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Urban Pioneers Sink Their Roots in L. A.'s Downtown : New Housing in Heart of City Appeals to Many

January 05, 1986|MIKE TEVERBAUGH | Teverbaugh is Times copy editor. and

The artists who live in downtown Los Angeles' northeast industrial district have been predicting for years that as soon as word got out that something hip was happening in their reconstituted neighborhood, the yuppies would buy up all their funky lofts and spoil the fun.

Well, the yuppies are moving downtown, but they are not interested in bursting the gates of the artists' Bohemia. Just like the artists, however, the yuppies are being hailed as pioneers, except their covered wagons come fully equipped--with swimming pools, tennis courts and panoramic views.

The yuppies are pioneering downtown living in condominiums on Spring Street and in South Park and, to a lesser extent, in apartments on Bunker Hill.

The Premiere Towers condos at 621 S. Spring St. are populated primarily by yuppies, as are the Skyline condos at 9th and Hope streets in South Park, and the Vista Montoya condos at 1425 W. 12th St. And the next wave of housing projects being planned for downtown seem to have been designed with the yuppies in mind--with one- and two-bedroom apartments with moderate rents that would fit nicely into a young urban professional's budget.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 19, 1986 Home Edition Real Estate Part 7 Page 13 Column 1 Real Estate Desk 5 inches; 158 words Type of Material: Correction
A Jan. 5 article about downtown living stated incorrectly that 15% of the apartment units were "subsidized" at Promenade Towers, 123 S. Figueroa St. Actually, none are subsidized by government grants. But 15% of the units were made available by the developers to lower- and middle-income renters as part of an arrangement with Los Angeles city authorities "to provide a broader base of rental opportunities through tax-exempt bond financing." Mark Bornstein, vice president and director of marketing for Goldrich & Kest Industries, project developers, said the firm made up the difference in rents between moderate income and market-rate rentals ranging from $525 to $1,875 monthly. Rentals are based on a percentage of tenant incomes in the range of $15,000 to $23,050 annually.
In the same article, references were made concerning sales of condominiums at Premiere Towers, 621 S. Spring St. Thirty-two were sold but The Times was not informed of a cut-off date for sales tied to availablity of bond money financing to aid lower-income buyers. At that point, a syndicate purchased 88 units, of which 75 are available for leasing.

Popularizing Idea

Still, the idea of living downtown is by no means massively popular, and the market for housing has not yet taken hold. But most experts on the downtown market agree that the yuppies are the ones who can popularize the idea of living downtown, simply by becoming the first ones to make the move.

The Skyline, with 126 of its 200 units sold, stands virtually alone in South Park, and the residents there had some anxious moments when the Community Redevelopment Agency began seriously rethinking plans for development of a residential neighborhood in the area. The residents are greatly relieved now that the agency has decided to proceed with at least two more housing projects totaling about 600 units in South Park.

The fate and direction of the rest of the planned South Park community rests on the results of a recently completed Urban Land Institute study of the housing market.

Pioneering Experience

Premiere Towers is the only market-area housing project on Spring Street, and living there may well be more of a pioneering experience than living in the Skyline. To date, 77 of the 120 units at Premiere have been sold.

Meanwhile, Bunker Hill, with the Promenade condos, the Promenade Towers apartments and the Bunker Hill Towers, is the closest downtown comes to a definable neighborhood, aside from the ethnic neighborhoods of Little Tokyo and Chinatown.

John Maguire, director of housing for the CRA, believes that expansion of the downtown housing market depends a great deal on the retired couples, the "empty nesters" (working couples with grown children) and the yuppies already living there. He is counting on their presence to make the area seem safe and attractive for others.

"We have a mix of people who have bought here," said Jan Neiman, real estate broker at Premiere Towers, "but mostly I'd say our customers have been young professionals just starting out. The average age is probably about 30, and they are just getting started up the business ladder."

'Transitional Home'

"Predominately, we are looking at young single people, or two single people who could live together in a roommate situation," said Mark Bornstein, vice president of marketing and sales for Goldrich, Kest & Associates, developers of the Promenade Towers apartments, which recently opened its leasing office.

"These apartments would be a wonderful transitional home for a young single person who works downtown but who hasn't settled down yet. They would also be a good base for a young couple that hasn't started on a family yet."

To date, 150 of the 489 Promenade Tower units are occupied and about half are leased, according to Bornstein.

Yuppies and the downtown housing market are ideally suited for one another, according to Chris Leinberger, president of Robert Charles Lesser & Co., which conducted a survey of the downtown housing market for Goldrich, Kest.

Downtown appeals to young people because "it is a pioneering situation right now," Leinberger said, "and younger people are more willing to be pioneers and put their money into something that will pay off in the long run."

'Suburbs Too Boring'

Yuppies are also drawn to the urban life style, and downtown is "virtually the only urban environment in Southern California that people can live in right now," Leinberger said. "The suburbs are viewed as just too boring for most young people."

Finally, yuppies are professionals and, according to Leinberger, downtown is the center of Southern California's professional work force.

Financially, the yuppies and downtown are well matched also. As Eric Egaas, 26, who lives in Premiere Towers, said, "The price was definitely right." Premiere Towers condos sell for about $100,000 for a one-bedroom unit and $130,000 for two bedrooms.

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