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Hong Kong Investor With Eye on the Past Acquires Landmark Bradbury Building

Times Staff Writer

The Bradbury Building, a downtown Los Angeles landmark born in the Victorian era and used as part of the apocalyptic backdrop for the film “Blade Runner,” has been sold to a Hong Kong investor with a taste for historic properties.

The principals wouldn’t discuss the sale price, but a knowledgeable source said the figure was about $6 million.

The five-story brick edifice at 3rd Street and Broadway is renowned for its dramatic atrium, cage elevators and cast-iron decoration. It was built in 1893 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building is named for Lewis Bradbury, a 19th century gold mining and real estate tycoon who, late in life, decided to erect a monument to himself.

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Architect George Wyman is credited with designing the 78,500-square-foot masterpiece, which one admirer labeled “a fairyland of mathematics,” a jewel concealed behind a rather drab brick facade.

“It’s the most unique and wonderful working environment in Los Angeles,” said Dan Rosenfeld, a developer whose offices are in the building. “The light and space that fills the atrium is unlike anything available anywhere else.”

The buyer is Downtown Properties Holdings, which owns several restored older buildings in downtown Los Angeles, including One Bunker Hill and 818 West 7th St., as well as the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

“We love the downtown historical area,” said Eric Bender, vice president of asset management for Downtown Properties.

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The company also is renovating the nearby and long-shuttered Douglas office building at 3rd and Spring streets into 50 residential lofts and is looking for other older buildings in the area to convert to housing.

Downtown Properties was one of a handful of prospective buyers invited to bid on the property, said Bruce Stein of Shamrock Holdings of California Inc. Shamrock, the investment arm of the Roy E. Disney family, was the major investor in Bradbury Associates, the seller of the building.

“We didn’t really put it on the market,” Stein said. “Only a select group of people would understand the building and what it stands for.”

The general partner of Bradbury Associates was developer Ira Yellin, who died last September.

He bought the Bradbury in 1989 and spent $7 million restoring it, adding fire sprinklers, seismic reinforcement, parking and other improvements.

“He poured his heart and his life into this building,” said Rosenfeld, a former partner of Yellin. “It’s his legacy.”

Yellin was a pioneer of downtown redevelopment, also renovating the Grand Central Market and the Million Dollar Building, both across Broadway from the Bradbury. “This is really where the downtown renaissance started,” Rosenfeld said.

The Bradbury is about 93% occupied, Bender said. Tenants include the Los Angeles Police Department and developer Urban Partners, where Rosenfeld works. Ground-floor retail includes a cell phone store, a sandwich shop, a wedding garment supplier and Ross Cutlery, where O.J. Simpson bought a 15-inch knife -- a fact that came to light during his 1995 murder trial. Simpson was acquitted on charges of slaying his wife and her friend.

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The suites and balconies at the Bradbury have been used in a long list of films, including “Pay It Forward,” a 2000 release starring Kevin Spacey, and “Wolf,” a 1994 feature with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Most famously, the Bradbury’s carefully darkened lines helped establish the noir feel of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” the 1982 classic about life in a bleak Los Angeles of the distant future.

The building, said Yellin’s widow, Adele, is now “in very good hands” and she will continue to operate Yellin Co.'s top-floor offices as president. Goodwin Gaw, the executive who runs Downtown Properties, she said, “shares Ira’s dedication to the Bradbury and to renovating downtown.”


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