The Art Deco-inspired Century City condominium tower expected to be the home of wealthy widow Candy Spelling and many other moneyed residents has been completed after nearly six years of planning, demolition and construction.
With high-rise living still rarer in Los Angeles than in other international cities, the dramatic 41-story Century on Avenue of the Stars is targeted at a sliver of home buyers willing to spend as much for a condo as they would for a sumptuous home in an exclusive neighborhood such as Beverly Hills or Malibu.
The Century is further challenged by hitting the market after one of the most painful housing slumps in history, which depressed prices at all levels including the top end. In recognition that times have changed, developer Related Cos. reduced prices as much as 25% on the building's 140 units.
A handful of other deluxe condominium projects have opened in recent months, chasing the same plump wallets.
"These kind of service-rich condos and townhouses have been around in New York and Chicago, but they're relatively new in L.A.," said real estate consultant Larry Kosmont, president of Kosmont Cos. "It's really hotel-quality five-star living."
The developer stopped marketing the Century as the recession took hold, said Susan de Franca, president of sales for New York-based Related. In 2008, before the worst of the housing downturn, the company sold an upper unit for $15 million and the top two floors to Spelling for $47 million.
The prices, exceeding $2,700 per square foot, were a record high for Los Angeles-area condos. Related has since lowered prices for buyers, including Spelling, who committed to the building before the market turned, de Franca said. The reduced figures have not been disclosed.
About 25% of the building's residential space has been sold or is in escrow, De Franca said, about half of what the company had originally expected to be sold by now.
"We went quiet on marketing" during the housing crash, she said. "There was no point in chasing a downturn market where demand was so slow."
Related executives hope the sales process will be easier now that potential buyers can inspect actual units instead of relying on models and drawings. The tower, which cost $300 million to build, is impressive, said Betty Graham, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of Greater Los Angeles.
"I think it's just what the market has been waiting for," Graham said, "some generous-sized condos that are a true option to single-family residences for people who are fatigued with upkeep."
Graham compared it to deluxe Manhattan apartment buildings. More typical L.A. condos, she said, are two-bedroom, two-bath units on Wilshire Boulevard; units in the Century come with four bedrooms, five baths and a powder room. The residences have private elevator vestibules, fireplaces and balconies large enough to entertain on.
Spelling's even larger aerie is expected to include a conservatory with a rose garden and a swimming pool. The widow of television producer Aaron Spelling has picked out chandeliers, marble tiles for the pool and other custom fixtures in anticipation of moving within a few months.
New York architect Robert A.M. Stern said he tried to capture the flavor of L.A.'s best tall buildings from the late 1920s and 1930s with their modern classic style when he designed the Century. "They are light in color, which works so well on the skyline" in L.A.'s sunlight, he said.
Stern, who is also dean of Yale School of Architecture, said he attempted to create allure.
"As you approach, it has a certain glamour, like an exclusive hotel," Stern said. He also paid attention to what he called "L.A. tropes" such as a sunken garden, outdoor entertaining areas and a pool with cabanas.
Expensive stone such as marble, granite and limestone is widespread — more than 1,300 tons were laid, enough to almost cover two football fields. Pieces in the patterned marble bathroom floors were laid out and numbered in Italy and reassembled in L.A.
Amenities include a plush screening room, 24-hour concierge, wine storage, banquet rooms, fitness center, library and space that can be purchased for use as a separate office or a residence for the help.
Competition for buyers who can afford such lavishness is intense, real estate consultant Kosmont said. The Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles, the W Hollywood Residences, the Montage Residences in Beverly Hills and the Carlyle and the Beverly West, both on Wilshire Boulevard, are new complexes aimed at residents in the top financial strata.
Potential buyers of such units are wealthy international travelers, empty nesters and high rollers in sports or entertainment who like the pampered lifestyle, Kosmont said. Because the concept is still young in Southern California, the long-term value of ultra-deluxe condos is hard to assess.