Housing Complex to Break Ground Next to Vibiana

Washington state-based developer Holland Partner Group plans to break ground next week on a residential building just south of the former St. Vibiana’s Cathedral. It will have 237 apartments and construction is expected to take about two years.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - For the lot just south of the former St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, the third time looks to be the development charm. 

BE THE FIRST TO READ THE LATEST DOWNTOWN NEWS, FOOD AND CULTURE STORIES. CLICK HERE AND SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY HEADLINES NEWSLETTER.

Holland Partner Group, a Vancouver, Washington-based developer that has built or is working on four Downtown projects, has purchased the nearly one-acre parcel that had been eyed as the site of a 41-story tower and, later, a nine-story steel and glass edifice. Tom Warren, head of Holland Partner’s Southern California developments, said the firm expects to break ground next week on an eight-story residential building.

“We’re very excited about this location because it is so imbued with history,” Warren said. Referring to a nearby restaurant, he added, “Redbird just opened. We’re within walking distance of the Historic Core, City Hall, Little Tokyo, the Arts District and Bunker Hill. It’s a great spot.”

Holland Partner bought the property at 222 S. Main St. last May for $15.75 million. All permits have been secured for a 179,000-square-foot building that will create 237 apartments. No budget has been released.

Plans call for five stories of wood construction over a concrete podium, with approximately 247 above- and below-ground parking spaces. The building will appear to be eight stories when viewed from Los Angeles Street, and seven stories when eyed from Main. Warren anticipates construction taking two years, leading to an opening in early 2017.

The project, designed by the architecture firm Togawa Smith Martin, will include just under 4,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space. One highlight, Warren said, will be the more than 10,000 square feet of open space on the roof, with a pool and a hot tub. 

The project will continue an investment spree in Downtown Los Angeles for Holland Partner Group. The company built the GLO apartments in City West in 2007 (it sold the building four years later) and added the 1111 Wilshire rental complex in 2013. Last summer, Holland Partner broke ground on a $200 million project at Sixth and Bixel streets, also in City West, that will create 648 apartments. Additionally, the company is working on designs for a project at Eighth and Spring streets in the Historic Core.

Piece of the Past

The site of the new building stands at a key location in Downtown. It is just south of the 1876 structure that for more than a century served as the headquarters of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. After the 1994 Northridge earthquake damaged the structure, Cardinal Roger Mahony sought to tear it down and build a new cathedral in its place. Protests from the preservation community scuttled that plan, and after Mahony chose another site for what would become the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Downtown developer Tom Gilmore joined with Richard Weintraub to buy the building and some adjacent land. They spent $8 million to turn the cathedral into an events space dubbed Vibiana.

They had plans for the property to the south, too. However, a sleek, 41-story tower with 300 residences never got off the ground, in part because of the recession. Gilmore left the project and in 2013 Weintraub Real Estate Group began planning a nine-story steel-and-glass housing complex with 238 apartments. That never materialized, either.

The site next to the historic building is a unique design atmosphere, said Jim Dixon of Togawa Smith Martin, who is the principal architect on the project. 

“We’re trying to create a foil to the cathedral,” he said. “The building will be a charcoal color. The cathedral is a bright, beautiful stone. With this color we’re trying not to compete with the cathedral.”

Dixon said it is important that the Holland Partner project, which does not yet have a name, have its own identity, and not just be a “background building.” He noted the rare opportunity to build something next to a piece of history. 

“It’s almost like being in Rome, where monuments are lit up,” he said of Vibiana’s illuminated façade on Main Street. “The building becomes this cool light fixture for your project.”

Warren said he will work with Gilmore and Redbird restaurant owner Bill Chait on ways to improve the shared space between the three properties. 

donna@downtownnews.com

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2015