Skyscraper with condos and a hotel proposed for downtown Los Angeles
An Australian developer is pushing ahead with new plans for a $500-million skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles that would house both condominiums and a hotel.
Crown Group has been planning to develop property it owns at Hill and 11th streets since 2018 but recently reworked its proposal to include a trendy hotel in a newly designed 43-story tower meant to evoke a California redwood tree.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has slammed residential sales, shuttered many hotels and made construction more challenging, Crown Group is betting that demand for its building will be revived in time for the planned 2025 opening. Executives are working to secure city permission to build the tower and hope to start construction by the end of next year.
The developers hope to stand out among the competition with a design by Koichi Takada Architects that includes a pointy tree-like top, a rarity in Los Angeles, where until 2014 high-rises were required to have flat roofs to accommodate emergency helicopter landings. The 73-story Wilshire Grand Center hotel and office building that opened downtown in 2017 was one of the first tall buildings to have a curving glass crown.
The top two floors of Crown Group’s tower at 1111 Hill St., head of U.S. development Patrick Caruso said, will be an “exclusive residents’ retreat” with indoor and outdoor dining and entertainment facilities including a garden.
At the street level, a canopy is meant to offer the impression of the branching roots of a redwood tree and visually ground the building. The lower seven floors will be wrapped by a “breathing green wall” of plants to screen the parking on those levels.
A restaurant, bar and swimming pool for hotel guests and residents will sit on the eighth floor on a deck outside the main tower. The first floor will also have a restaurant.
The operator of the 160-room hotel hasn’t been selected, but Crown Group Chief Executive Iwan Sunito said he expects it will be a “lifestyle” brand meant to appeal to “trendy, cool millennials.”
Demand for hotel rooms in the neighborhood was strong before the virus outbreak, said hotel consultant Bruce Baltin of CBRE. “Downtown L.A. was doing very well and absorbing all of the rooms that came into it very quickly,” he said.
Baltin predicted a national economic recovery by 2023 and said there “will be plenty of demand” for downtown hotels by then.
The downtown condo market, by contrast, has been tested by an influx of new units in recent years, most notably a three-tower complex, called Metropolis, built by Chinese developer Greenland USA north of L.A. Live.
Nearby, a more than $1-billion condo and hotel complex being built by Chinese developer Oceanwide Holdings stalled last year when the developer ran into financial difficulties. Its unfinished Oceanwide Plaza is for sale.
Both of those projects targeted buyers from China.
Many new downtown condos have been slow to sell in recent years, but Crown Group executives hope to buck the trend by pricing all 319 units around $1 million or less, with studios starting at about $600,000.
Other downtown condos have been too expensive, Sunito said, and “too many were designed to Asian tastes,” meaning the units aimed at overseas buyers were overly large and the complexes too staid to appeal to millennials’ preferences.
Sunito anticipates that about half of the units will be owner-occupied and that the rest will be sold to investors, including a large contingent of parents from China, Indonesia and Singapore buying condos for their children to occupy while attending college in the Los Angeles area.
The Sydney-based developer said he encountered a dearth of appealing condos a few years ago when he was looking for a place to house his son studying finance at USC. The experience gave him the idea to build in downtown L.A.
Last year, Crown Group formed a partnership for the development with Singapore-based Magnus Property and a division of Agung Sedayu Group of Indonesia that focuses on the hospitality business.
Housing development in L.A. has practically stopped during the pandemic, said Stuart Gabriel, director of UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. “We are in desperate need of new supply at all price points.”
There is some risk, however, to urban high-rise development at a time when the pandemic is causing some people to consider living in less densely populated suburban neighborhoods instead of urban centers, Gabriel said.
Sunito believes, however, that downtown’s appeal will continue to grow.
“It’s rare to find the central district of a large cosmopolitan city on the verge of such significant change,” he said. “Downtown is experiencing a once-in-a-generation revival.”