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Equity Office Daily Brief: November 16, 2015

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Daily Brief

November 16, 2015

  EquilityOffice

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Handful of companies own big portfolios of Burbank property

Los Angeles Times

 

During Burbank’s Veterans Day ceremony this week, the flyover by the Condor Squadron was sponsored by the Cusumano Real Estate Group. When the city held its tech summit last week, the event was hosted in the Tower, one of many commercial...

 


Fast-Growing Blaze Pizza Adds More

Los Angeles Business Journal

 

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza is bringing more flaming ovens to Canada. The Pasadena pizza chain plans to open two eateries in Calgary in January, the company said this week. The openings follow last month’s launch of a site in Toronto, Blaze’s first...

 


Beverly Hills Office Market Remains on High End

Los Angeles Business Journal

 

The Beverly Hills office market doesn’t appear to be weakening any time soon, and the proof is in the comps. Beverly Hills investment manager Kennedy Wilson Properties paid $38 million late last month for a fully leased 42,400-square-foot Class B office building...

 


Office Developer Looks to Get Creative Downtown

Los Angeles Business Journal

 

Victor Coleman grew up a huge Canucks fan in Vancouver, B.C. Today, the 54-year-old Pacific Palisades resident is trying to score a National Hockey League team for Seattle while running West L.A. real estate investment trust Hudson Pacific Properties. Coleman founded...

 



BLOG & ONLINE NEWS

 

Bisnow Exclusive: Why This Asian Developer is Betting Billions on LA's Hotel Scene

Bisnow

 

Asian investment dollars continue to flood the LA market, and while the first wave of developments were in the multifamily sector, hotels are heating up. Bisnow chatted with Shenzhen Hazens Group executive project director Sonnet Hui, for some exclusive details about...

 


First Look at Latest Hollywood Boulevard Hotel

Urbanize Los Angeles

 

An environmental report published by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning (LADCP) have provided a first glimpse of a new hotel planned along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The project, which is being developed by CIM Group, is slated to replace...

 


Bisnow Exclusive: Navy SEAL Brings Elite Strategy to Commercial Real Estate

Bisnow

 

Just a few years removed from his last tour of duty in Afghanistan, Navy SEAL William "Billy" Wagasy has landed a gig as a VP at the Downtown LA office of Commonwealth Land Title. Bisnow chatted with the vet to hear...

 


More Interest in Build to Suits

GlobeSt.com

 

There is more of an interest in build to suits. So said speakers on the Town Hall Power panel at RealShare Net Lease West when talking about development. Held at the California Club here Thursday, panelists said that the question, though, is how you...

 


What's Spurring Office Users to Move?

GlobeSt.com

 

It’s a definite indicator of a healthy economy when office tenants are opting to move, not necessarily to expand but to get their companies into a fresh, more-modern environment, Bixby Land Co.’s president and CEO Bill Halford tells GlobeSt.com. As we recently reported, the firm recently completed development onAERO,...

 


The Park's New Look With Creative Offices

California Apparel News

 

Once a traditional showroom space, The Park in the Los Angeles Fashion District’s Lady Liberty building has shifted gears into something new. The sprawling 10,000-square-foot space took a bow as an offices for creatives, entrepreneurs, freelancers and designers. The new lingo for...

 

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Handful of companies own big portfolios of Burbank property

Los Angeles Times

 

During Burbank’s Veterans Day ceremony this week, the flyover by the Condor Squadron was sponsored by the Cusumano Real Estate Group. When the city held its tech summit last week, the event was hosted in the Tower, one of many commercial properties owned by Worthe Real Estate Group.

The two companies, like other major businesses in Burbank, including Walt Disney Co.and Warner Bros., are frequent sponsors of community events and donors to local causes. But, as owners of two of the largest portfolios of real property in Burbank, they also bear the brunt of public criticism that they receive favor from the city or wield too much influence.

“What a loaded question that is,” said Gary Olson, president and chief executive of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, when asked if the developers and land owners control the city.

“Whether it’s the major studios ... or the developers ... they don’t want to run Burbank,” Olson said, calling the idea an “old bromide” that people have been declaiming for years.

Olson said the last thing the developers want to do is “run roughshod” over the city government, but instead seek to make the most of business opportunities.

