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September 22, 2004

Where Robert F. Kennedy was shot

$318M school plan would demolish most of historic L.A. hotel

LOS ANGELES

The Ambassador Hotel, where Hollywood stars once mingled and Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, may soon be partly razed to make way for a new school under a plan that would save some of the hotel’s more notable features.

Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer has chosen a $318.2 million (U.S.) plan that would raze most of the structure but maintain portions of the historic ballroom where Kennedy gave his last speech in 1968.

The Coconut Grove nightclub, which hosted some of Hollywood’s brightest stars, would be restored and used as the school’s main auditorium. The ballroom would be relocated to a library on another part of the property.

Bungalows that once housed F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudolph Valentino and Albert Einstein would be razed, along with the hotel’s red-carpeted lobby.

The plan, devised after years of contentious debate, is a compromise intended to meet the Los Angeles Unified School District’s need for space while appeasing preservation groups seeking to maintain the site’s historic heritage.

“This is a good compromise,” Romer said last week.

“It incorporates the values that we feel are essential and tries to preserve historic aspects, but it enables us to make a workable school community.”

The 83-year-old luxury hotel’s appearance from bustling Wilshire Boulevard would be maintained by a new facade designed to resemble the look of the historic six-storey building.

The plan was formally unveiled this week.

If the plan is approved later this year, the kindergarten- through-third-grade portion of the school could open in 2008.

The proposal is already generating criticism from those who favour preserving the site.

Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues for the Los Angeles Conservancy, called it “an amputation of the Ambassador.”

The Associated Press

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