Downtown LA is home to a rich tapestry of historic and modern structures blended into the iconic cityscape that dominates the basin.
As the first high rise built in the Broadway Theater District in over a century, the 35-story luxury condominium complex Perla on Broadway symbolizes an evolving Los Angeles that honors the city’s storied past while standing at the forefront of architectural design.
The project began in 2013 at 400 S. Broadway, a site that is steeped in history dating back to the 19th century and was once home to the city’s chamber of commerce before it was demolished and replaced by a shopping complex.
“Back in 2013, (real estate developer) Izek Shomof purchased the land from the previous owner and came to me with a twinkle in his eye, a vision to develop a building on the site,” Central City Development Group President Hamid Behdad said.
“That’s how we started after he closed escrow.”
The property was then sold to SCG America, an arm of the Chinese real estate firm Shanghai Construction Group, in 2015, and the building’s first completed unit was sold on Jan. 21, 2021. The 450-unit tower now soars above the iconic theater marquees of the Broadway Theater District, once home to the highest concentration of movie theaters in the world.
Though it’s situated in a historic slice of the city, Perla on Broadway has brought a host of new architectural innovations to the Downtown skyline. Within its exterior of metal, glass and glass fiber reinforced concrete panels, the heart of the complex contains a four-story atrium and 7,000 square feet of ground-level retail and commercial space.
“This building has so many unique features,” Behdad remarked. “We have architectural features in this building that you would never see, like a colonnade at the 11th level. … Our gymnasium and all of our amenities, like the yoga room, they’re all centered in the atrium. So, when you come from the top above to down below, every level is one amenity.
“We have gold-plated screens that are five stories tall and 50 tons, every one of them. And they’re laser-cut, custom made for the building. We have stuff in here that is really above and beyond.”
Due to the Broadway Theater District’s membership part with the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles, Perla on Broadway had to be built in compliance with several ordinances and initiatives, including Bringing Back Broadway, which focuses on historic preservation and the revitalization of the district’s theaters and commercial buildings.
“It’s an interesting project in a sense that you have to juggle and navigate through a minefield to make it fit in with the conditions the city has created in the zoning code and then the specific ordinances, which makes it actually very stimulating,” Behdad explained. “We had to justify and show that this particular building and this particular design fits within that ordinance and does not deviate or violate the historic value of the Broadway corridor.
“It’s only one sentence, but it’s quite a task to do because you’re fitting an element that typically was not envisioned for that. The historic corridor was typically limited to 10 or 11 stories like the other historic buildings, and then now you bring in a new high rise.”
For example, to adhere to a streetscape ordinance, the developers could not cut a driveway for the building onto Broadway, prohibiting access to a parking garage into the complex from the street. However, Perla on Broadway lies on a corner with West Fourth Street, so they could cut a driveway on their adjacent side.
“I don’t blame them because 150 years ago, there was no automobile to drive into this building,” Behdad said. “That’s why, if you go to these historic buildings, all of them have basements but none of them have parking. The basement was where the boiler was. … And there is almost no legal parking under any historic building except the one that we adapted to use.”
Another guideline that Perla on Broadway’s developers and designers had to obey was the number of trees planted on their property. They were required to plant one tree for every four units. Since they were building 450 units, that meant 113 trees.
“You’re building in the middle of the historic core. Where is the place to put trees in there?” Behdad asked. “We put over 120 trees, believe it or not, and we have a total of 49,000 square feet of open space and amenities. It’s really unheard of in this city.”
The list of Perla’s indoor and outdoor amenities includes a gym, movie theater, pool terrace, pet grooming salon, dog parks for both small and large dogs that have urination filtration systems built underneath, lounges, libraries, a wine-tasting room, and an art collection of original work by Downtown artists.
“This is a labor of love,” Behdad said. “It’s not necessarily a money-making machine, because it became so expensive. It’s like when you buy a sports car like a Lamborghini. You know that you buy that for the fun of it, not the good means of transportation. You probably have a gas mileage of eight miles per gallon, but it’s beautiful. It’s fun. You drive it, and you enjoy.”
Perla on Broadway
400 S. Broadway, Los Angeles