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Sam Hall Kaplan

Urban Developers Study the Ins and Outs

October 10, 1987|Sam Hall Kaplan

Meeting in Los Angeles this week has been the Urban Land Institute, a national clearinghouse of sorts for the development community.

In between the discussions, debates, dinners and deal-making that mark institute meetings, the few thousand attending--private developers, financiers, leasing agents and public officials--have been touring the downtown area.

Because institute members tend to be the people who decide what form and style our cities take--by either hiring the architects, telling them what to design or approving or disapproving their plans--I thought it might be interesting to check out what they were looking at and why.

Various tours of downtown were put together for institute members by a local host committee, headed by John Cushman, a member of the city's development community. Helping was Robert Ortiz, his executive vice president and director of brokerage services.

"People in the development community look at more than just the appearance of a building, though that is very important," Ortiz explained. "They also want to know about its location, how efficient the floor sizes are, what sort of views it offers, whether it was built for an institution or for the speculative market, who put the deal together and who owns it."

Ortiz explained further that so-called institutional buildings tend to be designed from the inside out, with the prime concern that they serve the users efficiently and, secondarily, that they make a statement.

The stark, dark, twin 52-story towers of Arco Plaza, on the west side of Flower Street between 5th and 6th streets, is a prime example of such an institutional building. Designed by A. C. Martin and Associates and completed in 1971, the towers contain 2.6 million square feet of rentable space, most of it on 24,000-square-foot floors, with optimum bay depths and views.

"Great location, efficient design and quality construction," Ortiz commented. He gave the project three stars, the tour's highest, and noted that it was sold last year to Shuwa Investments for $620 million.

Given three stars also and cited as an excellent example of a speculative office tower was the light-gray granite, black-glass banded 1000 Wilshire Building, on Wilshire Boulevard just east of the Harbor Freeway. It was designed by the New York-based firm of Kohn Pederson Fox, assisted by Langdon Wilson Mumper Architect.

Ortiz noted that speculative buildings generally were designed from the outside in.

"Of course you want it to be efficient, like an institutional building, but you also want it to attract tenants, and that means quality design and quality construction, nice lobbies and good location, location, location."

Packaged by the Reliance Development Group, Ortiz said the 21-story, 450,000-square-foot building was 85% leased when it opened last June. No doubt a consideration in its recent sale to the Sumitomo Trust.

Other completed buildings receiving three stars on the tour were 400 S. Hope St., designed by Welton Becket & Associates; the Security Pacific National Bank, at 333 S. Hope St., by Albert C. Martin & Associates; and the angled towers of Crocker Center, designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill. All were cited by Ortiz for their quality architecture and construction and their resulting value.

Receiving two stars was the bulky building at 612 S. Flower St., designed by Welton Becket & Associates with Walter Wurdeman, and built in 1949. It is scheduled to be renovated next year and was included on the tour as an illustration of the potential of an older building. "It's in a good location," Ortiz said. "All it really needs is a new personality."

Ortiz added that "such a building can be renovated at a fraction of the cost and time it would take to have it demolished and a new building designed and built." That difference can make it very competitive in the speculative office market.

Also on the tour were the California and Jonathan clubs, at 238 S. Flower St. and 545 S. Figueroa St., and the Downtown YMCA, at Hope and 4th streets. They were included, not for their architecture, but for their functions.

"They are considered important amenities; the clubs for executives, to have breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings, and the 'Y' for the clerical and support staffs to enjoy," Ortiz said. He added that it was no coincidence that they were surrounded by major institutional buildings.

Also pointed out on the tour were various projects in construction and so-called assembled sites primed for development.

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