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RETAIL SPACE HAS NO TAKERS; BOARD WILL VOTE ON BELMONT CENTER.

Byline: Greg Gittrich Daily News Staff Writer

Two years after the LAUSD launched a controversial plan to build the nation's most expensive high school by leasing retail space on campus, the district is poised to lose as much as $10 million on the deal.

The problem is, no one wants to open a business at the Belmont Learning Center, which is plagued by environmental problems.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education will consider whether to find a new developer to seek leases or go with Temple Beaudry Partners and pay almost $5 million in subsidies or incentives for businesses to lease there.

With its price tag at $170 million, Belmont is already the most expensive high school construction project in the nation's history.

School board member David Tokofsky wants to find a new developer.

``Rather than dillydally with these people any longer, let's go out and allow others to get involved,'' he said. ``We built this big podium of cement to house retail stores under a school because it was supposed to yield a golden stream of revenue. Now we're talking about using discount rates and incentives to lure Arby's and McDonald's.

But school board member Victoria Castro, a long-time supporter of the troubled high school project who could not be reached for comment, prepared a motion to consider a proposal by Temple Beaudry Partners. Under the Temple Beaudry proposal submitted in January, the leasing plan would cost the district $4.8 million in subsidies or incentives to retail tenants, district officials said.

Instead of negotiating with other developers, Castro suggested removing or drastically diminishing the retail incentives proposed by Temple Beaudry, according to Ray Rodriguez, the division's administrative consultant.

Castro's motion calls for negotiations with Temple Beaudry Partners to be completed by Sept. 1 with a recommendation from district officials to either take the offer or use the space for other district needs.

Concern over the retail shops mounted in January when Malcolm Riley, a member of the project's oversight committee, argued light traffic on adjacent streets and potential problems with students hanging out in front of stores could hurt businesses at the site.

At the time, Jose de Jesus Legaspi of Temple Beaudry Partners disputed those findings, saying the neighborhood could easily support the proposed stores.

The Temple Beaudry Partners proposal is under review by the district's Facilities Services Division. According to Rodriguez, the subsidies being sought are forced on the district because of lower than anticipated market rates and an increase in construction costs.

Construction at Belmont has been halted since February amid concerns from state environmental inspectors that the parcel could be contaminated with toxics. If the district is able to clear up environmental concerns, the complex will rise from a sloping parcel on First Street west of the Harbor Freeway.

The podium-like design calls for the school to rest on top of a parking structure and retail shops.

The motions from Tokofsky and Castro, submitted during an augmented facilities meeting Wednesday, will be considered for a vote by the full school board at its next meeting.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 24, 1999
Words:511
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