Ordinance Advantage: Converts LA Office High-Rise to Condos

  • Multi-Housing News
  • March 28, 2005
  • Keat Foong, Executive Editor

Los Angeles--Forest City Residential West and TMG are taking advantage of the City of Los Angeles' Adaptive Reuse Ordinance to embark on one of the first skyscraper-to-condominium conversions in the city's history.

The company is converting a 37-story office high-rise into 230 condominiums, which will sell from the mid-$300,000s to about $1.7 million. Construction on the development, named 1100 Wilshire, began this month. Pre-sales are slated to commence later this spring.

Los Angeles' Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, adopted in 1999, is meant to facilitate office-to-condo conversions by giving developers greater flexibility to adopt building solutions that may not have been possible under the pre-existing building and zoning codes.

"The entitlement for 1100 Wilshire falls under this special ordinance that covers special projects that require special solutions. It's more flexible and project friendly and will definitely help us avoid some of the pitfalls of developing in downtown LA," said Kevin Ratner, senior vice president of Forest City Residential West.

Located at 1100 Wilshire Boulevard, the landmark office building has sat empty since it was built in 1986.

According to the project's architect, Daniel Gehman, an associate principal at Thomas P. Cox Architects, "This will be the tallest residential structure in all of L.A.--and air restriction rights will prevent new developments from obstructing the view."

The conversion of 1100 Wilshire from office to residential will not significantly alter the building's design. Even though the glass-curtain, steel-framed tower was designed for office tenants, its ceiling heights, windows and "lots of parking" are well suited for residential use, said Gehman. And the triangular shape of the former office building provides stunning, unique layouts and spectacular views, he added.

But converting an office building into residential use also presents an additional set of challenges, especially since modern office buildings are not designed for natural ventilation. Gehman pointed out that 1100 Wilshire has deep floorplates that can be 50 to 60 feet or more from the exterior windows to the back walls. "That presented a huge challenge," he said.

One of the ways in which this challenge was overcome was the placement of bedrooms on raised platforms behind the kitchen and living areas. The raised bedrooms look over the living areas to access the light and views provided by the glass curtain.

1100 Wilshire will offer more than 40 floorplans. Sizes will range from about 550 square feet up to 12,000 square feet. The unit mix includes studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, two-story lofts and penthouses. Since the tower's residential units don't start until the 17th floor, every condo home is surrounded by panoramic views of downtown LA and the neighboring communities.

"The building renovation will create a more residential environment, with enhancements planned for common areas, such as the building entrance and lobby, as well as more residential-style landscaping," said Gehman.

Community amenities include an outdoor "sky deck" with a large pool and arbor that sits on the 17th floor atop the parking structure. About 10,000 square feet of retail are also part of the community plans. Forest City wants to ensure the retail component is "an amenity to the community" and hopes to include spas, markets, bistros and coffee shops.