Longtime Century City landlord JMB Realty Corp. wants to build the neighborhood's first office skyscraper in nearly a decade on a site once planned for a cluster of high-rise condominiums.
The Chicago developer, through local affiliate Century City Realty, is seeking city approval for a 37-story tower on Avenue of the Stars at Constellation Boulevard that would be called Century City Center. JMB also will need to address homeowners concerned about growing density and traffic in their neighborhoods around Century City.
JMB officials say the $350-million high-rise would be one of the most environmentally friendly tall buildings in the country, with a lush rooftop garden over the garage and a portal to a proposed subway station. It is being designed by Los Angeles architecture firm Johnson Fain, which designed other well-known Century City offices including Fox Plaza, SunAmerica Center and the former MGM Tower.
JMB, which has owned the mostly empty property since the mid-1980s, said in 2003 that it wanted to build 483 condos in two 47-story towers and a 12-story loft building on the property. The proposal met opposition from nearby homeowner groups concerned about traffic, but it eventually garnered city approval.
Other developers proposed six additional condominium projects for the Century City area during the mid-2000s, included the super-luxury Century condominiums completed last year next to the Century Plaza Hotel. Demand for new housing, however, plummeted when the recession hit.
"We missed the window" on the once-booming condo market, said Patrick Meara of JMB. "In hindsight, that was a good thing."
Office demand has remained more consistent. Century City commands some of the highest rents in Southern California, and vacancy held steady in the first quarter at about 13% compared with the same period a year earlier, according to brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. Newer buildings tend to fill fastest.
"Century City vacancy rates have been very low in trophy buildings," said real estate broker Gary Weiss of L.A. Realty Partners. "It's great timing, in my opinion."
Growing numbers of tenants are demanding offices that reflect a green sensibility, Meara said, and JMB intends to build to the most exacting "platinum" standards of the U.S. Green Building Council. There are now only five tall platinum-rated buildings in the country, and none are in Los Angeles.
The design is intended to meld the efficiency of a skyscraper with amenities that have proved popular with creative businesses such as Internet firms, architect Scott Johnson said.
"A high-rise building can embrace a low-rise culture," he said.
Johnson's design calls for double-glass walls that would allow heat to rise without penetrating the building. It would be the tallest such installation in the country and "frankly, very expensive," he said.
The office tower would be smaller in total square footage than the previously planned condo complex but would have different traffic patterns that will be discussed and debated in the months ahead.
"My instinct tells me that a large office building is going to generate more peak-hour traffic than residential," said Mike Eveloff, president of Tract 7260, a neighborhood just west of Century City. In the past, Eveloff has been among those protesting big proposed projects, contending that Westside streets, parks, schools, libraries and police and fire stations were already strained.
Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents Century City, said JMB should face homeowners first. "Before they get any cogent thought from me," he said, "they need to meet with all the neighborhood groups that are concerned."
JMB has launched a program to explain the proposals and hear neighbors' concerns, Meara said.
"Traffic is absolutely the issue in West L.A., no question," he said.