DTLA - Last summer, the Bel Air-based developer Capital Foresight opened the 77-apartment Garment Lofts in a 1926 building at 217 E. Eighth St. It was a rare residential play in the Fashion District, a community known as a hub for daytime workers, but that has lagged behind other Downtown districts on the residential front.
Now Capital Foresight has doubled down on the district. On July 1, move-ins began at the 96-unit Max Lofts. The project transformed a 1925 Art Deco structure previously known as the Maxfield Building. The 14-story edifice at 819 S. Santee St. is just south of the Garment Lofts.
The building was originally designed by architect John M. Cooper (who also worked on Broadway’s Roxie Theatre) to house a textile company. It eventually became the offices of Anjac, the real estate empire run by the Needleman family, before being sold to Jade Enterprises in 2008. Capital Foresight acquired the property in late 2012.
Work on the Maxfield Building started in early 2013, according to Richard Moody, director of construction at Capital Foresight. PSL Architects handled designs for a project where the work includes new walls and the partitioning of the individual units, as some floor plans had been completely open in the past.
“We gutted the building completely, down to the concrete,” Moody said. “It was just a shell. We kept all of the original window frames and duplicated the front doors to the units.”
Capital Foresight, founded and headed by diamond dealer-turned-real estate impresario Naty Saidoff, has been very active in Downtown Los Angeles in the last five years, acquiring a number of older properties. In addition to the Garment Lofts, which underwent a $20 million conversion, it owns the Santa Fe Lofts at Sixth and Main streets. Capital Foresight recently sold the Title Insurance Building near Pershing Square to Lionstone Investments and Downtown-based Rising Realty Partners.
The Max Lofts represents another example of an aged building becoming modern housing, something that happened frequently in the Historic Core and the Financial District a decade ago, though it has been more rare these days, as many developers now opt for steel-and-glass high-rises. Kent Smith, executive director of the Fashion District Business Improvement District, noted that the community is one of the few Downtown neighborhoods that still has a number of older office buildings capable of being converted to apartments.
“Conversions are a little easer than new construction east of Los Angeles Street,” said Smith. “Now we’re getting this whole vibrant residential community around Santee and Eighth and some great little retail.”
In addition to the original windows, Max Lofts residences have quartz countertops, 12-foot-high ceilings and polished concrete floors. There are eight units each on the second through 12th floors, evenly split between studios and one-bedroom apartments. Residences range from 571-755 square feet, with rents starting at $1,540.
The larger units, such as a 747-square-foot one-bedroom, go for $2,300-$2,400. The 13th floor holds eight penthouses, four of which are two stories and extend to the rooftop.
Hiro Taylor, the founder of a shopping start-up called HeroPay, leases one of the penthouses. He was walking through Downtown, saw the building and took a tour.
“I decided to move in because of the building’s beautiful design and good location,” Taylor said.
Leasing began in June, and according to building general manager Jorge Rios of Cannon Management, 22 units were occupied by mid-July. He noted that, similar to many other Downtown buildings, rents rise on higher floors. He also said that units on the west side of the building, which offer views of the Downtown skyline, are generally $50-$100 more than those on the east side of the project.
Amenities include a communal rooftop with a jacuzzi, grilling areas and a viewing deck. A fitness center for residents and a lounge will be in the basement, though those are not yet completed.
There are historic twists, too. During the construction process, the Capital Foresight team got a tip from a postman about a wall of old mail slots in the lobby. The construction crew found the set-up, covered in plywood after years of disuse. The wood was removed and the mail slots were cleaned as part of the restoration of the lobby. The feature is more about design than applicability, though, as tenants get their mail in a different part of the lobby.
The ground floor also holds roughly 3,500 square feet of commercial space. The plan is to locate three businesses there, including a bar/restaurant.
One thing the Max Lofts lacks is on-site parking. Although there is a bike storage area on the first floor, car owners are usually winding up in a nearby lot. Capital Foresight is working on arrangements with various Joe’s Parking locations.
Although the Fashion District lacks the residential critical mass that has developed in some other Downtown neighborhoods, new businesses that appeal to loft dwellers are creeping in. That includes Coffee Colab, at 305 E. Eighth St., and Pop Obscure Records, which sells vinyl albums, at 735 S. Los Angeles St. Smith said that the neighborhood is becoming more active, particularly on streets east of Broadway, and that the Max Lofts continues that evolution.
Capital Foresight is preparing for its second wave of move-ins on Aug. 1, and plans to start leasing the commercial space. The goal is to have the majority of the building leased by Oct. 1.
The Max Lofts are at 819 S. Santee St., (213) 267-3822 or themaxlofts.com.