A Pantages production

Plan calls for tower atop theater

When Los Angeles theater mogul Alexander Pantages set out to build the first Art Deco playhouse in the late 1920s, the plans called for a 12-story office tower.

But that changed when the stock market crashed in 1929 and construction on the$1.25 million building was limited to just two stories.

Now, about 78 years later, construction of the Pantages will finally be completed. On Thursday, the building's owner, the Nederlander family, developer the Clarett Group and Hollywood Heritage announced the start of the entitlement process to make the tower a reality.

"I'm proud to say we've done our homework and we'll put 10 floors on top of the Pantages that's true to the integrity and design of the 1929 plans," Clarett's Frank Stephan said at a news conference and reception at Los Angeles City Hall.

The new building will include 1,042 rental housing units, as well as "live-work units," retail, restaurants and an open plaza area. It should be completed by 2012, with two years for the entitlement process, which includes an environmental impact report, and two years of construction.

Because the Pantages is part of the National Registry of Historic Districts, approval must be sought from the National Park Service as well, said Robert Nudelman, Hollywood Heritage's director of preservation issues.

Nudelman uncovered the original theater and tower plans, designed by the late B. Marcus Priteca, in the basement of the Pantages, which played host to the Academy Awards from 1949-59 and is now the home of musical "Wicked."

Los Angeles City Council president Eric Garcetti spearheaded the push to build the office space with fellow councilman Tom LeBonge in efforts to revitalize the Hollywood area.

Garcetti was presented with the original plans that were stamped "approved" on May 24, 1929, by the city's planning commission. He said the office building is "badly needed" at an intersection of the city known for "blight and criminal acts."

"We're moving at great neck speed to make Hollywood and Vine the most famous intersection for a good reason," he said.

Hollywood's honorary mayor Johnny Grant was on hand to help unveil the plans.

"It's great to see the historic Pantages Theatre making history again," Grant said. "It's a very important building in the revitalization of Hollywood."