Tenants at Bunker Hill Towers joined city officials at the kick-off of a major renovation and remodeling program that will focus on the twin-tower, 19-story residential complex at 234 S. Figueroa St.
As the group waited for Councilman Gilbert Lindsay and Mayor Tom Bradley, who were scheduled to participate, some voiced their concerns about the upgrading.
The questions they wanted answers for were: How will this affect us? Are the owners planning to sell? Will additional rent increases be in effect with the new improvements? Are they planning a conversion of the rental units to condominiums?
Gregory W. Catt, regional manager for Property Management Systems, which oversees the properties for Prudential Insurance Co. of America, was emphatic in his reassurance that the twin towers would not be turned into condos, and that units would be rent stabilized. Only a 6% rent increase (4% plus two points for utilities) would be in effect as opposed to the previous 9% (7% plus two points for utilities).
"Planning for the renovation of Bunker Hill Towers has been under way for about a year now," Catt said. "After all, it's where it all got started under the aegis of the Community Redevelopment Agency, and as a downtown landmark, these improvements will only serve to enhance that status for all who live, work or visit here."
"When we converted the 32-story center tower in 1980, the twin towers (involving 456 apartments) lost their project identification. Most people became confused about whether the remaining towers were for lease or individually owned. That had to remedied."
But there were other factors, as well, Catt said. "We are faced with competition from other projects like Promenade West, which hasn't sold and is now renting. We never had that kind of competition before."
Prudential Insurance Co. has been involved with the Bunker Hill Towers project from the start, when it backed the original Bunker Hill Towers developer, the now defunct City Investing Corp., in the late 1960s. In 1972, Prudential took over ownership and management of the Bunker Hill Towers and, Catt added, continues committed to keeping it a first-class property.
The demographics for the project show a wide range of people of various ethnic backgrounds and ages. But narrowed down to an average tenant profile it goes something like this, said one official: a 41-year-old male, separated or divorced Caucasian who is probably a lawyer.
More than $2 million will be spent at Bunker Hill Towers to upgrade hallways, lobbies, guest parking, landscaping, entrances and signage identification of the buildings. All construction will be under the supervision of Property Management Systems. Francis Heavey is general manager for the apartments.
The work will be performed on a five-month schedule and is expected to be completed in late October. One feature will be a large fountain to be built in the remodeled courtyard and named for Lindsay, known as the unofficial "mayor of downtown."