When new apartment buildings open in Downtown Los Angeles — and there have been dozens of them — they frequently contain studio to two-bedroom units. Some are even larger, with the occasional three-bedroom residence for families.
Real estate development and management firm Waterton took a different tack with The Flat. The Chicago-based property management and investment company debuted the transformation of the six-story building just west of the 110 Freeway last month.
The Flat, at 750 Garland Ave., occupies a onetime hotel in a community that is increasingly seeing new apartment buildings and nightlife spots. All 205 apartments are studios, with the majority measuring 400 square feet (some are 600 square feet).
Lela Cirkjovic, a vice president at Waterton, said the goal is to provide something missing in the Downtown rental market, in both size and price, but to do it with a unique look.
“The design, it’s mid-century chic, as it was when the building was originally developed,” Cirkjovic said. “We’re not competing with those new buildings. We’re a couple hundred dollars less than those, but we have the amenities in the apartments and common areas that a new building might have.”
Waterton spent roughly a year renovating the 1968 business took about a year. 80 units have been fully renovated, with the plan being to have the entire property completed in early 2020.
The Flat is Waterton’s first building in Downtown, although the company manages others in Los Angeles.
The building started life as a hotel. In 2005, MKT Community Development converted what was then a Holiday Inn into 205 studio apartments, reopening the building as The Flat.
The firm Waterton, working with developer the Kor Group, acquired the property in 2014. A renovation began last year. The building remained open during the renovation, and tenants were not displaced.
A few units still need to be upgraded, but Mya Pearson, a leasing agent at The Flat, said that the building is 80% leased, with a 77% occupancy rate.
Rents start at $1,625 and go up to $2,250. Apartment have polished concrete floors, electric stoves, open closets and marble countertops, along with exposed industrial ceilings. The kitchens do not have dishwashers, and unlike many new Downtown buildings, apartments do not have an in-unit washer and dryer. Instead, there are laundry rooms on each floor.
The building includes five 900-square-foot units labeled as penthouses, though they are stacked on top of each other rather than all being on the top floor. Rents begin at $2,385.
All apartments either face the Downtown skyline or offer views of the Hollywood hills, according to Pearson.
Cirkjovic said that given the size of the apartments and the accessibility to the heart of Downtown, The Flat may particularly appeal to young, single people. She also pointed to the proximity to L.A. Live and the Los Angeles Convention Center.
“It is studio apartments, so the target demographic is someone who either works from home, or wants commuter-friendly options,” Cirkjovic said.
Pets are allowed. The building includes a covered parking deck with 175 spaces.
Alex LiMandri, a real estate broker and partner with the firm DTLA Life, said that the remodeled building delivers the kind of mid-priced workforce housing that Downtown lacks but sorely needs. He added that although the in-unit amenities might seem lacking, particularly compared to new high-rise projects, it is similar to how many European apartment buildings are set up.
“I think that people looking at these options, they understand sharing and community living, they probably don’t mind this set-up,” LiMandri said. “If you look at apartments in Paris, London, or even New York, they don’t have certain things. It works with this type of urban living.”
The work at The Flat included renovating the ground floor and common spaces. The lobby has been turned into a lounge with couches and a television. A second-floor gym was removed, and instead one was created on the ground floor with cardio equipment, weights and other equipment. A yoga room was built and an outdoor pool was redone.
LiMandri said that although The Flat lacks larger units, he expects that the price point will appeal to many people. He noted that The Flat has an advantage in a market where many studios in new buildings start at more than $2,000.
Cirkjovic added that six units have been set up as furnished apartments and are available for a minimum of one month. She said they are being marketed to people who come to Los Angeles for prolonged work trips, or perhaps someone wanting a warm temporary home during the winter.