On the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles, workers are putting the finishing touches on the Wilshire Grand, the West Coast’s tallest building. Owned by Korean Air, it rises 1,100 feet and will have a hotel, offices and observation deck when finished. Downtown Los Angeles Construction is here to stay.

Two blocks away, China’s Greenland Group is busy erecting the four-tower Metropolis community, a $1-billion development with 350 hotel rooms and more than 1,500 condos.

Within walking distance are two other massive projects that will add a combined five towers, 1,152 luxury residential units, 184 hotel rooms and 214,000 square feet of retail space.

”What is happening now is amazing,” said Carol Schatz, president of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District.

Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing its largest construction boom in modern times — an explosion encouraged by the city’s adaptive reuse ordinance passed in 1999 and juiced by foreign investment that’s adding thousands of residences, construction jobs and a multitude of shops and restaurants.

The construction boom has quickly transformed Downtown Los Angeles from a sleepy, even dangerous, city center, into one filled with lofts, restaurants and art galleries.

Since 2010, according to real estate data firm CoStar, 42 developments of at least 50,000 square feet have been built, remaking L.A.’s skyline in the process — a figure that includes large adaptive reuse projects such as converting an aging warehouse into new offices. An additional 37 large projects are under construction.

Foreign Funding in Downtown Los Angeles Construction

Overseas investors and developers have been rushing in to fund the revitalization of Downtown Los Angeles, in addition to buying assets in other locations throughout the county. It’s gotten to the point where local players have complained that it’s becoming hard to compete with their cold hard cash offers. Who are these investors and where is their money coming from? Some of the biggest sources of foreign capital come from oil-rich countries such as Qatar as well as some of the U.S.’s closest neighbors, such as Canada.

From 2014 until this summer, Chinese developers were involved in at least seven of 18 land deals downtown valued in excess of $19 million, according to real estate firm Transwestern.

In addition to Metropolis from Shanghai’s Greenland Group, another marquee South Park project from a Chinese builder is the $1-billion Oceanwide Plaza, being built across from Staples Center by Beijing-based Oceanwide Holdings.

Oceanwide Plaza

Oceanwide Real Estate Group, the Chinese developer behind the project, is well into the construction process for three high-rise towers on the city block bounded by 11th, 12th, Figueroa and Flower Streets.  When completed in 2019, the sprawling 4.6-acre site will yield 504 condominiums, 184 hotel rooms and more than 150,000 square feet of commercial space.

The tallest of the three buildings, slated to rise 677 feet above street level, will offer two pool decks for hotel guests and residents.  The smaller buildings, which take the form of twin 40-story towers, will share a park-like amenity deck a basketball court, a jogging track and shade trees.

Oceanwide Plaza will introduce a globally inspired sophistication to the West Coast, featuring the new Park Hyatt Los Angeles, an extraordinary collection of residential offerings and an open-air retail destination.

The project is highlighted by 100-foot tall podium, which will house a galleria of stores and restaurants.  A large LED screen will wrap the structure for the full length of Figueroa between 11th and 12th Streets. Elevating the shopping and dining experience in the heart of Downtown, the retail portion of Oceanwide Plaza, dubbed the The Collection at Oceanwide Plaza, will offer a curated selection of shops and restaurants, a 50-foot open-air galleria and a third-floor deck overlooking the Staples Center and L.A. Live.

“The draw power of this location is tremendous. We’re in the heart of the entertainment and sports district,” said Thomas Feng, chief executive of Oceanwide’s American subsidiary, who is counting on the millions of people who attend games and concerts at Staples Center and events at the Convention Center.

Circa

Located on a 2.7-acre parcel, Circa is a $500-million, mixed-use development that includes 648 luxury rental apartments and 48,000 square feet of retail. It will provide a desirable urban lifestyle in the heart of downtown LA’s sports and entertainment district. Developed by Jamison Services Inc. and Hankey Investment Co., two Los Angeles companies, Circa is a highlight among downtown Los Angeles construction and furthers the high-tech, state-of-the-art vision for this District, an extensive LED light array with animated signage and public art wraps six above-grade parking levels (two below-grade parking levels also planned). The towers feature a curved glass face that points toward Downtown’s skyline. Sleek façade protrusions add definition to the sides of the buildings.

