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Historic Wilshire Royale apartments to be renovated by new owner

The Wilshire Royale, one of the best-known historic apartment buildings in Los Angeles, has been acquired by Sherman Oaks real estate investors who plan to upgrade the property near MacArthur Park.

MWest Holdings paid $32.5 million for the 193-unit complex at the northeast corner of Wilshire and Rampart boulevards, a neighborhood showing signs of economic recovery after decades in the doldrums when many blocks around the park were considered blighted and crime-plagued.

The 12-story tower's Beaux Arts design and rich background were central to its appeal as an investment, said Karl Slovin, president of MWest Holdings. The company also recently purchased Hollywood Tower, a luxury 1920s apartment building on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.

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"We love to find properties that have an architectural story and a grandness to them," Slovin said.

In the early 20th century, the area was an upscale residential neighborhood known as the West Side. In the late 1920s, a local leader of the anti-liquor Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Olive Philips, built the residential hotel that would become the Wilshire Royale.

Philips took an apartment in the building then known as the Arcady and advertised for people who were accustomed to fine living to join her. A 1928 ad for the Arcady in The Times promised deluxe service with "all the work being taken care of by a thoroughly-trained crew of maids, butlers, housemen, pages, valets, laundresses and porters."

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Meals prepared by the Arcady staff could be served in a ground-level restaurant called the Pompeiian room or delivered to your unit. At the dawn of the Great Depression in 1930, rates were $5 a day or $150 a month, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy.

In 1953, the building was acquired by Fifield Manors Inc. "to be operated for guests in their autumn years," The Times reported that year. The 12-story building has also served as a Howard Johnson's hotel and ultimately was converted back to apartments.

MWest will spend about $2 million over the next year renovating the Wilshire Royale, including upgrades to the units, lobby and other common areas, he said. The neon "Wilshire Royale" sign on the roof will be relighted. Rents currently start at $905 and top out at $2,185 for a three-bedroom. Slovin said he wasn't yet sure what the new rents would be, though typically developers have raised them after such rehabs.

Other old residential buildings in the neighborhood have recently been renovated. The nearby Hayworth Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard was purchased by TV writer Jenji Kohan, the creator of Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black" and Showtime's "Weeds." She uses its offices for her production company and said she plans to rent out the theater space.

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"This is an area that is starting to see a tremendous amount of capital moving into it with several high-rises and office-to-apartment conversions planned," said broker Kevin Green of Institutional Property Advisors, a real estate firm that helped arrange the sale of the Wilshire Royale. New York money manager BlackRock Inc. was the previous owner.

The area is becoming more trendy, Green said, as the boundaries of Koreatown push east and the downtown renaissance drifts west.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

Twitter: @rogervincent

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