Geoff Palmer, the urban trailblazer who helped inspire an upscale housing boom in downtown Los Angeles' long-neglected core, has acquired a 9.5-acre parcel downtown from Orthopaedic Hospital for $70.5 million, hospital officials said Tuesday.
Palmer is expected to build more than 800 luxury apartments on the former hospital property on Flower Street between Staples Center and USC.
The mostly commercial neighborhood is going through a renaissance as investment dollars pour into downtown and around USC, said real estate broker Richard Plummer of Cushman & Wakefield, who represented the hospital in the sale.
"The more housing we get along Figueroa and Flower, the safer it will feel," he said.
Palmer's Medici apartment development west of the Harbor Freeway is credited with demonstrating to the investment and development community the fresh demand for downtown living when it opened in 2002.
His Los Angeles-based apartment business, G.H. Palmer Associates, has completed more than 1,000 luxury apartments downtown and has more than 2,700 additional units under construction or in planning stages.
Palmer's representatives did not respond to requests for comment. But economist Jack Kyser of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. said Palmer's typical high-end residential development would "head off a bitter fight" because some neighbors had feared Wal-Mart Stores Inc. or another large retailer would take over the site and have a potentially negative effect on local shops and traffic patterns.
Such retailers were among many bidders for the site, acknowledged Christopher Martin, chairman of the board of trustees for the hospital's foundation, which oversaw the sale.
The nonprofit hospital decided to sell its aging facilities, which had seismic safety problems, and move its inpatient services to the Westside, Martin said.
A modern outpatient facility completed on the downtown site in 2003 will continue to serve children with musculoskeletal disorders, said James V. Luck, the hospital's chief executive.
Money from the sale of the land and old hospital buildings, which are expected to be razed, "will allow us to continue our growth and expand our research," he said.