DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - The Coast Savings Bank building, a 1926 edifice at 315 W. Ninth St., has been sold. The new owner is looking not only at upgrading the building, but erecting a new high-rise on an adjacent parking lot.

The 12-story building and the lot were sold by LaeRoc Partners, headed by investor Kim Benjamin, to the Onni Group of Companies, a firm based in Vancouver, Canada. It marks Onni's first purchase in Downtown, and they remain interested in South Park, said David W. Louie, first vice president of real estate firm CB Richard Ellis, who represented the buyer and seller in the transaction.

The building and lot were sold for $16.5 million. Escrow closed earlier this month, Louie said.

The 163,000-square-foot building is about 65% occupied, said Louie. It generates more than $1 million a year in operating income.

Benjamin had previously begun looking at an upgrade of the building and creating a 31-story condominium tower on the adjacent lot. The proposal has a tentative tract map, though Onni would have to secure full entitlements before embarking on a transformation and a ground-up project.

The upgrades for the existing building envisioned by Benjamin involved creating 98 live-work units and 15 commercial condominiums. In 2009, plans for building a 283-condominium edifice on the lot on Ninth Street between Hill and Olive streets were brought to the city. The development would also have included 663 parking spaces.

Louie said that while Onni is not looking to build the new project right away, they are interested in the possibility.

"This indicates the clear, continuing improvement in the Los Angeles Downtown development marketplace, both from a conversion of an existing structure and from the ground-up construction standpoint," said Louie.

The structure was built 85 years ago by Pacific National Bank as its headquarters, according to the property sales document. It was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by the firm Morgan, Walls & Clement. It served as the base for Coast Savings from 1948 to 1987. It was declared a city Historic-Cultural Monument in 1988.

Contact Jon Regardie at regardie@downtownnews.com.

page 12, 06/20/2011

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