"The idea, I think, is that you get a broad spectrum of units," said Richard W. Thompson, director of urban planning and design for the architectural firm AC Martin and himself a downtown resident.
But, he added, "You have to recognize that these penthouses are really the primo units. If anything is going to remain and hold its value, it's that one with the view and the terrace."
Penthouse buyers, said Rhonda Slavik, director of marketing for Evo, a new building in South Park, tend to arrive with their financing already lined up.
At Evo, developers say that despite the economic downturn, six of the building's eight sleek penthouses, featuring marble-slab bathroom countertops, wine coolers and Kohler bath fixtures, have already sold -- for more than $2 million apiece.
Marsico said some buyers are foreigners looking for an American investment and taking advantage of favorable exchange rates. "We're seeing a lot of Chinese and Koreans," he said.
Tripp DuBois, vice president of sales for the KOR Group, which developed the Eastern Columbia building, said his organization has been targeting buyers in Paris, London and other European cities. They are using digital marketing -- e-mail blasts, advertising on websites and upping the building's placement on Google searches, for instance -- to advertise the four penthouses that are still for sale in the building.
Interest in the penthouses for lease at 717 Olympic has come from all types, said Joanna Wiese of the Hanover Group, the building's owner. She has shown units to executives who work downtown, Westsiders interested in a pied-a-terre, and self-employed workers thinking about a move to the city center.
Some guard their privacy.
One penthouse buyer in the Evo building, who asked that his name not be used over concerns of people knowing where he lived, said he is moving from a high-rise on the Wilshire corridor in part because the 3,600-square-foot penthouse came with a 2,500-square-foot outdoor terrace. "We know enough about the high-rises in Los Angeles to know that's very rare," the buyer said.
He said that proximity to attractions such as Staples Center and L.A. Live factored in to his decision -- as did cost. "That same unit on the Westside would probably go for twice as much as it did downtown," he said.