Among those who own significant properties in Burbank, according to analysis of data from the Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor obtained by the Los Angeles Times, are Warner Bros., Walt Disney Co. and the Roman Catholic church — both through the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Providence Health Systems.

At the top of the list of commercial and multifamily landlords are the Worthe and Cusumano real estate groups.

Founded by M. David Paul in 1967, and part of a trio of related companies, Worthe boasts nearly 70% of the class A office space in the city and has a portfolio of properties that includes the Pointe, the Pinnacle and the Burbank Studios.

The company has more than 4 million square feet of rentable square footage in Burbank with another 2.1 million planned or entitled, according to its website.

Cusumano Real Estate Group, founded by Chuck and Roger Cusumano in 1959, has grown to become one of the largest real estate owners in Burbank, with more than 100 properties in the city, including more than 1,500 housing units, according to assessor data.

Chuck’s sons Michael and Charles Cusumano are now co-owners of the business, which has investments from San Diego County to Kern County.

“We started developing in Burbank because this is where we live,” said Michael Cusumano. “It was natural.”

He said the real estate firm owns the largest share of multifamily property in Burbank, but has a diversified portfolio that includes ownership stakes in commercial and industrial properties as well. For example, the company owns the former Elephant Bar at 110 N. First St., a property Michael Cusumano said he’s excited to have attracted Wood Ranch into.

One of the highlights of its 56-year history, he said, was the development of the company’s headquarters, located at 101 S. First St., along with what is now BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, then a Bobby McGee’s. The city’s downtown was not as vibrant as it is today when the building was developed in the mid-1980s.

“At the time, it was a fairly untested market that required a lot of faith in the city of Burbank as a destination,” Michael Cusumano said. “It was a big investment for us.”

Another of the family’s downtown investments, however, has been a source of “lingering backlash” — the Civic Plaza at 250 E. Olive Ave., across from City Hall and formerly the city of Burbank Police station. After several false-starts, the Redevelopment Agency sold the property to the Cusumanos for $100 in March 2003.

The property had sat vacant for several years and the city had made several attempts to find a developer for the 3.4-acre project — bordered by Olive Avenue, San Fernando Boulevard and Angeleno Avenue — since May 1997, including attempts to build a luxury apartment, retail and office space project on the site, according to news reports from that time.

Part of the reason for the deal was to make what officials said was a risky investment attractive to the developer. The city had tried and failed twice to attract other projects, said David Laurell, a council member at the time who now writes a column for the Burbank Leader. The other firms couldn’t make their plans “pencil out” financially, he said.

“It was a significantly better deal for the city than was on the table ... at the time,” Michael Cusumano said, adding that in retrospect the company could have done a better job of explaining to the public that the agreement offered a better economic value to the city than other proposals.

Work on the roughly $18-million, 80,000-square-foot building was completed in 2005. Last year, it was sold to a Chinese investment group for $22 million.

In the “grand scheme of things,” Laurell said, the development the Cusumano group built was better for the city than “an empty barren lot.”

A few opponents of a more recent Cusumano project invoked the $100 land deal in criticizing what they said was more special treatment, when the City Council last year approved the “Talaria at Burbank” project, a proposed 241-unit luxury apartment complex on top of a 43,000-square-foot Whole Foods in the city’s Media District.

A four-member majority agreed to sell several remnant parcels of city-owned land at the site for $1.2 million. An appraiser had valued the parcels at between just under $1 million and $3.7 million.

Then-Mayor David Gordon, now a councilman, as well as some members of the public present at that meeting last October, called the sale of the patches of land, which were sections of streets and alleys on the roughly 4 acres where the company already owned all of the other land, a “giveaway.”

In a letter to the editor, Burbank resident Molly Shore claimed that the council had given away the land and “chosen to ignore” problems with the proposed development, such as a density “bonus” that conditionally allows for 18 more apartments than would be authorized without council approval, because the Cusumano company was a “favored developer.”

It was tricky property to appraise, said City Manager Mark Scott this week, because the parcels were of such odd shapes and sizes that nothing could be done with them on their own and there was really only one potential buyer on the market — the Cusumano group — because they already owned the surrounding properties necessary to package together for a development.

