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Historic United Artists building sells for $11 million

Also: A luxury housing complex near USC is bought, and a study of CBRE Group's portfolio finds that environmentally sustainable office buildings generate stronger investment returns.

October 17, 2011|By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times
  • The historic United Artists building at 927 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.
The historic United Artists building at 927 S. Broadway in downtown Los… (Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles…)

A storied Los Angeles theater and office complex built by silent film stars that was later owned by one of the city's most popular televangelists has been purchased by East Coast investors.

The historic United Artists building at Broadway and 9th Street in downtown Los Angeles was sold by Wescott Christian Center Inc. to Greenfield Partners for $11 million.

Greenfield, a prominent hotel investor, hasn't revealed its plans for the property that once sported neon signs proclaiming "Jesus saves." Representatives of the South Norwalk, Conn., company did not respond to requests for comment.

Silent film stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin were among the founders of United Artists, a movie production company. Pickford, known as America's sweetheart, posed at the controls of a steam shovel in early 1927 to call attention to the groundbreaking for the United Artists building, a 13-story movie palace and office complex at 927 S. Broadway.

Construction was rushed, with three shifts of workers building around the clock to finish the Spanish Gothic-style building in time for the premiere of Pickford's film "My Best Girl" just after Christmas. Searchlights were expected to attract a crowd of 100,000 people, who would hear the ceremony through loudspeakers set up on surrounding blocks as far away as 7th Street, The Times reported. The National Guard was called out in advance to maintain order.

The structure was bought in 1986 by Glendale-based Westcott Christian Center. One of its founders was Gene Scott, a flamboyant preacher whose broadcasts were heard nationally. He died in 2005.

Downtown Los Angeles has enjoyed a renaissance in the last decade, and some improvements such as condominiums, bars and restaurants have come to the blocks around Broadway and Olympic Boulevard near the United Artists building.

"That area is already starting to form a bona fide neighborhood," said downtown advocate and blogger Brigham Yen. "Broadway is the most architecturally significant street in downtown L.A., if not all of Los Angeles County."

Luxury student complex is sold

A new luxury student housing complex outside USC called West 27th Place was purchased by New York investment manager Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors.

The seven-story, 161-unit complex at Figueroa and 27th streets is decidedly up-market, with such amenities as a 24-hour fitness center, billiards, a hot tub, barbecues and a resort-style pool with a sun deck and cabanas. Ground-floor businesses will include restaurants.

Selling the complex, which opened this fall, was a joint venture of Los Angeles developers CityView and Symphony Development, real estate brokerage Institutional Property Advisors said. The price was not disclosed, but downtown property experts predicted it would sell for about $60 million.

Green buildings bring more green

Office buildings that are environmentally sustainable generate stronger investment returns than traditional properties, according to a study of the national office portfolio managed by CBRE Group Inc.

The study found that there is a higher value and increased demand for green buildings, especially those that have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, the report said. Such energy-efficient buildings can command higher occupancy and rental rates compared with the general market.

Making a new building meet green standards typically adds about 5% to construction costs, and conversion of existing buildings can cost several thousand dollars. Tenants' energy costs, however, are reduced an average of 21% in green offices, the report said.

Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., the world's largest commercial real estate brokerage, changed its name to CBRE Group Inc. this month.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

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