentralizing homeless services to take some of the burden off Skid Row, it looks like the Sterling Homeless Center may still not find a home in 2009.

Take the Fifth: One of Downtown's biggest dreams is the $1.3 billion Park Fifth project, slated for the block north of Pershing Square. But the most recent groundbreaking date of early 2009 is going the way of several past missed starts. Developer David Houk is currently seeking new investors to replace troubled partners Namco Capital Group and Africa Israel Investments. The project, if it ever gets going, would include a 76-story tower and a 44-story tower housing a hotel and condominiums, connected by a 15-story residential building, plus retail and restaurant space.

Rent Control: For years, many tenants at Olvera Street have paid below-market rate rents, with some large restaurants shelling out less than $1 a square foot for prime commercial spots in the city's birthplace. But some city officials and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument General Manager Robert Andrade have said they want to bring the tenants' rents up to par with the rest of the city, which could mean $2.50 a square foot or more - something the tenants have vigorously fought every time it has been proposed. Progress on updating the rents, some of which have not increased since 1987, is expected this year following a report commissioned by the city to determine what area rents should be. Then again, several past similar studies have gone nowhere.

Billion Dollar Baby: One block north of L.A. Live, the proposed $1 billion mixed-use Metropolis would continue South Park's development with hundreds of condominiums, three towers, a 480-room hotel and 46,000 square feet of retail space. Construction was supposed to start by the end of 2008 but, due to the economy, has been pushed back to 2009. Then again, the project has been in the works, in various incarnations, for approximately two decades. Thus, with the country in a recession, breaking ground in 2009 could be a lofty goal for developer IDS Real Estate Group. There's always next year.

Contact Richard Guzman at

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