Actors' Equity Assn., the union representing stage actors, has moved into a converted North Hollywood warehouse that it purchased for $5.2 million.
The building, in the NoHo Arts District, now houses the union's Western region headquarters and its first-ever audition center in the West. Impresarios planning to put on a show with union actors can test them in the building at 5636 Tujunga Ave.
The Actors' Equity spent $1.5 million on improvements that include sound-attenuated audition rooms, sprung wood dance floors, mirrored walls with ballet barres, a designated dancer warm-up space and private changing rooms.
"We wanted an audition center that we ran," said Steven DiPaola, assistant executive director of the union.
Actors' Equity previously rented space at 6755 Hollywood Blvd. If it had continued to lease that space, it would have cost the union $300,000 more over the next 20 years than it will cost to own the building in North Hollywood, DiPaola said.
"The building allows Equity opportunity for growth ... and provides long-term cost savings for the association," he said.
The union, which has nearly 50,000 members nationwide, including 17,000 in Los Angeles, has moved toward real estate ownership as a business strategy. It purchased a building in Times Square in New York in 1978 and another in Chicago in 2009.
North Hollywood is the union's sixth location in Los Angeles since it opened its first Western region office in 1921.
NoHo is on an economic upswing, DiPaola said, as Times Square was in the late 1970s.
"We look for an area that is still kind of emerging," he said, "where there is a lot of investment by the city."
The NoHo Arts District is one of the most creative outposts of Los Angeles. It has more than 20 live theaters, including the Art Deco-style El Portal Theatre, which opened in 1926, and the Deaf West Theatre, where productions are presented in spoken English and American Sign Language.
City officials encouraged the development of hundreds of condominiums and apartments in the area in the last several years. Among the recent residential developments is the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, which houses a professionally run performing arts theater.
NoHo is also one of the city's biggest transportation hubs, with Metro's Red Line subway and Orange Line busway meeting there.
The actors union's building has 18,700 square feet of space and was completed in 1948 as a warehouse. It has brick walls and a 30-foot-high bow truss ceiling.
"It's a large building, all open with no columns and very tall ceilings," said Dee Jay Bankhead, who oversaw the makeover as project manager for Denham Wolf Real Estate Services.
Walls were built at varying heights to break up the space and contain sounds emanating from the audition areas and conference room, Bankhead said.