They’ve arrived at the finish line, but there is more ground left to cover.
Organizers for a grassroots campaign to preserve land around the iconic Hollywood sign announced Wednesday that a deadline to raise $12.5 million had arrived, but they were $1 million short of their goal. Something of a reprieve has been reached, however, with the land’s owner, Chicago real estate firm Fox River Financial Resources, agreeing to extend the deadline by 16 days.
"Like any great movie, we need a surprise twist to give us that happy Hollywood ending," said Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land, the conservation group spearheading the effort to save the Hollywood sign.
The total raised by the group now stands at $11 million, with a $500,000 matching challenge grant from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
Although the group came up short at the deadline, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge expressed optimism that organizers would be able to close the fundraising gap.
A press conference held Wednesday on a lookout point just beneath the sign drew members of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the cast of Simon Fuller’s web-based reality show "If I Can Dream." That show stars "American Idol" contestant Alex Lambert, who also was present at Wednesday’s event.
A collection of Hollywood giants such as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, movie studios and ordinary Los Angeles residents have banded together to raise the money needed to protect from development the 138 acres behind and to the left of the “H” in the sign.
Yet, despite attracting hundreds of donations and resorting to such attention grabbing stunts as covering the sign with a message calling on people to help save Cahuenga Peak, the campaign’s success still hangs.
Developers are rumored to be considering building a hotel designed by a Danish architect or up to four manor-style homes on the land surrounding the sign.
If TPL is successful, it plans to donate the land to Griffith Park, organizers said.
The land in question was originally owned by Howard Hughes. The eccentric businessman’s estate sold the land to Fox River eight years ago. Fox River put the land on the auction block two years ago, but agreed with the trust to lower its $22 million asking price after finding few buyers.