A skyline-altering retail, residential and hotel complex with three high-rise towers in the bustling South Park neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles is finally moving forward.
Chinese developer Oceanwide Real Estate Group began leveling several structures this month on a sprawling parking lot across from Staples Center on Figueroa Street, paving the way for an early 2015 groundbreaking. The demolition ends years of inactivity at the 4.6-acre lot — long envisioned as the shopping section of the L.A. Live entertainment complex.
FOR THE RECORD:
Fig Central: In the Dec. 25 Business section, an article about the Fig Central real estate development in downtown Los Angeles said that nearly 450,000 square feet of retail space was planned. About 200,000 square feet of retail space is planned.
"There isn't a lot of retail there," said Hal Bastian, a development consultant and longtime downtown booster. "This adds a critically missing component."
Since purchasing the land last year, Oceanwide has reworked the design for the Fig Central development, adding a third tower in the process. The $1-billion project now consists of two 40-story high-rises and another high-rise at 49 stories.
In all, 504 condos, 183 hotel rooms and nearly 450,000 square feet of retail space are planned.
The project is decidedly upscale. Oceanwide envisions a five-star hotel, event spaces, celebrity chef restaurant and members-only nightclub.
A hundred feet above the street, residents and hotel guests will enjoy an expansive lawn, children's playground, barbecues, a pool and running track. Along Figueroa, facing Staples, a ribbon of LED displays will wrap the development, showing advertising and noncommercial graphics designed to highlight the facade.
The project's architects say the complex is designed to encourage pedestrian activity. Pedestrians can access a two-level, open-air retail galleria mid-block on Figueroa Street.
Shops are also planned directly on Figueroa and Flower, while public paseos will wind through the complex, creating a connection between the two well-known downtown streets.
"It's about creating a project that's connected to the rest of the urban fabric," said John Eric Chung, senior associate vice president with architecture firm RTKL.
Construction is expected to take about three years.
The mega-project is part of a wave of Chinese investment sweeping both downtown Los Angeles and the larger Southern California region. Chinese investors see Southland real estate as a safe bet that comes cheaper than land back home.
Down the street from Fig Central, Shanghai-based Greenland Group is building another huge condo and hotel development known as Metropolis. Last week, a Chinese developer purchased the Los Angeles Airport Marriott for $160 million with plans for extensive renovations.
Commercial real estate broker Laurie Lustig-Bower said Chinese investment has accelerated in the last year, partly because of mega-projects like Fig Central.
After seeing well-known firms like Oceanwide and Greenland Group enter L.A., mid-size Chinese companies and high-net-worth individuals want in on the action, she said.
"The big companies have sort of paved the path to come into Los Angeles," said Lustig-Bower, executive vice president of CBRE Group Inc. "More and more people in China are figuring out how to do it."
Oceanwide announced last year that it was spending up to $200 million to purchase the lot adjacent to Staples Center from the Moinian Group. The New York-based developer had scooped up the property from Staples Center owner Anschutz Entertainment Group about seven years earlier for $80 million. But amid the recession the project stalled.
Now Oceanwide is readying for ground-up construction. Like previous owners, it views the project as an extension of L.A. Live that will add a plethora of retail to an area dominated by restaurants and event venues.
"Downtown has become the most vibrant area of Los Angeles, and we look forward to helping accelerate and add to its renewed vitality," said Thomas Feng, chief executive of the Oceanwide subsidiary managing the project.