Developer considers shuttering Wilshire Grand hotel

The historic Wilshire Grand hotel would be shuttered under a proposed $1 billion redevelopment project that would include a 560-room luxury hotel and 65-story office tower, the property owner announced today.

Yang-Ho Cho, chairman of Korean Air, told business leaders at a Town Hall Los Angeles event that the project would create 12,000 jobs and give the downtown area its first new class-A office building in more than 20 years.

"Challenges are opportunities for growth, and hard times are the best times for investment,'' Cho said. "We're in the middle of an exciting, emerging downtown.''

The project, covering about 3.2 acres, is still under review by the city, and no timeline for the development has been set, according to Amy Goldsmith, a spokeswoman for Korean Air, which has owned the hotel for about 20 years.

Cho said he respected the history of the Wilshire Grand hotel, which opened in 1952 in downtown Los Angeles and sits near Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street.

"For everything there is a season, and this grand hotel's season has come to an end,'' Cho said.

The hotel was originally the Los Angeles Statler, part of a nationwide hotel chain. It later became the Statler Hilton and then the Omni before taking on its current name of the Wilshire Grand.

The hotel through the decades hosted numerous civic and political events.

When the 1960 Democratic Convention was held in Los Angeles, Hubert Humphrey stayed at the hotel and was reportedly courted by Lyndon Johnson in a deal attempting to make LBJ the Democratic presidential nominee with Humphrey his running mate. According to Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, by Taylor Branch, Johnson could be heard in Humphrey's room at the hotel urging Humphrey to agree. The nomination nevertheless went to John F. Kennedy with LBJ as his running mate, although LBJ did later take on Humphrey as vice-president after Kennedy was assassinated.

The hotel was the site of the 1966 national NAACP convention.

Cho said the development would create more than 8,000 construction jobs, and about 4,000 people would work at the complex when it is completed.

Korean Air has its North and South American headquarters in Los Angeles.

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