Los Angeles County Takes Title to Walt Disney Concert Hall

Classic Arts News   Los Angeles County Takes Title to Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles County officially became the owner of Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday (January 9).

The Los Angeles Times writes that the transfer of title represents more than a governmental act: it is emblematic of the growth that Los Angeles itself has experienced in recent decades, a marked turnaround from when the site of Disney Hall held nothing more than a parking garage and the city was traumatized by the 1992 riots, recession and ineffective leadership.

Construction of the hall had been beset with financial and political problems since 1987, when Lillian Disney donated $50 million to honor her late husband Walt and build a new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1988, architect Frank O. Gehry was hired to build the venue, which opened in October 2003, six years late and at a total cost of $274 million — $174 million over budget.

Lillian Disney's gift went unused for years while the city and county negotiated over plans, costs escalated and fundraising stagnated. But when Richard Riordan became mayor in 1993, he vowed to make Disney Hall an example of the city's turnaround, according to the Times. The striking hall was the catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles.

There were financial difficulties until last August, when a multi-million dollar lawsuit over who should pay for the unexpectedly high costs of the hall was settled. It was decided that eleven builders and contractors would split a $13.3 million settlement from the hall's parent corporation and an additional $4.5 million from Gehry's professional liability insurance policy.

Los Angeles County, which has now reportedly been repaid with interest for all of its loans to the project, will sublease Disney Hall to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The county contributes $10 million a year toward the hall's operating costs, collects revenue from the more than 2,000 parking spaces underneath it and pays for maintenance and security, according to the Times.

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