The Historic Core has been a major part of Downtown Los Angeles’ turnaround in the last two decades. Due to the adaptive reuse ordinance aging vacant office buildings have been converted into trendy residential projects and high-tech creative offices, but one of Downtown’s first major office buildings had been left out of the loop. Now a developer that’s been heavily involved in Downtown’s office market is aiming to turn one of the neighborhood’s largest buildings into a destination for businesses.
Developers Rising Realty Partners and Lionstone Investments recently completed rehabilitation and renovation for the Title Insurance and Trust Building at 433 S. Spring St. Rebranded as the Trust Building, the structure holds 340,000 square feet of creative office space across 12 stories.
The developers purchased the building in 2016 for approximately $80 million, poised to become the latest in a series of office properties that Rising Realty Partners has rehabilitated around Downtown. Despite the building, and its area, being largely absent from Downtown’s office boom, Chris Rising, CEO of Rising Realty Partners, said that the Central City has changed in a way that has made the Trust Building once again attractive to tenants, most notably, its proximity to Civic Center destinations.
“The Historic Core has kind of been lost between the Arts District and Financial District as it hasn’t had many office buildings,” Rising said. “But I could see lobbyists and law firms who need to be at the court house or City Hall really liking this location. We’ll have a pick from just about anybody.”
The Art Deco building was originally constructed in 1928 as the headquarters for the Title Insurance and Trust Co. John and Donald Parkinson, the architects behind Los Angeles City Hall, designed the tiered building. It was one of the major office buildings of the time, however as Downtown declined in the 1970s, the building emptied out; for the last 25 years the upper levels have been vacant, used only for filming (the second floor doubled as Gotham’s stock exchange in The Dark Knight Rises). The ground floor remained in use for retail.
Rising declined to give an exact budget for the redevelopment, but said it involved a major overhaul for the building’s aging infrastructure. That included a total seismic retrofit. Many historic elements were preserved, including a mail chute running through each floor, and the refurbished marble lobby. The 10th floor’s wood-paneled executive offices remain as well.
The building’s size and historic elements set it apart from other office conversions, according to Gibran Begum, managing director with the brokerage firm Newmark Knight Frank. He pointed out that it provides an alternative to the central business district on Bunker Hill and the Financial District. However, its lack of immediacy to those business districts could also be a downside to potential businesses, he added. He said that Rising Realty Partners has had success with similar renovations in the past, pointing to their $25 million refurbishment of the PacMutual Building near Pershing Square (they later sold it for $200 million in 2015).
A Variety of Tenants
Although the Historic Core has drawn in a number of technology and media companies, the Truth Building is equally aimed at more traditional industries, such as legal or financial firms, according to Brittany Winn, a director with the brokerage firm Cushman and Wakefield and part of the team handling the office leasing.
Rising and its brokers want to position the Trust Building for a variety of tenants. The second-sixth floors are expected to be leased in full, while the upper levels would be split into smaller offices, each around 5,000 square feet. Rates vary based on the floor, but are around $4.50 per square foot, according to Winn. The first tenant, KTGY Architecture + Partners announced it would take 15,730 square feet and move its offices from Playa Vista in early 2020.
Despite the leasing team’s focus on traditional firms, Begum said that the best case scenario for the landlords would be to land a major media or technology company that could lease up a large chunk of the building, similar to arrivals such as Honey, Spotify and Warner Music Group in the Arts District.
Rising acknowledged that the neighborhood isn’t as in-demand as the Financial District or Arts District, but expects that to shift in the near future. He pointed to the changing area around the Trust Building, including the 35-story Perla condominium building under construction around the corner at Fourth Street and Broadway, and active construction sites at Fourth and Spring streets.
“With two new hotels being built next door, the [Regional Connector station] coming a block up, and with the Arts District filling up, we felt like this was a location that has a say,” Rising said. “We just needed to put 21st-century infrastructure into it.”
Rising said that the landlords are currently working on securing an operator for a rooftop restaurant that would open in the first half of next year. The rooftop would also be one of the communal amenities for tenants, as well as a basement gym. He noted that the Wi-Fi set up inside the building also extends to Spring Street Park across the street, allowing tenants to be able to work from that location.
One of the other main selling points Rising Realty Partners mentioned is the amount of open space in the building. Due to the tiered nature of the structure, there are a series of decks on the floors that come with certain floor plans. Rising said that is something that’s become “par for the course” in West Los Angeles.
The Trust Building as a development project is also unique. Rising said, as it’s one of the last big buildings in Downtown that could be converted this way. Rising said there are a few other buildings in the Historic Core left to be repurposed, but nothing on the scale of the Trust Building.
Begum said that the building is poised to do well, but likely won’t lease up as quickly as the PacMutual Building did six years ago, given how Downtown’s office market has changed since.
Rising said the Trust Building will likely take 24 months to hit a leasing level close to capacity.