The edges of Los Angeles bleed like lipstick onto pale skin. This city is constantly expanding. And along with it, increases in traffic, smog and time spent trapped in gridlock during mind-numbing commutes, leading more people longing to live near their jobs. This year, 63 percent of buyers in downtown L.A. are purchasing what will be their primary residence, the majority of them so they can live closer to their work, according to a recent study by the Ryness Company, a marketing firm for developers. And this trend is spreading all over the city. We’ve seen it happen on Wilshire and in Westwood, but now tall buildings are going up downtown, in Hollywood and even in Marina del Rey. As density increases, sprawl is no longer an option and developers are forced to build up. Many have begun to look for old office buildings, hotels and other abandoned multistory structures that can be repurposed as high-rise apartments or condos.
To tempt young marrieds, single professionals and empty-nesters, these new homes offer luxuries like bars, gyms, pools and even day spas. Lavish modern conveniences make up for less square footage. The residences offer views of the cityscape to rival the Hills, and, with supermarkets and shops nearby, eliminate the need to drive through L.A. traffic. Here is the newest batch of high rises.
On a Clear Day You Can See Catalina
For years, the 57-story Rolls Royce office tower downtown sat empty. But it was only a matter of time before the chunk of real estate caught the eye of Forest City Enterprises. With the help of Thomas P. Cox Architects, the building was reinvented as a home to luxury high-rise condominiums. Now 1100 Wilshire boasts a swimming pool, 16 floors of above-ground parking, hidden electrical outlets and breathtaking views of the city and even Catalina. It has added enviro-friendly standards like bamboo flooring and energy-efficient use of space and light.
But the main reason residents like Kevin Strom moved here is to avoid a brutal commute. “A lot of my clients are there [downtown] and I can avoid the daily traffic from Orange County,” Strom says. “A lot of young people are moving to the area as well.” Strom sold his 4,100-square-foot O.C. house in exchange for an 18th-floor two-bed/two-bath corner loft. The lofts feature bedrooms on platforms, and they are open and raised to the level of the windows to reduce the need for artificial light. There is even an option for an “upside-down town home” with 21-foot ceilings upstairs, where the bedroom is located, and lower, 18-foot ceilings downstairs.
Frosted glass, set in place with an invisible frame, is used to divide space between the bathroom and the living area. Existing steel beams, from floor to ceiling, had to remain in the new development. Enclosed with dry wall and paint, they form an interpretive-modern-art display of alphabet letters. Most of the condos cost more than a million dollars, but when you’re stuck on the 405 for four hours, you might start a complicated math equation involving gas costs and time spent per year in traffic. 550- to 12,000-square-foot penthouses: high $400,000s to more than $1 million; 1100 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (213) 482-9000 or www.livingabovela.com.
Pool With a View
You have to crane your neck to see all of the towering turquoise-terra-cotta-and-gold-leaf Eastern Columbia building. In the 1930s the Art Deco structure was home to Polish entrepreneur Adolph Sieroty’s Eastern Columbia Outfitting Company. The ’50s brought office space and the ’80s saw Sieroty’s sale of the building. And in 2004 the Kor Group purchased the 13 stories. Killefer Flammang Architects and L.A.-based Kelly Wearstler Interior Design helped to convert the opulent space into glamorous live-and-work loft condominiums.
The majority of tenants are young entrepreneurs themselves who claim Eastern Columbia as their second home. They were drawn by the stunning visuals. The lobby boasts restored terrazzo floors and antique elevator doors. On the upper levels, the original flooring and mirrors remain, complimented by new marble walls and patterned carpet. Roof views include the Staples Center, the Transamerica building and the downtown skyline. The penthouse loft shows off the famous Orpheum Theatre sign. There’s also a spa, sun deck, fireplace and fitness studio. These may be live/work lofts, but residents say that with all of these hotel-like amenities, it’s more like being on vacation. Move-ins start January 2007. All units sold except some penthouses. 881 to 3,208 square feet: low $400,000s to under $3 million; 849 S. Broadway, L.A.
The Mercury, an ultrasleek 23-level high-rise, used to be the 1963 Getty Oil building. Forest City converted it into the only residential high-rise in K-town. Architect Claude Beelman designed the original building, and was also the architect of downtown L.A.’s Standard Hotel. Interior designer Kahi Lee of HGTV’s FreeStyle show gave the Mercury its look — after all, the place “caters to fashionista types.”
