Construction on one of the largest projects under construction in Downtown Los Angeles, Oceanwide Plaza, has ground to a halt, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The unexpected stoppage comes as the three-tower, CallisonRTKL-designed hotel, shopping, and residential complex was heading toward a mid-2019 completion date. According to The Times, the developer, a publicly-traded Chinese conglomerate known as Oceanwide Holdings, has indicated that financing troubles are behind the construction delay. According to a statement, Oceanwide is currently working to shore up the project’s finances and expects to start construction again in one month.
More ominously, however, it’s believed that the project is somehow entangled in an ongoing political corruption probe that has scandalized the Los Angeles political establishment.
According to The Times, federal investigators have inquired about the Oceanwide project in relation to possible crimes including bribery, extortion, money laundering, and kickbacks that could potentially involve City of Los Angeles officials and other development executives. No one has been formally arrested or charged in the investigation, however, and several other developments are also facing inquiries from federal authorities.
The FBI raided the home and offices of Los Angeles city councilmember Jose Huizar in December as news of the probe surfaced. In the weeks since, the investigation has grown as another sitting city councilmember and several officials tied to Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration have come under scrutiny. Huizar, who oversees much of Downtown Los Angeles and was a voting member on the city’s powerful Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) committee, was stripped of key appointments in the fallout from the investigation. While he sat on the PLUM committee, Huizar made several controversial decisions that included a critical vote against granting Historic-Cultural Monument status to the William L. Pereira–designed portions of the Times Mirror Square complex, the historic home of The Los Angeles Times. At the time, Curbed reported, Huizar referred to the Late Modern structure as “an ordinary example” of Pereira’s work that did not merit recognition.
Huizar is also behind Pershing Square Renew, an effort that would scrape away Pershing Square park in Downtown Los Angeles designed byRicardo Legoretta, Laurie Olin, and Barbara McCarren.
With exterior work on Oceanwide Plaza nearly complete and interior work started on the project, it’s unclear that a short-term work stoppage will have much of an impact on the project’s final completion. A statement from the developer indicates that if construction resumes in February the project should wrap up sometime during 2020.