Michael Cusumano said that the $1.2-million price was above fair market value and doesn’t include the cost his company will bear in relocating utilities on those parcels, which is in the millions, he said.

Critics have said the city more or less had Cusumano over a barrel and could have gotten an additional $2.5 million, which could have benefited the city. But Michael Cusumano said if the deal were structured another way, where his firm paid more for the land, it would have looked better for him, but the city would have spent much of the proceeds on relocating the utilities.

He also noted that the city was going to give the property to the prior developer, Rick Platt, whose $200-million project at the site was killed in 2009 after a decadelong battle over the plans.

“Why is it Platt got them for free?” Michael Cusumano said. “We had to pay $1.2 million.”

Scott said that the fact that the city owned the remnants was an “accident of history,” and was not even discovered until Cusumano was deep into the planning process.

In the end, Michael Cusumano said, he’s satisfied with the price and he’s confident the city benefited from it. He said he believes the community will also benefit from the effect that Whole Foods will have on property values. Whole Foods executives who were recently in Los Angeles for the opening of a store there were also excited about the Burbank project, he said.

The Worthe group isn’t without controversy, either. In the summer of 2001, the city spent $3.4 million on a 1.5-acre site bordered by Ontario Street, Thornton Avenue and Fairview Street, with plans to turn around and sell it to M. David Paul and Associates for what the Burbank Leader in an editorial at the time called a “sweetheart deal” — a whopping $1.

The proposal called for construction of 20 “small-lot” homes and a children's day-care facility, with half of the homes set as affordable housing that would be reserved for middle-income families at a price of $190,000. The other 10 homes were to be sold at fair market value, with any profits above $240,000 to be split by the developer and the city.

The editorial contrasted “that exclusive club out there in which members are big-time developers through whose hands pass millions” and who get such favors with the plight of the wage slave who is never offered a home for a buck. The homes were built in 2003 and are currently assessed at a collective $7.6 million in taxable value, according to the Assessor’s data.

Jeff Worthe of Worthe Real Estate Group could not be reached for comment.

Bud Ovrom, who was Burbank’s city manager for 18 years before he left in 2003, said that’s the way the anti-blight Redevelopment Agency worked, before it was dismantled by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011. It packaged properties, cleared them of blight, then sold them to developers based on the value the development would bring in, rather than the value of the land.

The discounts were an “inducement to build there rather than someplace else,” Ovrom said, and Burbank managed to win several developments that were a boon to the city using such methods. He said much of the retail and other amenities, such as the AMC Burbank 16, wouldn’t be around if not for redevelopment.

So, do developers in Burbank enjoy an unfair advantage?

“I know they don’t with me,” said Councilman Will Rogers this week.

But, Rogers said he was bothered by the fact that the Cusumano family's good works and long standing in the community were discussed during City Council discussions of the Talaria project, which was before he was elected to council. Those issues shouldn’t have a role in the city’s decisions over land use, he said, and they shouldn’t even be mentioned.

The Cusumano family members “have been very supportive” of the community, Councilman Jess Talamantes said. “They’ve stayed in the community, they’re involved in the community.”

However, Talamantes said that doesn’t curry extra favor with him.

“My doors are open to everybody,” Talamantes said. “I don’t judge by influence, by dollar signs.”

Scott said he has heard from members of the public claiming that developers get sweetheart deals.

“I’d like somebody to show me what they (the deals) were,” Scott said.

But that would be difficult, he said, because there’s such little development in Burbank, particularly in housing. He and other officials have said that Burbank is in dire need of more housing. When developers build in North Hollywood and Glendale, “we get the traffic” as people drive into Burbank for work, Scott said.

“I’m just so happy somebody is building housing in Burbank,” Scott said of the Talaria project. “We’re deficient in every category .”

Ovrom, who still lives in Burbank, said large developers and property owners are “major players” in the city, but he said that’s not unique to the Media City.

“As a major property owner, you have a seat at the table,” Ovrom said. “You have a voice to be heard.”

The Worthe and Cusumano groups, as well as the studios, are all “good corporate residents,” he said, and he is less worried about their influence than he is about the slowing of development in the city, which began around the time NBC left for Universal City, he said.

“I don’t worry about ... influence,” Ovrom said. “But, I do worry that Burbank doesn’t have the economic momentum that it had before.”