Wander through the lobby of fanciful glass walls, up the elevators, through mustard-colored hallways to one of the 238 bamboo-floored loft units and, despite its poshness, you’ll notice a homey apartment feel to the Mercury. The living spaces have such a relaxing feeling of openness that any claustrophobic urbanite could breathe easy. But if it’s a bedroom-loft combination feel you desire, Forest City associate Frank Frallicciardi explains, “In adaptive reuse we had the ability to install raised platforms in units, which gives a sense of separation for your bedroom.”
If all that comfort doesn’t impress you, the rooftop retreat called 23 will. Panoramic views of downtown, the ocean, and even the Hollywood sign surround this Greek-style getaway an elevator ride away. Plush amenities include a pool, sleek chaise longues, a fire pit, a workout facility and even a central plot of grass. You may never leave.
With a unit on the 18th floor selling for half a million, this price is hard to find anywhere else. 740 to 1,500 square feet: low $400,000s to more than $1 million; 3810 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.
Lullaby of Broadway
A world of artists, members of the Hollywood film elite and business professionals cook, eat and sleep in the Broadway Hollywood dual-building condo complex, like a microcosm of L.A. itself. The building at Hollywood and Vine, originally built in 1931, was home to the B.H. Dyas Department Store and the subsequent Broadway Department Store. The original 1927 tower, designed by architect Frederick Rice Dorn, adjoins a second building constructed in 1938 by Parkinson & Parkinson. The stores eventually closed, and after more than a decade as office space, the buildings were bought by the Kor Group, which again hired Kelly Wearstler Interior Design and Killefer Flammang Architects to work their transformative magic.
The Pantages Theater — and views of the famous Capitol Records building, the Hollywood sign and Griffith Park — all attract residents. But interior designer and HGTV host Kenneth Brown says looking inside is as good as looking out. “The hallways and public spaces of a building are usually done really cheaply,” he says. “But I am confident in the aesthetics and beautiful finishes of the interior.” And the roof’s luxurious pool and spa, workout facility, cabanas and fireplace bring together these “hip, young, mover-shaker-type” residents.
The amazing aspect about an adaptive-reuse project is the utmost care taken to reveal what lies underneath. Layers of white paint were power washed and scraped to proudly exhibit the original, glazed red brick and Corinthian columns. The ninth floor’s northeast side boasts Juliet balconies. Kimberly Lucero, Kor Group vice president of sales and marketing, explains, “These buildings are vacant and neglected, and we are repurposing them, providing housing in a much needed market.” Move-ins start March 2007. 931 to more than 2,000 square feet: mid $500,000s to under $3 million; 1645 Vine St., Hlywd., (213) 488-0600 or www.broadwayhollywood.com
Home Is Where the Art Is
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Now here’s a haven for an art lover, a professional athlete and a dog walker. The Azzurra, located just off Lincoln Boulevard, this 3-year-old glass building with 19 floors is not an adaptive-reuse project but a pristine 450-unit purchased by Colony Capital. The company started renting out the units as apartments, but then decided to make them available for purchase.
The residence doubles as an art gallery, housing more than 150 pieces by 50 artists. The collection is estimated at $2 million. The lobby’s 1961 Double Standard billboard by actor-artist Dennis Hopper is visible from outside the building. Each floor exhibits a different artist from the 1960s L.A. art scene: Ed Ruscha is on the fourth floor, Richard Diebenkorn on the 11th, Robert Rauschenberg on the 14th and Andy Warhol on the penthouse level.
Who is moving here? Sales manager Chuck Sigmon says, “It is an absolute photograph of people who live in L.A., from 22-year-old buyers to 80-year-olds.” One such buyer, Dexter Hutchingson, 29, moved from a single-family residence in the Hollywood Hills to the Azzurra. Having grown up in L.A., Hutchingson knows the benefits of a “resort lifestyle” and networking at resident mixers.
Residents also benefit from the third floor’s Nerida Joy Spa for facials, massages and manicures. There are dog runs in front of the building with direct access to the bike path. Residents get 40 percent off the Marina Yacht Club’s initiation fees. The fitness center has a room for yoga, Pilates and aerobics. You can lift weights in the outdoor facility with an ocean breeze; swim in the rooftop pool or soak in the jacuzzi; host movies or presentations in the media room; and socialize in the Meet Me on Two Bar. The list goes on. One-, two- and three-bedrooms from 811 to 3,571 square feet: $700,000 to $4.5 million penthouse; 13700 Marina Pointe Dr., Marina del Rey, (310) 577- 0101 or www.azzurra ?delrey.com.