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Downtown historic high-rise eyed by hotel developers

January 13, 2013|By Roger Vincent
  • The Commercial Exchange Building in downtown Los Angeles has one of the city's tallest neon signs.
The Commercial Exchange Building in downtown Los Angeles has one of the… (CBRE Group Inc. )

A long-vacant 1920s office building in a recovering neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles has hit the market for almost $14 million as the city’s historic core attracts new residents and investors.

The 13-story Commercial Exchange Building — which was once cut in half vertically and shrunk in size — has been mostly empty for at least two decades, real estate broker Phillip Sample of CBRE Group Inc. said. In recent weeks, however, more than 100 potential buyers have toured the property at 416 W. 8th St.

“We’ve got a lot of boutique hotels looking at this,” he said. Other possible buyers are considering turning it into apartments, creative offices or student housing.

The blocks east of Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center have seen a flurry of real estate activity recently. More than 1,000 new apartment units are set for construction there over the next 30 months and one of the largest planned retail and housing projects is across the street from the Commercial Exchange Building.

The building was completed in 1924 after that southern section of downtown Los Angeles was rezoned from an upscale residential neighborhood to commercial use, local historian Greg Fischer said.

“After World War I, the city fathers decided we needed a larger downtown,” he said.

City officials decided to widen Olive Street in the mid 1930s and the owners of the Commercial Exchange Building at Eighth and Olive were obligated to remove a nearly 10-foot slice from the middle of the building. Engineers reunited the two pieces by sliding the western portion east, thereby opening up more space on Olive Street. The process cost $60,000, The Times reported in 1935.

Owl Drug Co. was once headquartered in the building, Sample said. Another occupant was Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who operated his own publishing company.

That area of downtown fell out of favor in the decades after World War II as department stores followed their customers to the suburbs and white-collar businesses moved to newer offices closer to the 110 Freeway.

Selling the Commercial Exchange Building is a partnership called Spring Seventh Loft, Sample said. The sellers expect to arrange a deal by next month.

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