DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - You know that boom you heard? It was the sound of the Downtown Los Angeles development scene exploding into 2014.
Over the next 12 months, the Central City will be a hotbed of openings, groundbreakings and milestones. In every micro-community, from South Park to the Historic Core to the Arts District and beyond, area stakeholders will either be celebrating the additions or complaining about all that darn noise and traffic. That makes sense, as cranes and road closures are sprouting everywhere.
Below is a rundown of 20 of the most important projects of 2014. It’s not close to a definitive list, however. For that, check back in February, when Los Angeles Downtown News publishes its Development section.
The Broad: Philanthropist Eli Broad’s $140 million art museum may be the most anticipated and important Downtown cultural project since the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003. The development, being designed by the New York firm Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, is rising directly south of Disney Hall, and the honeycomb-like exterior is expected to be placed on the building in the coming months. Broad said in September that he hopes to open the museum in late 2014, though no date has been revealed. The striking structure, which will have free admission and 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, is expected to create a new tourist boom, drawing thousands of local, national and international visitors to Grand Avenue.
Ace Hotel: Everyone in Downtown is looking forward to Jan. 6, as that is the day that the uber-hip Ace Hotel will open in the former United Artists Theatre at 929 S. Broadway. The 180-room boutique establishment will instantly be a new anchor for the southern end of Broadway, and will dovetail with the recently opened retail arrivals Urban Outfitters and Acne Studios, and provide customers for area restaurants Les Noces du Figaro and Umami Burger, among others. The project will give new life to the 1927 theater; it will include a 1,600-capacity performance space that will be christened on Valentine’s Day with a show by the English band Spiritualized.
One Santa Fe: The Arts District will forever be changed, and will be much more crowded, on the late summer or fall day that the $160 million One Sante Fe opens. The Michael Maltzan-designed mega-development comes from McGregor Company, Polis Builders, Cowley Real Estate Partners, Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds Investments and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. That’s quite a team, but that’s what it takes to bring a 438-unit project with nearly 80,000 square feet of retail and commercial space to market. The development, just east of SCI-Arc, will also have a 47,0000-square-foot plaza and more than 800 underground parking stalls. Get ready to start complaining about traffic and the impossibility of finding a street parking space in the Arts District.
Wilshire Grand Replacement: The replacement for the hotel on the northwest corner of Seventh and Figueroa streets won’t open for years, but on Feb. 15-16 it will be the site of what its developers claim will be the biggest cement pour in history. For more than 20 hours, 2,100 trucks will pour 21,600 cubic yards of cement into the pit, completing an 18-foot thick foundation. The development team for the $1.1 billion project spent 13 months razing the old edifice and excavating the site in preparation for the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The 900-room, 73-story hotel/office tower being developed by Korean Air, a subsidiary of Hanjin International, is scheduled to be complete in 2016. Local firm AC Martin is Korean Air’s partner on the project.
Grand Avenue Plan: Grand Avenue project watchers got a pleasant surprise in November when developer Related Cos. announced that architect Frank Gehry was back on board and is designing the two towers and plaza across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In 2014, the vision will be refined and will be paraded in front of city and county officials. Early plans call for an approximately 300-room hotel (Related is in talks with boutique chain SLS) and a 380-450 unit residential tower. Meanwhile, Related’s 19-story apartment tower south of The Broad art museum topped out in December; the building will offer 271 apartments and is slated for a late 2014 opening.
Los Angeles State Historic Park: Downtown lovers of green space only have about six more weeks to enjoy Los Angeles State Historic Park. The whale-shaped attraction is scheduled to close in mid-February for renovations that will last a full year. The shutdown is necessary because the approximately $20 million plan calls for simultaneous excavation and construction across the property in order to save time and resources. When completed, the 32-acre facility will have restrooms, an amphitheater, parking lots and seasonal wetlands, among other improvements.
1111 Sunset: One of the most striking buildings in Downtown is just north of the urban core. Developer Linear City is wrapping up its conversion of the former Metropolitan Water District headquarters at 1111 Sunset Blvd. and should be ready for move-ins by February. Linear City paid $6.8 million for the seven-story edifice originally built in 1973 and designed by William Pereira. The project will offer 92 apartments ranging from 800-1,000 square feet. Each will have a balcony.
Marriott Tower: The $172 million Marriott Tower in South Park is scheduled to open in July. It will instantly strengthen Downtown’s tourism scene, with a 174-room Courtyard by Marriott and a 218-room Residence Inn in a 23-story building just north of the Ritz-Carlton/J.W. Marriott. The project comes from Seattle-based American Life Inc. and Portland’s Williams/Dame & Associates.
The Bloc: Retail fans will breathe a sigh of relief in the first quarter of the year, when developer Wayne Ratkovich embarks on a $160 million renovation of Macy’s Plaza. The transformation of the tired shopping center/office/hotel complex fronting Seventh Street in the Financial District is slated for completion in late 2015. The project will transform the brick fortress into a plaza with 400,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. Plans also call for 750,000 square feet of office space and a $40 million renovation of the Sheraton Hotel.
