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L.A. Live Project has Friends in High Places

L.A Live is having a grand opening tonight. The $2.5 billion “content campus” adjacent to the convention center in downtown Los Angeles will feature a couple of concert halls, an ESPN Zone/broadcast studio, a bowling alley, movie theaters and ten restaurants. There is also a music industry themed Grammy Museum. The complex is being called Los Angeles’ Times Square.

The project will also feature 224 luxury condominiums on the top floors of a 54-story Ritz-Carlton hotel that will open in early 2010. Tim Leiwicke, who runs the site’s developer Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), says 140 of the condos are sold. They start at $1.1 million for 1,000 square feet. Asked who the buyers are he said local businesses looking for a corporate suite, some wealthy foreigners from Mexico and the Middle East, fans of the L.A. Lakers basketball team which plays in the AEG-owned Staples Center across the street, and parents of kids who go to the University of Southern California down the road.

Other notable residents will include Lakers star Kobe Bryant, soccer great David Beckham (who plays for the Anschutz-owned L.A. Galaxy team) and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Beckham reportedly paid $8 million for a 3,000 square foot pad. Leiwicke will live there as well. He paid $1.8 million for his two bedroom unit.

Leiwicke said he hasn’t lowered the asking prices on the condos although a number of downtown residential projects have either switched to rental units or sharply cut their prices amidst the housing slump. Leiwicke says he isn’t even actively marketing the properties. He said he’s got a six figure advertising budget but isn’t using it because he thinks it’s just not the time to be selling luxury real estate. Leiwicke can afford to take his time because L.A. Live is ultimately owned by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, an investor known for waiting patiently for long shot bets to pay off.

Despite its deep-pocketed benefactor, L.A. Live hasn’t been shy about asking for favors from the government. Last year AEG lobbied successfully to secure money from a $50 million state fund intended to help the homeless. The company is using it for street improvements around L.A. Live. This year AEG sought to get state legislators to lift a ban on electronic billboards alongside highways so they could put some up near the project. That effort was shot down in September. According to the Los Angeles Times, executives affiliated with Anschutz have given $2.7 million to state political funds, including $583,000 to the governor’s campaigns. With friends like that no wonder the Terminator’s moving in.

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