“We want to take advantage of the panoramic views, so the curve of the towers is facing the skyline, The owners had some concerns about the curve and the way it would affect floor plans, but we demonstrated that it is practical and works well.” – Daniel Benjamin, Architect at Harley Ellis Devereaux

Metropolis

An exclusive new collection of residential towers and a gem among new downtown Los Angeles construction, skyparks and pools, dining, and upscale hotel in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, Metropolis is a city within a city featuring luxury residences from the high $600,000’s to over $2 million. Each tower offers a collection of designer-appointed studios, 1 and 2 bedroom condominiums and penthouses with stunning floor-to-ceiling views of downtown Los Angeles. 

Located six floors up, Met Six is the Tower I residence clubhouse offering lushly landscaped ground including a resort-style pool, cabanas, dog park, all overlooking the city. Inside residents can enjoy a wealth of amenities including a clubhouse lounge, screening room, fitness center, steam rooms, yoga studio, and meditation garden. The complex also features a retail shopping center, luxury hotel and various skyparks 

Downtown Los Angeles Construction Putting People To Work

The ongoing downtown Los Angeles construction projects are putting thousands to work in a construction industry decimated when the housing bubble popped last decade.

Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, estimated that at just Metropolis and the Wilshire Grand there are roughly 2,800 union construction workers on the job.

“These are good middle-class jobs — averaging $60,000, $65,000 a year,” he said.

Downtown Los Angeles Construction Surpassing Past Booms

To find a time of greater construction one would have to go back to the Roaring ’20s, when many of downtown’s most famous historic buildings were erected, including majestic movie palaces, the Biltmore Hotel and City Hall.

In all, 155 projects of at least 50,000 square feet were constructed from 1920 to 1929, according to CoStar.

The amount of downtown Los Angeles construction taking place today is staggering, and unlike the two-decade expansion seen in the 1970s and 1980s — which largely consisted of corporate office towers on Bunker Hill — the current construction is varied and more widespread.

The rapid pace means that by decade’s end, today’s boom should easily surpass the 1980s — a time when developers built office skyscrapers on Bunker Hill as part of an urban renewal effort that flattened the neighborhood’s Victorian mansions in the decades prior.

The most notable project of the 1980s boom was the U.S. Bank Tower, which opened in 1989 as First Interstate World Center. It was the tallest building west of the Mississippi until being recently eclipsed by the spire of the Wilshire Grand Center, which is expected to open this year.

A Changing Scene

Over the last decade, people have moved into neighborhoods once considered rundown, and bars and restaurants have sprung up to serve those residents. No longer is investment largely limited to office towers on Bunker Hill, which left downtown a ghost town after 5 p.m.

Last decade, 59 large projects were finished, and developers drew up plans for even grander buildings.

Though the Great Recession sidelined those and threatened to stall downtown’s revitalization, new residents kept moving in, partly attracted by cheap rentals that developers had intended to sell as condos.

When the economy began to recover, downtown, like other city centers across the nation, stood ready to benefit from an accelerating trend toward urban living among young professionals.

“Investors and developers said, ‘Hey, this is a big city and there is not a lot of new product here and it seems there is a little niche and a real opportunity to fill that,” said Chris Casey, managing director of capital markets for JLL.

That’s the opportunity Carmel Partners saw.

In 2012, the San Francisco company purchased a development site at 8th Street and Grand Avenue, believing that downtown Los Angeles construction was at a “tipping point” and “making that turn to officially becoming a 24/7 destination,” said Carmel managing partner Dan Garibaldi.

In late 2015, the firm opened Eighth & Grand, a 700-unit apartment building with a Whole Foods on the bottom floor where a studio starts at $2,300.

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