-Chad Garland, chad.garland@latimes.com

Fast-Growing Blaze Pizza Adds More

Los Angeles Business Journal

 

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza is bringing more flaming ovens to Canada. The Pasadena pizza chain plans to open two eateries in Calgary in January, the company said this week. The openings follow last month’s launch of a site in Toronto, Blaze’s first outside the United States.

The additions will give Blaze an empire of 95 stores, including nearly a dozen in Los Angeles. The chain’s explosive growth since opening its first spot in 2012 – with revenues soaring by 4,200 percent – put it atop the Business Journal’s list of 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies, which came out earlier this month.

The Calgary sites, located about 12 miles apart, will aim to send lots of pizzas – made with Canadian flour, of course – down its open-kitchen assembly lines. One 2,500-square-foot location will seat 80 people; the other will seat 90 people and is planned for 3,000 square feet.

More stores are in the pipeline, including some high-profile sites such as the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Fla.

Co-founder Rick Wetzel – who also created Wetzel’s Pretzels – recently told the Business Journal that the company has aimed for quick growth to get ahead of competitors in the fast-casual pizza market.

“It was going to have to shift from getting it figured out, to going very fast,” he said.

The company generated more than $32 million in revenue last year.

-Daina Beth Soloman

Beverly Hills Office Market Remains on High End

Los Angeles Business Journal

 

The Beverly Hills office market doesn’t appear to be weakening any time soon, and the proof is in the comps.

Beverly Hills investment manager Kennedy Wilson Properties paid $38 million late last month for a fully leased 42,400-square-foot Class B office building at 9350 Civic Center Drive. The real estate firm handed the seller, a group of trusts led by Kimberly Ann Wood Trust, almost $900 a square foot for the property.

The per-square-foot price topped one of the most recent comparable transactions in the tight submarket, Hakim Holdings’ purchase of 9350 Wilshire Blvd. for $800 a square foot. It did not, however, top Cain Hoy’s purchase of 100 N. Crescent Drive for almost $1,100 a square foot last quarter.

Built in 1947, the brick warehouse was updated to attract creative tenants in 2001 by Santa Barbara architecture firm Barton Myers Associates, which added a steel structural frame, a second floor and a rooftop parking deck.

It is currently home to concert giant Live Nation Entertainment. In 2013, the firm signed a 10-year lease to expand its headquarters into 33,100 square feet at the building, as the company had overgrown the space it occupies at the adjacent 9348 Civic Center building. Nashville, Tenn., guitar manufacturer Gibson Guitar Corp. uses the remaining 9,300 square feet for an instrument showroom.

Martin McDermott and Neil Resnick of Avison Young’s Westwood office represented the seller. Kennedy acquired the property through a bidding process that required no broker.

The buyer, seller and brokers did not respond to requests for comment.

At 6 percent, Beverly Hills had the lowest vacancy rate on the Westside in the third quarter, with asking rents at more than $5 a square foot. Average vacancy sat at 14.5 percent on the Westside as a whole, with asking rates at $4.39 a square foot.

Malibu Gold

Kym Gold, co-founder of Manhattan Beach high-end denim company True Religion Apparel Inc., sold her Malibu estate last week for $18.5 million to an undisclosed couple.

The 6,600-square-foot property rang in at almost $2,800 a square foot. The home, at 24910 Pacific Coast Highway, boasts a master suite that opens to a pool deck and ocean views, four other large bedrooms and a guest suite on 1.5 acres of land on a bluff.

It far surpassed the $890-a-square-foot median sale price in the 90265 ZIP code over the past 90 days, according to Seattle listings website Redfin. But it came in significantly below the asking price of $26.5 million. T.J. Paradise of Sotheby’s International Realty’s Malibu office, who represented Gold along with Amy Alcini, said that was to be expected.

“We wanted to be aggressive when we listed it,” he said. “We were testing the market. It’s really hard when pricing these one-of-a-kind estates and the seller wasn’t in any rush.”

The property, Paradise said, sits on the same strip where singer Cher has a house. The site’s grounds include an organic garden, a paddle tennis court, a putting green and a meditation garden. It has its own steps down to Malibu Road Beach.

Gold bought the property with her True Religion co-founder and then-husband, Jeff Lubell, for $8 million in 2005.

