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Downtown condo sales revive as Ritz-Carlton hits halfway point

September 07, 2012|By Roger Vincent
  • The top 25 floors of the Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotel complex at L.A. Live house condominiums.
The top 25 floors of the Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotel complex at… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

More than half the units in downtown L.A.’s most prominent residential tower are finally sold as the region’s long-suffering condominium market turns around, industry observers said.

Foreign investors and wealthy Southern California residents in search of a pied-a-terre have helped drive sales over the halfway mark at the Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live, developer AEG said.

The condos were planned during the housing boom of the mid-2000s when AEG decided to crown its $2.5-billion L.A. Live entertainment, restaurant, office and hotel complex with 224 condos that would be serviced by the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Work on L.A. Live began in 2007 with high expectations for sales of the residences on the top 25 floors of the complex’s blade-shaped skyscraper. But by the time they opened in early 2011, the local condo market had stalled and the top of the tower remained mostly empty.

Some high-profile downtown condo developments from the period — including the Roosevelt and the Brockman Building, both conversions of historic office buildings — went through bankruptcy and have been turned into apartments.

Now, "the market is stabilized," said Alan Mark of the Mark Co., a San Francisco marketing firm that tracks California condo sales. "Prices are going up."

The average price of a downtown L.A. condo last quarter was $619 per square foot, Mark said, 18% higher than the same period a year earlier.

Inventory is disappearing because condo construction stopped during the downturn and many urban markets, including Los Angeles, are experiencing a rise in sales as apartment rents climb. A unit in the nearly full Evo condo building near L.A Live recently sold for more than $3 million, Mark said.

Recent buyers at the Ritz-Carlton Residences include investors from China and South Korea who are purchasing units for use by their children attending USC or the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Vice President Kimberly Lucero of AEG said.

About one-third of the owners live there full time while others use their condos when visiting Los Angeles or attending events such as basketball games at Staples Center or concerts at L.A. Live, Lucero said. Three investors have purchased a combined total of 63 units that they intend to rent to tenants.

Units start at $1.3 million and reach $9.3 million for the largest two-story penthouse, Lucero said. She predicted that 75% of the units would be sold by the end of the year.

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