A Chinese developer is planning a nearly $500-million residential, hotel and retail complex next to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, a potential anchor for a future downtown area.
Plans call for a mega-development complete with a 28-story condo tower, a 26-story hotel, a theater, alfresco dining and an indoor surfing park. The Anaheim project — planned on 14 acres at the corner of State College Boulevard and Orangewood Avenue — is part of a wave of Asian investment in large-scale Southern California developments.
Anaheim unveiled plans for the so-called Platinum Triangle more than a decade ago, pitching the neighborhood as a downtown for all of Orange County.
"Our entire goal is to create a sense of place for the Platinum Triangle … to get back to the vision the city originally had," said Randy Jefferson, an executive director for developer LT Global Investment Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Beijing's LT Commercial Real Estate.
The developer, however, must first cut a deal with the Angels and the city to secure the needed parking for such a large development. Adding another layer of uncertainty, the Angels have explored moving elsewhere as negotiations with Anaheim over stadium renovations have stalled.
The original vision for the area called for an urban village filled with high-rise buildings, lofts, shops and restaurants. The recession, however, sidelined grand visions for the 820-acre swath, and recent projects have been less ambitious.
But with the commercial real estate market heating up, once-stalled developments such as the Platinum Triangle are getting new lives, often fueled by investments from China.
In downtown Los Angeles, Shanghai-based Greenland Group is building a huge condo and hotel development, known as Metropolis. And China's Oceanwide Real Estate Group recently broke ground on a three-tower residential, retail and hotel complex across from Staples Center.
As Chinese companies get more familiar with the area, they are looking beyond the prime markets such as downtown L.A. and Beverly Hills, real estate broker Laurie Lustig-Bower of CBRE Group said.
LT Global executives considered buying the sites that Greenland Group and Oceanwide purchased near Staples Center, but high land prices in downtown L.A. shifted their eyes south, Jefferson said.
In November, LT purchased the land next to Angel Stadium for $28.3 million. It probably would cost about an additional $450 million to build LTG Platinum Center, according to documents filed with the city.
LT sees its project as a regional town center. In addition to the hotel tower, plans call for 170 condos in a high-rise building, 430 apartments in mid-rise buildings, 460,000 square feet of retail space and 60,000 square feet of office space. Intertwined in the complex would be retail shops, a restaurant row, an ice-skating rink and a town square where performers could sing, dance or dish out a comedy routine.
The company hopes to break ground next year, with construction wrapping up in 2020. The project could energize the sleepy Platinum Triangle neighborhood.
In 2004, Anaheim rezoned the largely industrial area surrounding Angel Stadium, the Honda Center and the City National Grove of Anaheim to attract private development. In all, city plans allow for nearly 20,000 residential units and about 19 million square feet of commercial and office space. A streetcar has also been proposed that would connect the neighborhood with Disneyland and Anaheim GardenWalk.
Development has been on an upswing since it ground to a halt during the housing bust. There were nearly 1,500 residential units under construction as of mid-April, according to the city.
LT still faces challenges. It still needs approval from Anaheim to change the previous owner's much smaller approved project, and it needs the Angels to sign off on using part of a parking lot surrounding the stadium to meet city parking requirements for the development. The team, which has rights to that lot through its lease with the city, doesn't support LT's proposal to use the land.
"We need this land for our parking operations," Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said.
In a letter to the city in late March, the Angels urged Anaheim to reject LT's development because it "does not have the rights to all of the land necessary to develop and operate its proposed project."
Also uncertain is the Angels' intentions regarding the team's 50-year-old stadium in Anaheim. The team can opt out of its lease from 2016 to 2019, and it has met with Tustin officials about building a new stadium on a former military base there.
The Angels had been in discussions with Anaheim about a new stadium lease deal in which the team would pay to renovate city-owned Angel Stadium and develop the surrounding parking lot, although negotiations stalled over how Anaheim might share in development profits for the city-owned land.
In February, Angels owner Arte Moreno said there was no progress on a new deal, and no new talks had been scheduled. The city recently retained a new negotiator and hopes to restart the talks.
Jefferson of LT said that he thinks an agreement over parking can be reached with the Angels and that LT already has reduced the number of parking spaces it requested. If a solution can't be found, Jefferson said, the project would need to be downsized significantly.
Until recently, Chinese developers would have shied away from projects that require such significant approvals, said attorney Gregory J. Karns, who worked with LT on its purchase and specializes in helping Asian investors in the U.S.
But as the fight over Southern California land becomes more competitive, Chinese companies are willing to take on more risk, Karns said.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait believes the parking issue can be solved. He called LT's high-rise vision "incredibly exciting," and a signal that the developers think the Platinum Triangle is "the place to be."