Jia Apartments: Chinatown is getting a massive mixed-use addition in the form of Jia Apartments. The $92 million, six-story project from developer Equity Residential is set to begin move-ins on Jan. 27, according to Jia’s leasing office. The complex at 639 N. Broadway offers 280 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom residences, along with 18,000 square feet of retail. The design by Thomas P. Cox Architects will offer 17-foot-wide sidewalks and a pedestrian plaza. It also will create a major new southern entrance to Chinatown and provide hundreds of customers for area restaurants and businesses.
Eighth and Grand and Whole Foods: The bad news: Anyone driving north on Olive between Seventh and Eighth streets this year will be stuck in a squashed and slow traffic lane, as San Francisco-based Carmel Partners continues work on its massive 700-apartment complex. The good news: Construction will rise above street level this year as the developer moves toward its anticipated opening date in 2015. The construction also means that Downtown is getting closer to having its own Whole Foods: A 42,000-square-foot supermarket is part of the project. Other retail and commercial tenants in the project may also be announced this year.
950 Third Street: Legendary Development and Associated Estates are on track to break ground this spring on 472 units in three buildings next to the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Dilip Bhavnani, a managing member of Legendary, said the development on the six-acre site at 950 E. Third St. in the Arts District already has city entitlements and would be comprised of five- to six-story structures. Once it starts, construction would take about three years, with a first phase of 248 units. The cost has not been finalized.
Blossom Plaza: Chinatown stakeholders this year will see a long-held dream come closer to fruition, as developer Forest City Residential West moves forward on the $95 million Blossom Plaza. The complex will feature 240 apartments (both market rate and affordable), 20,000 square feet of retail and, perhaps most importantly for area businesses, an expansive plaza that will connect pedestrians from Broadway to the Metro Gold Line. This may end up being the last full year that area visitors have to get off the Gold Line, walk down several flights of steps, then trudge up College Street to the heart of the community. Blossom Plaza is slated to open in 2015.
G12: The South Park boom continues, as Astani Enterprises and Wolff Company plan to break ground early this year on a $245 million mixed-use project. Astani and parking company L&R Group spent $29 million to acquire the property in 2012; last September, Sonny Astani announced that the three-acre site at 12th Street and Grand Avenue had been sold to the Scottsdale, Arizona-based private equity firm Wolff Company for $45 million, and that he would develop it with Wolff. The project, dubbed G12, should take two years to build; it will have 640 residential units along with 40,000 square feet of retail space, a screening room and two pools. Plans also call for 740 bike parking spaces, yet only 595 slots for cars.
Mack Urban Project: All eyes will be on South Park this year, as developer Mack Urban moves forward on a mega-plan to build a network of 1,500 residential units in buildings connected by green space and pedestrian plazas. Construction on the initial phase of the approximately $1 billion project could begin late in the year if the city approval process goes smoothly. In October Mack Urban — a new partnership that includes longtime Downtown developer Urban Partners — announced that it had scooped up six acres of land for more than $80 million.
Medallion 2.0: Historic Core residents and workers could get some exciting new eating options this year, if developer Saeed Farkhondehpour’s Medallion 2.0 advances as hoped. The project is Farkhondehpour’s attempt to activate some underutilized retail space that never got filled when the mixed-use complex at Fourth and Main streets debuted in 2010. Now Farkhondehpour is moving toward community-serving uses — among them Big Mista’s Barbecue — instead of Toy District tenants. Also this year, expect Farkhondehpour to refine his plans for a new round of building on the site — he has discussed creating another 400 residential units and a parking structure. Farkhondehpour has said he hopes to break ground by 2015.
Avant: South Park is a hotbed of development, and one of the biggest projects scheduled to open this year is the Avant Apartments. The first phase of the complex at 1360 S. Figueroa St. is slated for a February debut and will offer 247 units. The adjacent 193-unit second phase (at 1420 S. Figueroa St.) began construction in late April and could wrap up by the fourth quarter of 2014. The buildings offer residential units above 11,000 square feet of combined retail space. They will also establish a new residential beachhead across from the Convention Center.
Eighth and Hope Apartments: Though much of the housing development in Downtown is in buildings that are seven stories or lower, a 22-story tower is rising at Eighth and Hope streets in South Park. Atlanta-based developer Wood Partners is building the 290-unit edifice, which is slated for completion by the end of the year. The apartment complex will feature a pool deck, a six-floor garage and 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.
Lotus Garden: Affordable housing is always in demand, which makes Chinatown’s Lotus Garden apartments at 715-721 Yale St. all the more significant. The $24 million development from Affirmed Housing, which is slated for a first-quarter opening, has 60 units with studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom layouts. It will serve tenants making 30%-60% of the Los Angeles County median income. One of the coolest things about the project is its $289,000 automated parking structure. Known as the Carmatrix, the 17-stall machine lifts cars vertically and moves them horizontally, creating a space-saving, stacking effect.
Barker Block Phase Two: New condominiums have been a rare thing in recent years in Downtown, as developers have tended to open their buildings as rentals. However, developer CityView, which teamed with financial backer Blackstone, plans to begin selling units in the second phase of the Arts District’s Barker Block by the end of January. The $25 million project at the corner of Palmetto and Molino streets features 68 townhomes and lofts. Kor Group helmed development of the 241-condo first phase and will help market the new units. Many in Downtown are watching the project closely, and if the prices go high enough, other under-construction rental buildings could flip to for-sale status.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2014