Gold left True Religion in 2007 to become a consultant. She declined to comment on the sale.

Deal Roundup

Beverly Hills’ NSB Associates paid roughly $14 million, or $300 a square foot, to Toronto space hardware designer Com Dev International for a vacant 47,000-square-foot Class B industrial manufacturing building on 2.3 acres of land in El Segundo. That adds to the more than 300,000 square feet it acquired nearby in the last five years. Com Dev occupied the building at 2333 Utah Ave. until April, when it closed down its L.A. operation after laying off 65 workers due to a lack of government contracts, said Jeff Codispodi, director of investor relations for the company. NSB will lease the building on a short-term basis, leaving other options open for the longer term. Andrew Riley of CBRE Group Inc. represented Com Dev. Kevin Shannon, Michael Moore and Bill Bloodgood of CBRE represented NSB.

-Staff reporter Hannah Miet can be reached at hmiet@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 228.

Office Developer Looks to Get Creative Downtown

Los Angeles Business Journal

 

Victor Coleman grew up a huge Canucks fan in Vancouver, B.C. Today, the 54-year-old Pacific Palisades resident is trying to score a National Hockey League team for Seattle while running West L.A. real estate investment trust Hudson Pacific Properties. Coleman founded Hudson in 2006, a year after he and Richard Ziman sold Arden Realty Inc. to GE Real Estate for $3.2 billion. While others were pinching pennies during the downturn, he led Hudson on a spending spree in Hollywood, acquiring roughly 30 acres of studio space – 200,000 square feet of which is now leased by Netflix Inc. Now, Coleman has his sights set on downtown L.A.’s Arts District, where he bought four properties over the last year, including the old Coca-Cola factory. The Business Journal sat with Coleman at his office at Hudson to discuss his strategy for the Arts District, among other matters.

Tell me about your efforts to bring pro hockey to Seattle. Should we expect that you’ll be the next L.A. owner of a sports team?

I don’t know about that. I mean, listen, it’s a lot of work. We’d love to see it happen, but it’s going to take some time.

But you’re still actively pursuing it?

Yeah, we’re pursuing it.

What got you interested in the Arts District?

It was the whole lifestyle down there. Anyone who lives in the Arts District probably doesn’t care about living in Southern California, because they don’t care about going to the beach. They have everything they need right there and they love it. The true urbanization in that marketplace intrigued me.

What is your strategy in the area?

We are going to position ourselves as the landlord for high-quality office. The phrase “creative office” is overused, but we are designing and putting in place very unique and progressive working space.

How far along are you?

We’re in the design phase, anticipating that we’ll be done with the Coca-Cola building in late 2016 and the other (at 405 S. Mateo St.) in the second quarter of 2017.

On a recent earnings call, you mentioned that office rents in the area are approaching Beverly Hills’ levels. Is that sustainable?

There are only a handful of real office properties for people to occupy there and not a lot coming on line that’s office related. So that sets real estate values. When some of the amenity base comes in – Soho House and the like – it’s going to change the feel and make it a bona fide area that people are going to recognize. People are going to want to work in that area, too.

What needs to change in the Arts District for it to be as stable a market as, say, Beverly Hills?

It’s going to take a lot of time to educate people to want to be there. The irony, I think, is that L.A. is not ready for the Arts District, but the rest of the country is, so we’ll have to see how it plays out.

With land trading at such high prices in the Arts District, some say there’s a risk developments won’t pencil by the end of this cycle. What do you think?

I do think the cost of construction is high. I’d rather be an accumulator of existing assets and renovate them. I think you will get to market quicker and you can control your costs easier and can capture whatever sort of market share there is.

You bought studio space in Hollywood during the downturn. What was your vision?

We knew there would be enough media and entertainment-type tenants who want office space on an actual day-to-day lot that has access to soundstages and production facilities. So we designed around that concept. We built an office building on the edge of Sunset Gower Studios that we leased to Technicolor Inc. in 2008. It was the first new office building that was built on a Hollywood lot since the 1970s. With the Icon building, we started to design it four years ago and the intent was always to build on spec. We were very fortunate to get Netflix, which proved out our theory. Now, you’ve got awareness that the future of production is actually in Hollywood – where the history is.

