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New Projects Break Ground in Old Area

Six buildings are under construction on and near Alameda in a historic neighborhood of downtown L.A.

June 08, 2004|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles is heading back to where it began.

Six buildings under construction on and near Alameda Street will, over the next two years, expand the downtown renaissance to the old neighborhood of El Pueblo, where L.A. was founded in 1781 as El Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles, or the Town of the Queen of the Angels.

The two office projects, pair of U.S. Postal Service facilities and 278-unit apartment complex -- together worth $121.7 million -- are being built near the landmarks of Union Station and Terminal Annex, historic buildings by local standards at more than 60 years old.

"This is part of the recentralization of Los Angeles," said Dan Rosenfeld of Urban Partners, which is developing a 6.5-acre site at Alameda and North Main streets for the California Endowment. "It's a real paradigm shift."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 12, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Downtown development -- An article in Tuesday's Business section on commercial construction near the El Pueblo area of downtown Los Angeles gave the name of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the firm that designed an office building for the California Endowment, as Rios Clemente Hale Studios.

The endowment, a nonprofit health foundation, plans to move its headquarters from Woodland Hills to the $62-million building in 2006. Its new home will be northwest of Terminal Annex, which was built in 1938 and was the city's primary post office until 1989; it is now a privately owned telecommunications and office building.

Robert K. Ross, California Endowment's president, said the nonprofit was eager to have an office close to public transportation.

"We wanted the foundation to be more accessible to our grantees and community partners across the state," Ross said.

And the fact that the site was near Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Olvera Street -- home to the 1818 Avila Adobe, thought to be L.A.'s oldest surviving residence -- also made it appealing, he said. "It really seemed to speak to our values."

The endowment's four-story, 118,000-square-foot building, designed by Rios Clemente Hale Studios, will include a courtyard meant to reflect California mission architecture. It will also house a conference center and training rooms that other nonprofit community groups will be able to use.

Nearby, in a former Union Station parking lot, crews are at work on the 275,000-square-foot apartment complex, a $45-million development by the Newport Beach office of Lincoln Property Co.

Scheduled to be ready for renters next year, the two five-story buildings at Alameda and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue will be connected by a foot-bridge and will boast parking spaces for 400 cars and a rooftop swimming pool, said Robert Olson, president of R.D. Olson Construction of Irvine, which is building the complex.

The design by GMP Architects of Santa Monica is intended to be consistent with the Art Deco and Spanish Colonial Revival influences of 65-year-old Union Station.

Lincoln Property bought the land for the complex from Catellus Development Corp., which owns Union Station and nearby properties. And Catellus hopes to sell more land to developers, said Tim Carey, executive vice president of urban development for the San Francisco real estate investment trust, which was spun off from Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp. in 1990.

The city's Alameda District Specific Plan allows for the development of 7 million square feet of residential or commercial buildings on Catellus property around Union Station, Carey noted. "We've had a lot of interest from residential developers," he said, "but nothing else is imminent."

Also under construction in the area is a three-story office building on a former parking lot south of Union Station's main entrance on Alameda. The $7- million, 50,000-square-foot structure is being developed by Catellus for First Five L.A., a nonprofit foundation established in 1998 to help oversee the spending of tobacco taxes collected under Proposition 10, also known as the California Children and Families First Act.

Right now, First Five is renting space for its 60 employees in the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters on Beaudry Avenue, space the district needs, foundation spokesman Garrison Frost said. He said the foundation would rent the Catellus building after its completion in March.

The Union Station location will make it easier to conduct the numerous public meetings First Five L.A. must hold, Frost said. The building will also house a day-care center for 65 children.

Rounding out the development boomlet in the area will be two new facilities for the U.S. Postal Service. The agency is building a 15,000-square-foot, three-story building near Terminal Annex that will house a post office on the ground floor when completed in July, spokesman Larry Dozier said. A separate two-story, 140,000-square-foot building will serve as a base for letter carriers and should be finished in August. The two buildings will cost $7.7 million, Dozier said.

Before this construction spurt, the last major commercial project near Union Station was the Metropolitan Water District building, completed in 1999.

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