After waiting two years for the economy to improve, developer BRE Properties Inc. broke ground last week on a $350 million apartment project in the up-and-coming Miracle Mile district.

Known as the Wilshire-La Brea, the project at the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue is planned for 478 units with 40,000 square feet of shops.

BRE is a San Francisco real estate investment trust that has a portfolio of nearly 80 multifamily properties in the Western United States, including 14 in Los Angeles. It bought the property for $66.5 million in 2007, received entitlements for the project and razed the existing buildings two years ago.

The property was the location of a closed Columbia Savings Bank branch that most recently had been used as a church.

Chief Executive Constance Moore said in an August earnings conference call that the decision to move forward stems partly from strong leasing activity at the company’s 248-unit apartment and retail complex only a few blocks away at 5600 Wilshire Blvd., which is 97 percent occupied.

The project also stands to benefit from an improving financial market for multifamily developments, according to Albert Shilton, senior managing director in Charles Dunn Co. Inc.’s Century City office.

“Now is the perfect time to be breaking ground and developing new product,” he said. “Money is available for construction at very favorable rates and if they can finish the project quickly, they can take advantage of permanent financing also at favorable rates.”

The 3.3-acre complex will feature barbeque pits, pools and four miniparks.

BRE declined to comment on the project.

Case Closed

Century City office space left vacated in March by the high-profile collapse of law firm Howrey LLP is about to be filled – by another law firm.

L.A.’s Glancy Binkow & Goldberg LLP is moving in and expanding its corporate headquarters after signing a five-year lease for 11,400 square feet at Watt Plaza, 1875-1925 Century Park East. The deal is valued at $2 million.

Glancy plans to move in December into the 21st-floor offices that have sat virtually untouched since Howrey moved out earlier this year, making it an easy transition for all involved.

“It was already a highly built-out law firm space,” said Travers Realty broker Jeff Mintz, who represented Glancy in the deal.

Watt Plaza, developed by Santa Monica’s Watt Cos. Inc. in the early 1980s, comprises 900,000 square feet between twin 23-story office towers. Other professional service companies such as law firm Pircher Nichols & Meeks have offices there.

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