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LOS ANGELES-Korean Air has retained Downtown Los Angeles-based Thomas Properties Group Inc. to develop a $1 billion mixed-use hotel, office, condominium and retail complex totaling nearly 1.8 million square feet on the 2.7-acre Wilshire Grand Hotel and office site on the southwest corner of Wilshire and Figueroa in the heart of the city’s financial district. The project would replace the existing Wilshire Grand complex with two high-rise towers, totaling approximately 1.75 million square feet: a 40-story tower featuring a luxury hotel of up to 700 rooms topped by several floors of condominiums, and a 1.1-million-square-foot, 60-story office tower, connected with plazas and open space, designed to meet LEED certification standards.

Y. H. Cho, Korean Air’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement that Thomas Properties “will immediately begin working with the community and the city to begin the approval process,” for the development site, which is just a few blocks from Staples Center and L.A. Live. Korean Air acquired the Wilshire Grand Hotel in 1989 under the name of Hilton Hotel & Towers. The airline also owns three hotels in Korea and another in Hawaii.

James A. Thomas, chairman and CEO of Thomas Properties, notes that the development site occupies a full city block and that now is a good time to be working through the approvals of a new development. Thomas Properties Group bought the nearby 2.7-million-square-foot City National Plaza in 2003 and has completed a restoration and repositioning of the property. The new Korean Air project will be designed by A.C. Martin Partners, which has worked with Thomas previously on several projects including the CalEPA headquarters building in Sacramento that is the first LEED Platinum-certified high-rise in the US.

Korean Air is a subsidiary of the Hanjin Group, one of the world’s largest logistics companies. Los Angeles has been the center of Korean Air’s operations in North and South America since its first transpacific flight in 1972. The airline now is the largest transpacific carrier out of LAX and operates 24 weekly flights between Los Angeles and Asia. Cho notes that the Korean community in Los Angeles is the largest in the world outside of Seoul, and that Koreans own significant real estate holdings here that give them a vested interest in the success of Los Angeles.

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