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Vintage SoCal: Living the high life in L.A.'s historic core

In the downtown L.A. high-rise scene, historic and high-end don't always go hand-in-hand. An exception is Eastern Columbia Lofts in the Broadway Theater District, where units such as a penthouse once owned by actor Johnny Depp have sold for more than $3 million.

Thirteen stories may not seem particularly tall by today’s standards. But the ornate building had to be granted an exemption to the city’s 1930 height limit of 150 feet to accommodate its four-sided clock tower, which stretches to 264 feet.

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The structure served the Eastern Outfitting Co. and the Columbia Outfitting Co., the furniture and clothing stores for which it was named. Tenants were added to the mix, such as in 1956 when Pacific Telephone & Telegraph leased the top four floors. The next year, the Eastern-Columbia department store would quit the retail business.

KOR Group, Killefer Flammang Architects and Kelly Wearstler Interior Design undertook a two-year renovation of the Claud Beelman-designed building and in 2006 unveiled 147 live/work lofts that pair early 20th-century details with modern upgrades.

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The block-lettered word "EASTERN" remains in white neon against the turquoise tile façade. The reinforced concrete structure, considered a significant example of the Art Deco style, is trimmed in gold and has deeper blue terracotta accents. Sunburst patterns, geometric shapes and stylized plants and animals are among the decorative embellishments. The sidewalks on two sides of the building are paved with multi-colored terrazzo set in zigzag and chevron patterns.

A grand entry that transports one back to the 1930s, a rooftop swimming pool and concierge service are among building amenities.

Units currently for sale include a 1,730-square-foot loft space that has been configured into two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The light-filled condominium features original exposed concrete, a balcony and all stainless-steel appliances.

Unit #1111, at 849 S. Broadway, is priced at $1.399 million and listed with Kevin Dees of the Agency.

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This occasional feature celebrates Southern California’s architectural heritage through residences built before 1950.

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