You have expanded into Silicon Valley and Seattle. Where will we see Hudson next?

We’re crazy busy. We’re increasing our portfolio in Seattle. We’ve accumulated a tremendous number of assets in San Francisco. Here, we’ve got an asset in Playa Vista, one in Culver City, one here in West L.A. I think we’re pretty diversified in our core markets, and those are the markets that we are going to stay in and grow.

What is your favorite part of Los Angeles – where do you like to hang out?

I’m still a Westside guy. It’s hard to go to Hollywood or the Arts District when you have to hit traffic on a regular occurrence. I’m a convenience guy. I like the Westside.

-Hannah Miet

Bisnow Exclusive: Why This Asian Developer is Betting Billions on LA's Hotel Scene

Bisnow

 

Asian investment dollars continue to flood the LA market, and while the first wave of developments were in the multifamily sector, hotels are heating up. Bisnow chatted with Shenzhen Hazens Group executive project director Sonnet Hui, for some exclusive details about the $700M W Hotel & Residences her firm is building in Downtown LA’s South Park neighborhood. You can hear even more at our 3rd Annual Los Angeles Hospitality Boom, Nov. 17,at the InterContinental Century City.

Bisnow: As a foreign investor, what specifically about LA drew your company to invest here? Sonnet Hui: Starwood is experiencing strong demand for W Hotels in key metropolitan markets across the globe due to the outstanding success of this legendary industry innovator. LA is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, and we are excited to introduce a new 5-star W hotel into this dynamic part of the city. LA hosts 6.5M international visitors annually, 20% of them from China. In fact, LA is an important gateway market for travelers arriving from China and other East Asian countries.

Bisnow: Why did Hazens choose Starwood’s W Hotel as its brand partner, what types of features and services are planned that will make the W Hotel Los Angeles standout from other lodging choices in Downtown, and what do you envision as your target market? Sonnet Hui: We conducted extensive research of hotel brands before deciding that the W Hotel’s DNA is a perfect fit with our vision, for this hot, dynamic neighborhood and our flagship investment in Los Angeles. This partnership with Starwood Hotels & Resorts offers an opportunity to provide a quality hotel experience at the W Los Angeles Downtown that will attract global jetsetters and trendsetting locals alike. We will bring the W hotel’s cutting-edge design and a “whatever/whenever” service philosophy to Downtown’s dynamic and vibrant Sports & Entertainment District.

Bisnow: Could you describe the type of visitor experience you envision for guests at the W Los Angeles Downtown? Sonnet Hui: Downtown LA is undergoing a rapid revitalization, and we’re excited to add fuel to this fire by providing a bold, modern and unique lifestyle experience at the new W Los Angeles Downtown. The hotel’s programming will reflect the W DNA of design, music and fashion. It will draw upon its unique location in South Park at the confluence of Downtown LA’s Fashion District, Hollywood’s music industry, and the rich tapestry of the City’s diverse culture, which is an inspiration for architectural and interior design throughout the region. The hotel is part of an upscale mixed-use development directly across from the L.A. LIVE entertainment complex. The W Hotel Los Angeles will curate a visitor experience that provides services tailored to individual—“Whatever and Whenever”—needs and desires and introduce guests to Downtown’s many opportunities and amenities, from shopping, unique dining and fresh-foodie scene to the nightlife, arts, music and other cultural opportunities, like Disney Concert Hall (pictured).

Bisnow: How will the hotel’s physical design and features enhance the visitor experience? Sonnet Hui: Our ultra-modern hotel will offer 250 stylish guest rooms and suites and feature a 5k SF spa with massage treatment rooms and an outdoor WET pool deck with a poolside bar and grill. Plans also include a W Hotels The Store; and state-of-the-art meeting and event space. Guests arriving at W Los Angeles Downtown will be welcomed in the hotel’s W Living Room—W’s signature mix-and-mingle spin on the hotel lobby, offering global fun-seekers a gathering place to sip innovative cocktails and enjoy regular “Happenings, which showcase the world’s latest and upcoming trends in music, fashion and design. Guests and locals will also enjoy a signature restaurant, as well as a destination bar that will offer a hip, dynamic nightlife scene. We will also partner with designers, artists, musicians and other innovators to create compelling programing in key areas of the hotel. This will ensure the hotel and guest experience remains fresh and delivers what’s new and next on a continual basis. Bisnow: What is your project’s schedule? Sonnet Hui: We submitted our project to the City’s planning department in March 2015, and hope to have a public hearing scheduled within a year. We anticipate construction to begin in 2017.

