The site of a former department store in Beverly Hills considered one of the most desirable pieces of real estate in the country sold for $148.3 million on Tuesday to investors from Hong Kong and Singapore.
Joint Treasure International, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, purchased the 8-acre parcel at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards. The firm intends to develop luxury condominiums on the site.
"This is an incomparable site that cannot be replicated," said Daniel Yiu, senior advisor to Joint Treasure, which specializes in global real estate.
Joint Treasure has owned the nearby Beverly Wilshire Hotel since 1995 and is familiar with the neighborhood, Yiu said. "Our investor group is interested only in premier properties in premier locations."
Joint Treasure bought the former Robinsons-May department store site at 9900 Wilshire Blvd. in a private auction from Banco Inbursa, a bank controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. The bank took possession of the property last week after completing foreclosure proceedings against CPC Group, which was operated by jet-setting British developers Nicholas and Christian Candy.
The Candys made headlines in 2007 when they bought the parcel for $500 million in one of the largest transactions in the history of Los Angeles County. The seller, Beverly Hills-based New Pacific Realty Corp., had paid $33.5 million for the property three years earlier.
New Pacific had created a plan for the site that called for razing the empty department store and building a luxury condominium and retail complex designed by Richard Meier, architect of the Getty Center. Yiu said Joint Treasure intends to follow through with generally the same plan.
Joint Treasure would need to secure the services of Richard Meier & Partners Architects in order to utilize his design, which was approved by the city in 2008. Representatives of Joint Treasure met with the architecture firm a few months ago, Meier spokeswoman Lori East said, but there is no formal agreement between the two parties to proceed.
Yiu said that he was uncertain when his company's revised proposal could be completed and approved by city officials, but that he didn't intend to wait for the real estate market to recover before getting started.
"The housing market is definitely very depressed right now, but surely one cannot wait until the market picks up to build," he said. "That would be too late."
Joint Treasure intends to oversee the process but expects to hire a project manager from Southern California to look after the details.
Meier's original proposal calls for two 12-story buildings, a two-story building containing town houses and two four-story loft buildings situated around landscaped gardens.
There also would be a one-story building along Santa Monica Boulevard for a high-end restaurant and a few shops. The 252-unit complex was expected to cost about $500 million to build. Prices were never set for the condos, but they were expected to cost millions of dollars apiece.
The Candys proposed replacing some of the units with a high-end hotel, but Yiu said Joint Treasure would keep the project residential.
"Our group already owns the best hotel in the area," he said. "We're not going to compete with ourselves."
Joint Treasure purchased the property on behalf of three of its consortium partners. They include Chow Tai Fook Group of Hong Kong, the holding company for publicly held New World Group, a company whose investments include hotels, department stores and transportation.
The other partners are the Wee Cho Yaw Family Group of Singapore, which invests in banks, commercial properties and hotels; and David Chiu of Far East Consortium International Limited, a commercial property and hotel developer listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Other U.S. properties acquired by the consortium include the New York Four Seasons Hotel and two New York City apartment and condominium buildings. The group also developed a 76-acre, 12-city-block mixed-use project on South Riverside Drive in New York City. It sold that and other major holdings in 2007 before the economic downturn.
The once-glamorous Robinsons-May flagship store in Beverly Hills closed in 2006 after parent company Federated Department Stores Inc. decided not to renew its lease.