By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
None of the neighborhood people seems to realize the builder seeks to repeal a protective 45-foot height limit on the block, switching it to a "no-limit" district.
“I live in ‘downtown’ Hollywood,” says Maripat Donovan, who resides in a 1915 bungalow just east of Columbia Square on Harold Way and owns a large chunk of property nearby. “I know I can’t resist development. I want to work with the developer to create a project that’s good for the neighborhood.”
Brogan Lane, who owns the boutique hotel Villa Delle Stelle, which was built in 1911 and stands only a few yards from the proposed skyscraper, says simply, “I think the developers are doing a good job.” And Bob Blue, chair of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council, throws out a standard line: “We’re waiting for the environmental-impact report.”
All of them carry a few misgivings about the project, but for the most part, they talk a highly respectful line. In a community like Hollywood, where outspoken activists reign, the good vibes are a minor miracle, reflecting Molasky Pacific’s very careful work.
City Council President Eric Garcetti must be happy. It’s his vision of a Manhattan-ized Los Angeles, filled with dense housing and high-rises that probably lured the Las Vegas–based developer to Sunset Boulevard in the first place. Often earning glowing press as a new-style politician, Garcetti wheels around town in an electric-powered 2001 Toyota Rav4 and fancies himself a leader of the sustainable movement, maintaining the squeaky-clean image of someone being above politics-as-usual. But in fact, he plays the land-development game just as slyly as past council members famed for the control they enjoyed over their roughly 250,000-person duchies, unveiling plans when the deal is all but cemented, or when prodded by the media to explain.
Columbia Square is a prime example, and his near-silence in public has helped the project steam along below the radar of Angelenos, without serious debate over what shape Hollywood, and its skyline, should take.
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
Sunblock: Shadows will envelop this cozy avenue near Gower if City Hall abandons a strict 45-foot height limit.
Sometime in the early spring of 2006, Ralph Horowitz, then co-owner of Columbia Square, met with representatives of Molasky Pacific. Horowitz and developer Larry Worchell had formed Sungow — the property stands on Sunset and Gower — to buy the land in 2003 for a reported $15 million from Viacom, CBS’s parent company. Now, Molasky Pacific was offering Horowitz and his partner $66 million — a staggering profit of $51 million for essentially doing nada with the old CBS complex and tattered city block for three years.
Horowitz says a swinging night out at a restaurant near Columbia Square had inspired him to buy the land, not any top-class insider information that property values on Sunset Boulevard might zoom into the stratosphere. “I met a waitress who gave me a good tip,” he recalls cheekily. “I then got laid, I woke up in the morning, and I felt lucky.”
For Molasky Pacific and Mark Cassidy, the reason to purchase Columbia Square from Horowitz was, “It’s a whole block.” Relaxing at last month’s cocktail party, dressed in a dark suit and holding a glass of red wine, he gushed, “You can do so much with it.” Especially in a town like L.A. Especially in a district whose ultimate land-use decisions are largely controlled by a pro-growther like Garcetti, a onetime suburbanite child of affluence now eager to turn large swaths of “his” district into a dense urban tableau.
Molasky Pacific, with the help of its partner, Apollo Real Estate, planned to restore the historic CBS studios as a salve to the public, and then stuff as many money-making features as possible into the proposed two towers on 4.69 acres: 100 condos and 380,000 square feet of offices in the 14-story building, and 300 condos, plus a hotel in the 40-story skyscraper, a pool, two helipads, a vast garage and probably more.
Molasky Pacific doesn’t fool around. Since 1985, a press release boasts, the Las Vegas company has “developed and acquired more than 20,000 multifamily units, 2.8 million square feet of retail space and 2,000 acres of raw land.”
Steven D. Molasky, whose corporate Web site shows a seemingly confident man in his mid-50s, with a bright, wide smile and thick, dark hair, owns the firm. He’s a Vegas rich kid, whose father is Irwin Molasky, a legendary developer the Las Vegas Review-Journal profiled as one of the “first 100 persons who shaped southern Nevada.” The elder Molasky studied at UCLA and moved to Las Vegas in 1951. He constructed Las Vegas’ first enclosed mall and high-rise office building, the well-known Bank of America Plaza. Irwin Molasky has such deep roots in Las Vegas, Clark County named a park after him.
In October 2007, though, Steven Molasky made the news when the Nevada State Contractors Board suspended his company’s license for owing seven subcontractors $1.2 million for work on a condo complex, which took a hit when the housing market slid. In February 2008, Irwin Molasky jumped into the mess and financially rescued his son, even as Steven’s pricey PR handlers were preparing their Hollywood cocktail event.