Fitness studios, bocce ball courts and dog runs: Downtown L.A. makes its pitch to apartment seekers

View of downtown Los Angeles from a balcony at Figueroa Eight, a 41-story apartment tower in downtown Los Angeles.
View of downtown Los Angeles from a balcony at Figueroa Eight, a 41-story apartment tower in downtown L.A. This luxury residential building is coming to market at a time when downtown is suffering from a loss of office tenants, fear of crime and persistent homelessness.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Sunday, May 5. I’m your host, Andrew J. Campa. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Here’s what you need to know to start your weekend:

    Plenty of perks and cheaper than Santa Monica, downtown L.A. makes case to renters

    A stroll through downtown Los Angeles presents a study in contrasts.

    The city’s homeless community is on stark display with the population jumping by 10% in the latest annual survey. Office buildings once filled with thousands of employees are seeing vacancies skyrocket. The pandemic demonstrated to corporate America that “work from home” was possible and profitable.

    Yet, while one side of the street is bleak, the other is chic.

    Apartment towers and complexes along Figueroa, 7th, and Olive streets and other crucial thoroughfares are enjoying their own Gilded Age.


    The recently completed Figueroa Eight skyscraper features limestone quarried from the same stone that built the Colosseum (the original one), New York City’s Lincoln Center and the Getty Museum. The building’s exterior is also brushed in aluminum, stainless steel and lightly tinted glass.

    The nearby Beaudry and Atelier apartment towers are also ornately wrapped in metal and glass with tall tainted windows.

    The decision to go big on Figueroa Eight, which opened last month, reflects an unusual disconnect playing out in the neighborhood: While downtown as a place to work still struggles to find its footing post-COVID, downtown as a residential center is thriving.

    Canadian real estate company offers ideal case study

    Downtown has about 90,000 residents, said Jessica Lall, head of real estate brokerage CBRE’s downtown office. They live in 47,000 residential units, most of which are apartments rented at market rates.

    One quirk about that group is most of L.A.’s downtown residents don’t work there.

    The successes and struggles of Brookfield, a Canadian real estate company that owns downtown residential and office properties, illustrates this divide.


    Little more than 15% of the tenants in downtown apartments owned by Brookfield worked in nearby office buildings before the COVID-19 pandemic, managing director Mike Greene said. The percentage today is about the same. Occupancy in Brookfield’s nearly 2,400 downtown units fell to nearly 80% early in the pandemic, he said, but soon rebounded to about 95%, where it remains.

    CBRE reported that only 65% of downtown office space was filled in the first quarter this year. Brookfield, meanwhile, which also owns offices through a separate entity, is among downtown landlords who have defaulted on office building loans in recent months and lost their properties to their lenders.

    Prices, benefits and perks that attract renters.

    Part of downtown’s appeal is its price, at least compared with the Westside’s choice rental markets.

    “If you compare Santa Monica and Marina del Rey, it’s 38% more expensive to live there than it is to live downtown,” Lall said.

    Upmarket apartment complexes have dramatically ramped up their amenities such as dog runs, golf simulators and maid service. And coming out of the pandemic, Mitsui Fudosan America and other landlords pivoted to making their buildings friendly to tenants who work from home.


    There is dedicated co-working space for people who want to work outside of their apartments without leaving the building and other lounging spots such as poolside cabanas and outdoor spaces where tenants can set up a laptop.

    Figueroa Eight’s indoor and outdoor “fitness studio” includes free classes and a hot-yoga room. Socializing zones include a poolside lounge with an outdoor bar, fire pits, grilling stations and the 41st-floor Sky Lounge with entertaining areas including a bar and dining room looking out on the skyline. There is also an outdoor hammock garden if you prefer to relax alone.

    The Beaudry has a bocce ball court, putting green, golf simulator and poker game room among its tenant lures.

    If downtown is to undergo a revival, it may be luxury rises that lead the way. For more, check out the original reporting from journalist Roger Vincent.

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    Column One

    Column One is The Times’ home for narrative and longform journalism. Here’s a great piece from this week:

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    For your weekend

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    Have a great weekend, from the Essential California team


    Andrew J. Campa, reporter
    Carlos Lozano, news editor

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