Construction is underway at City National Plaza's "jewel box," as it gets ready for mega-architecture-firm Gensler's big move Downtown (the firm is abandoning Santa Monica). The relocation is considered a win for the neighborhood and it took a lot of public money to make it happen--Gensler is getting a three-year gross revenue tax holiday (which LA offers to all relocating companies), plus a federal Community Development Block Grant for $1 million, which it's using to remodel its new offices, according to the LA Times's Steve Lopez. In return, Gensler, which is working on the proposed NFL stadium and the Target project Downtown, is creating new jobs (it says it hopes to add 110) and bringing its business (with about 300 current employees and plenty of clients) into the neighborhood. The merits of the move and the money and jobs involved are certainly debatable, but the story of how it all came together looks pretty hard to defend, as Lopez tells it with the help of documents unearthed by the Legal Aid Foundation.
Curbed first heard on November 11, 2010 that Gensler was considering moving into the jewel box. On November 17, City Councilmember Jan Perry's office got an email from an executive at Thomas Properties Group, City National Plaza's owner/manager, asking about a block grant. When the aide who received the email asked what it was for, the TPG exec wrote "Confidentially?Gensler just agreed to move their corporate headquarters to our building. We are quickly and quietly working to make this a good move for everyone?I need about $1 million or more for tenant improvements and about $600,000 from DOT or Metro for transportation incentives ? transit passes, etc?. Do you think that is doable? Can we work together on this?"
The aide said yes, Mayor Villaraigosa and his then-jobs-czar (now mayoral candidate) Austin Beutner gave their support, and the move was reported as official in February 2011 (the transportation incentives never came through).
· Why does a thriving business need a $1-million handout? [LAT]
· Great Gensler Office Shuffle: Will Architecture Behemoth Move Downtown? [Curbed LA]