Chinese developer unveils plans for luxury condo tower in downtown L.A.

Proposed L.A. luxury condo tower would rise 37 stories at the southwest corner of Grand Avenue and 12th Street

With downtown Los Angeles facing a condominium shortage, a Chinese developer has unveiled plans for a $100-million luxury high-rise residential tower near Staples Center.

The building, proposed to the city Planning Commission on Thursday, would rise 37 stories at the southwest corner of Grand Avenue and 12th Street. The tower would have 126 units, which shouldn't be hard to sell, developer Joseph Lin said.

"Downtown still has a lot of potential to grow," said Lin, managing partner of City Century, the Los Angeles subsidiary of Shanghai real estate developer ShengLong Group.

Only about 10% of the more than 500,000 people who come to work downtown every day live there, Lin said. That's a far smaller percentage than in San Francisco or Seattle, even though housing is less expensive in downtown Los Angeles, he said.

Lin intends to price his units between $600,000 and $4 million, or about $1,000 per square foot. New condos in San Francisco cost more than $1,250 a square foot, according to real estate marketing firm Mark Co.

The only new condos being sold in downtown Los Angeles are still under construction in the Metropolis complex north of L.A. Live, according to Mark Co. They also cost about $1,000 a square foot.

Mark Co. founder Alan Mark estimates that downtown has less than two months of condo supply on sale now, far less than the six-month benchmark typically considered a sign of a balanced market.

Multiple residential projects are in the pipeline, but Mark predicts that demand for units will remain high.

"Many developers want a piece of downtown," he said. "It's beyond a viable place to live — it's really reached a critical mass."

City Century's planned building was designed by Richard Keating, the Los Angeles architect credited with designing Gas Co. Tower, a well-known downtown office skyscraper completed in 1991, and the recently opened Beverly West condo tower near Beverly Hills.

"This is going to be an architectural building, not just a big slab," said Keating, founder of the firm Architecture by Keating. "We are doing a Gas Co.-level building here in high-rise housing in downtown L.A."

Like Gas Co. Tower, the building is to have a glass wall extending above the top of the building that would conceal its air-conditioning system. Above the wall would be flat panels with high-intensity solar collectors that would power part of the building and reduce its demand on the city's electrical grid.

The building would also have indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces with landscaping. Condo owners would be able to open and close their windows, which is impossible in most L.A. high-rises. Units will also have balconies.

"It's an incredibly small site," Keating said of the location, "so we'll build a thin, delicate-looking tower — the views will be phenomenal."

City Century bought the 44,412-square-foot site for $26 million in February in what real estate brokers said was one of the highest prices per square foot — $585 — ever paid for land in Los Angeles not already zoned for dense development.

It's big enough for the slim planned tower and perhaps another. City Century intends to build multiple projects downtown.

"This is just the first one," Lin said. "Our goal is to build 1,500 units."

Although he regards Los Angeles as the U.S. gateway to Asia, Lin said he intends to try to sell his condos to local residents who want to move downtown.

"We are purposefully not trying to sell in China," he said.

Lin acknowledged, however, that some buyers will probably live out of state or overseas and buy units as investments.

He hopes that city officials will approve the project so he can start work early next year. Construction would take about 22 months.

Real estate consultant Mark said the downtown housing boom has "a lot of legs."

"Some downtowns are just fabricated," he said. "L.A. has a phenomenal authenticity and edginess."

That appeals to both empty-nesters and young people in search of an urban living experience, Mark said. "It has really dramatically changed."

roger.vincent@latimes.com

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