The historic Wilshire Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles is now under "deconstruction."
Los Angeles city officials and representatives of Korean Air, the hotel's owner, watched Tuesday morning as workers cut a beam out of the building's entrance to mark the ceremonial start of the $1 billion dollar project.
In five years, the Wilshire Grand - built in 1952 and formerly known as the Los Angeles Hilton - will be gone, say project managers.
A new 70-story tower that includes the new Wilshire Grand will stand in its place. The new hotel will feature 900 rooms and a hospitality twist: guests will take high-speed double-deck elevators to check in at the lobby on the 70th floor.
"This is such a dramatic location at the top of this building that we want everybody to go," said Chris Martin, CEO of AC Martin Architects. "They're all going to want to go to the top so we might as well start by taking them to the very top and registering them. That's where the restaurants are, and the observation deck."
Martin said the new hotel's pinnacle top will be "very iconic."
But first the old hotel must be "deconstructed," Martin said. No implosion. No wrecking balls. Cranes and torches will take the building apart piece by piece. When that part is done by next October, it will leave an 85-feet deep hole ready for the foundation of the new hotel.
Project managers estimate the deconstruction and construction phases will create thousands of local jobs in LA.'s hard hit construction industry.
Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, sees the project as a welcome boost to the building industry and the workers it employs.
"Since the economy took a dump, we've had 30 to 40 percent unemployment across the construction trades," said Miller. "We're seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. This is one of the first jobs to start and it's going to start putting thousand of men and women back to work."