A few retailers have continued to operate at street level, including Cole's P.E. Buffet, which has been serving sandwiches and pouring drinks since 1908.
Cole's and other retailers will stay on the ground floor, said project architect Barbara Flammang of Killefer Flammang Architects. The lobby was renovated after World War II and has a distinctive flair even though it's not the original design.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 13, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 6 inches; 243 words Type of Material: Correction
Pacific Electric renovation -- A Nov. 5 Business section story on the renovation of the former Pacific Electric building in Los Angeles stated that the last car left the Main Street terminal in 1950. Service to the building's interior concourse ended that year, but interurban rail cars continued to operate from the rear of the station until 1961.
"We're going to keep it in the 1949 Deco style," Flammang said. "It's very cool the way it is."
Like most developers of historic properties, Moradi is taking advantage of local and federal tax incentive programs that encourage their preservation.
To qualify for state housing funds, he will set aside 20% of his units for tenants whose annual incomes fall below 50% of the county median of $44,100 for a two-person family.
"It's a complicated way to finance a project," said Amy Anderson of the Los Angeles Conservancy, an advocacy group for historic preservation. "But lenders aren't necessarily dropping from the sky" to fund building conversions in old Los Angeles.
Eager developers, however, do seem to be arriving by parachute monthly. Owners of at least 30 historic buildings have announced plans for housing conversions or are in various stages of development.
Among them is the Subway Terminal Building, a 1926 edifice on Hill Street that once served Red Cars heading west.
"Right now there is not the support or infrastructure to allow new tenants to feel completely at home," said Davey, chief executive of Albion Pacific Property Resources, which is developing the Higgins Building. "That's the biggest gamble for a developer. But eventually downtown will be a city within a city, vibrant with new life."