In the last few years, real estate investors have renovated long-neglected pre-World War II office buildings in Los Angeles' historic downtown core into much-needed apartments and condominiums. Now Angelenos have discovered another valuable resource to alleviate our region's severe housing shortage: outdated and increasingly vacant post-World War II office buildings.
Several thousand apartments and condominiums could be created throughout Greater Los Angeles, particularly in the mid-Wilshire corridor between Vermont and Western avenues, along Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, and in downtown Los Angeles. Already, the former Sanwa Bank building on South Flower Street, a 13-story 1949 office building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard, is being transformed into 230 residential units.
What makes post-1945 office buildings good candidates for housing conversions? First, many buildings have reached the end of their practical economic lives for office users. The 30- to 40-year-old building systems (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, telecommunications) are obsolete or badly in need of repair. The buildings' basic structural frames, however, are usually still sound and ready to support conversions.
Second, these office buildings are often convenient to transit, jobs, shopping and cultural and entertainment venues, which makes them attractive to residential tenants and buyers. The mid-Wilshire corridor, for example, has three Red Line subway stations, and demand for housing in the area is strong.