The chairman of Transpacific Development Co. is seldom guided by conventional wisdom.
If he were, Shurl Curci might not be presiding Thursday at the grand opening of Arco Center.
The 33-story office tower at 1055 W. 7th St., TDC's bold leap across the Harbor Freeway at the forefront of downtown's westward expansion to an area known as the West Bank--a mostly dormant, blighted no-man's land west of the freeway.
Arco Center is the first speculative building built on the West Bank without tenant commitments at the outset. It is the largest, with 660,000 square feet, and ties with the Cooper & Lybrand building as the tallest in the area.
"When we began the project, conventional wisdom warned that downtown was overbuilt and developers began pulling back," Curci said. "Since we often do the reverse of what everyone else is doing, we saw this as a window of opportunity opening for us."
'More Modestly Priced
The Torrance-based firm owns the Santa Monica Business Park and is developing South Coast Metro Center in Costa Mesa, Park Del Amo in Torrance and the 125-acre Cerritos Towne Center in a joint venture with the city of Cerritos.
TDC's interest in a downtown Los Angeles location developed in the early 1980s, Curci said.
"It was obvious that real estate was more modestly priced on the West Bank. After Citicorp Plaza, World Chinese Trust, Reliance and other major downtown projects were in place, there was no doubt in our minds about an eventual link to the West Bank, with 7th Street providing the easiest vehicular and pedestrian access."
The firm's decision to go ahead with the $170-million building was not without reservations, Curci said. "It was a gamble. . . . We took risks on location, entitlements and on anchoring a strong tenant," he said.
"Shurl Curci's timing was perfect," said Alan Aufhammer of Coldwell Banker, lead broker in the acquisition of the 1 1/2-acre parcel from Thomas Investments in early 1986. The price on the property was about $15 million, The Times learned from another source.
Higher Building Ratio
"He sensed that the entire West Bank was beginning to explode. He moved fast, and his timing gave him some entitlement advantages that are no longer available," Aufhammer said.
TDC's main advantage was in being allowed to build to a floor-area ratio of 13 to 1 (13 square feet of building space per square foot of land). That ratio for the West Bank area has since been down-zoned to a 6 to 1.
With more than 371,000-square feet of leases signed by major corporations and professional firms, Arco Center is the only new major high-rise office building in downtown Los Angeles that will open between now and mid-1990.
The office tower joins the few scattered corporate buildings already on the West Bank. These include Unocal on Beaudry Avenue, Pacific Telephone at Wilshire and the Harbor Freeway, Coopers & Lybrand at 6th Street and Beaudry (targeted for demolition and reconstruction), First Interstate Bank's Operation Center on 7th Street, the 1100 Wilshire, Wilshire Boulevard/Bixel Street and Wilshire Metropolitan Medical buildings on Wilshire Boulevard.
Major West Bank projects awaiting city approval are the Hillman Properties project that will surround the existing Unocal headquarters, and the Watt & Marselis development south of Arco Center, on a Thomas Cadillac site between 7th and 8th street and bisected by Bixel.
Double Parking Spaces
Arco Center, designed by Gin Wong Associates of Beverly Hills, is a six-sided office tower with a red granite exterior and a virtually column-free structure. Each level provides more than 20,000 square feet, 14 corner offices and state-of-the-art safety and fire prevention.
The project allows twice the amount of parking generally found in other downtown buildings, Curci said, explaining that most buildings offer one stall or less per 1,000 square feet, while Arco provides two stalls per 1,000 square feet.
The new building is named for its anchor tenant, Arco Petroleum Products Co., which leased 265,000 square feet for its corporate headquarters. The firm is the largest division of Atlantic Richfield Co.
Other tenants signed up by leasing agent Cushman & Wakefield include the law firm of Coudert Brothers, which has leased 40,200 square feet of office space for its Los Angeles headquarters, Turner Construction Co., Wells Fargo Realty Finance, Marcus & Millichap, MCI Telecommunications Corp. and Watt & Marselis Development Partners.