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Mini-Manhattan, just west of Los Angeles
Flanking Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood is a glamorous mix of multifamily residences ranging from basic to ultra-luxurious. Elegant high-rise condominiums, some clad in granite, provide jaw-dropping views from the Pacific to downtown. They share the stretch with a variety of apartments, a few hotels and a handful of churches and synagogues.
The wide boulevard, part of the 4,400 acres granted to Spanish soldier Don Maximo Alanis in the 1820s, was named for developer Henry Gaylord Wilshire, who arrived in 1884. By the 1920s, the Janss Investment Corp. began developing the area surrounding Wilshire Boulevard including Westwood Village, UCLA, Holmby Hills and the residential area to the south, then dubbed "Westwood Hills."
Wilshire Boulevard was lined, for the most part, by apartment buildings until the late 1960s, when the concept of condominium homes developed, spawning a host of building conversions. Once apartment conversion opportunities were exhausted, high-rises condos were built from scratch, some reaching up to 27 floors in height. The area became known as "the Wilshire Corridor" because the curving road and tall properties seem to carve a corridor through the Westwood area. More than 30 high-rise, multi-family buildings now line the stretch.
For luxury high-rise condominium residents, the perks include 24-hour valet parking and concierge. Some buildings offer private conference rooms, gyms and heated lap pools.
"The Wilshire Corridor has become very Manhattanized," said Coldwell Banker Realtor Steve Heiferman. Buildings such as the Remington, completed in 2001, feature imported limestone floors, a catering kitchen and private library.
Good news, bad news
After the wave of apartment conversions in the late 1970s, demand fueled construction of high-rise condominium projects. Properties looming higher and higher along Wilshire Corridor created more traffic, noise and congestion for area residents.
As a result, the Wilshire-Westwood Scenic Corridor Specific Plan was developed and took effect in February 1981. Covering multi-family properties on Wilshire Boulevard located between the Los Angeles Country Club at Comstock Avenue and Glendon Avenue to the west, the plan was implemented to help address such issues as development density, shadow impact and landscaping.
Regulations included limiting new buildings to six floors or 75 feet in height. But exemptions have allowed several high-rise developments to be approved and constructed. Among them are LaTour, completed in 1990 with 73 units on 21 floors, and the Wilshire, built in 1991 with 95 units on 27 floors. Projects in the works include a 290-foot, 23-story condominium tower underway on Wilshire at Malcolm Avenue and a 21-story project that is proposed on Comstock.
For first-time buyers and renters, the downside is the cost. Condominium association dues range from about $400 to $4,300 a month, which is in addition to taxes, mortgage and insurance.
Rents start at about $1,000 for a 350-square-foot studio. One condominium — a furnished three-bedroom, 3 1/2 -bathroom penthouse that includes imported linens, Wedgwood china and Christofle flatware — is offered for rent at $14,000 a month. Some units built before 1978 are subject to rent control under city of Los Angeles law.
On the market
There are about 60 residences now for sale along the corridor. The lowest priced is $439,000 for an 869-square-foot, one-bedroom unit.
On the high end, a double penthouse with views is listed for $15.9 million. More than half of the properties listed exceed $1 million. A dozen exceed $2 million.
Serving the northern side of Wilshire Boulevard is Warner Elementary, which had an Academic Performance Index score of 948 out of 1,000 on the "2004 Accountability Progress Report." Fairburn Avenue, on the southern side, scored 939. All residents share Emerson Middle School, which scored 650, and University Senior High, with 638.
*Year to date, does not include new construction
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems, themls.com, Wilshire-Westwood Scenic Corridor Specific Plan, http://ayp.cde.ca.gov/ , cityplanning.lacity.org, http://www.condospecialist.com .