Bisnow: What are the greatest challenges to building a hotel in Downtown LA? Sonnet Hui: Our first challenge was finding the right location and the right brand for that specific location, which we have now fulfilled. Our project is unique in that we are one of the first large-scale, mixed-use projects to be going through the entitlement process right now. Other large-scale foreign investment projects in Downtown were entitled in the previous development cycle, but ours was not. So our second biggest and ongoing challenge is navigating the city’s entitlement process, which involves navigating the legal and regulatory waters, as well as the city’s decision-making process.

Bisnow: What has been your experience getting your project’s entitlements through the City’s laborious system? What types of issues are the most frustrating? Have you received any assistance, and if so, from where? Sonnet Hui: The good news is the Downtown business community, which includes the neighborhood councils, Central City Association, Chamber of Commerce and other business associations have been very supportive and welcoming of new developments and specifically our project. What is challenging is that the outdated planning codes and other city regulations, many of which were written many years ago and are not best suited to today’s urban mixed-use development trend. We are, however, fortunate to have good support from the City family, including the Councilmember José Huizar’s office (CD-14) and the Mayor’s office, which has helped facilitate the process and meetings with the various city departments. Bisnow: What is your project’s schedule? Sonnet Hui: We submitted our project to the City’s planning department in March 2015, and hope to have a public hearing scheduled within a year. We anticipate construction to begin in 2017.

Bisnow: Could you provide an overview of the Hazens’ Downtown LA project, as well as some background about your company and its development approach, particularly when working in cities outside of China. Sonnet Hui: Our plan is for mixed-use, high-rise development on the site of the current Luxe City Center Hotel. The project includes three towers with 650 residential units, 250 hotel rooms and 80k SF of commercial space on the first two levels. Our approach is guided by Hazen’s development philosophy, which believes in full integration and collaboration with the city and local community, leveraging the best local experts to navigate the legal process and make projects successful. Hazens recognizes that LA is an area with lots of needs—housing, schools, public spaces and hotel rooms for the convention center. And we are fully committed to LA and to balancing all these needs. Hazens is a privately owned development company, so at the end of the day the project has to make financial sense. This project will naturally drive itself, but our goal is to create a win-win situation for all. We are excited to be investing over a billion dollars in LA with three current development projects, including $700M on this project, and we believe that global investment and partnership are drivers of a thriving LA economy. Our other developments include the Sheraton Gateway LAX (pictured below) hotel, the Luxe City Center Hotel and a new 200-room Sheraton (pictured is recent groundbreaking) under way in the San Gabriel Valley.

Bisnow: Could you provide your thoughts or predictions about Downtown’s current hotel development boom, and explain why Hazens is investing in three LA-area hotels? Sonnet Hui: We know LA is a Gateway City, particularly for Asian travelers. Chinese tourism will increase 10 fold by 2020, according to LAEDC. Additionally, LA is the top US trade gateway to and from China and accounts for nearly 45% of all trade between the two countries. Those factors have coincided with the Downtown LA boom. But most importantly, we truly believe in goals envisioned and laid out by the City’s leadership and business community. A lot of people have put a great deal of effort into shaping LA’s future, and we want to be part of Downtown’s Renaissance. We believe that LA residents are ready for an urban lifestyle and will want to live and work in the urban core. So with our expertise in large-scale, mixed-use urban developments in Shenzhen, we know that we can contribute to the making LA’s new urban core great.

-Patrica Kirk

First Look at Latest Hollywood Boulevard Hotel

Urbanize Los Angeles

 

An environmental report published by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning (LADCP) have provided a first glimpse of a new hotel planned along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The project, which is being developed by CIM Group, is slated to replace a series of low-rise commercial buildings on an approximately .75-acre site at 6611-6637 Hollywood Boulevard.  Plans call for a six-story building featuring up to 167 guest rooms and suites above approximately 19,900 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and a 1,634 square foot community art gallery.

City records indicate that the proposed hotel would offer numerous ameniti
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