Downtown Los Angeles is quickly is becoming the hottest real estate submarket in the county.

This week's news involves the further investment of Urban Pacific Builders, which is in escrow to buy the Bartlett Building at 215 W. Seventh St. The building would be converted into 124 live-work spaces, adding to the number of residential units Downtown.

The project is contingent on tax-exempt bond financing and historic and affordable housing tax credits.

The Bartlett Building is Urban Pacific's second Downtown property. The first is the Security Building at 510 S. Spring Street. The Long Beach-based developer has proposed turning that building into 153 rental lofts over retail and a post office. The developer also plans to build a restaurant and lounge in the basement vault of the structure.

Urban Pacific Managing Member Scott Choppin said the developer would keep looking for opportunities to create housing Downtown.

"The trend toward adaptive reuse of older buildings will have a positive effect on the socioeconomic well-being of the area and, by extension, the entire city," he said.

Urban Pacific is the same development company that is working on a $15 million, 69-unit condominium development in Long Beach as part of the city's City Place mixed-use project.

Urban Pacific's plans come on the heels of the state allocating $150,000 to the city to assist with Downtown housing projects. The money comes in the form of two $75,000 awards from California's Downtown Rebound Planning Grant program, which encourages infill housing, adaptive reuse of commercial buildings for housing, and other forms of high-density urban housing.

One of the grants will be used for a Strategic Action Plan, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. The plan will include a survey of the market for Downtown housing, a building and fire codes analysis for developers and a parking study.

The second grant will be used for studies to revise the Central City Plan that governs development Downtown.

Arco Plaza Getting Attention

More downtown news involves the twin towers of Arco Plaza on Flower Street.

The towers have featured high vacancy in history, but could be turning the corner with the recent signing of local architects and engineers Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall to a 15-year lease.

The lease includes monument signage, which makes DMJM the first tenant other than Arco and Bank of America Corp. to have its name prominently displayed at the plaza.

DMJM will move from its Westside headquarters at 3250 Wilshire Blvd. into the 125,000 square feet in the building owned by Japanese group Shuwa Corp.

Brian Ulf, vice president at Cushman Realty Corp., represented DMJM in the transaction. Ulf said the 2.2 million-square foot Arco Plaza still has 700,000 square feet of space available, but the arrival of DMJM's 500 employees should provide a significant boost to the wave of interest among businesses in the Downtown area.

DMJM's parent company, Aecom Technology Corp., will take some of the DMJM space when all hands move to the building in September.

Santa Monica Action

While Downtown continues to gain steam, one of the quietest submarkets in the area, at least over the last six months or so, has some acquisition news to trumpet, as well.

An unidentified buyer is in escrow to buy the former Four Media Co. property on Colorado Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets in Santa Monica.

Liberty Livewire Corp., which bought Four Media in 2000, was asking $14 million for the 130,000-square foot parcel of land, which includes a United States Postal Service operation. Chris Houge, a managing director at Insignia/ESG Inc., who represented Liberty Livewire, said the purchase price is close to the asking price. The buyer has put up "a significant amount" of nonrefundable money, according to Houge. Closing should occur in two to three weeks, he said.

Four Media, a postproduction company in Burbank, bought the property before being acquired by Liberty Livewire. Four Media had planned to build a 41,000-square foot headquarters operation on the site. Since then, the Four Media operation has been folded into Liberty Livewire's headquarters at 520 Broadway, also in Santa Monica.

Houge declined to identify the buyer, but said it is a user as opposed to an investor interested in owning the building as an income-bearing asset.

There are five years left on the post office's lease, Houge said. The federal government pays $1.66 per foot for the 15,000-square foot building on an 80,000-square foot lot. The lease, which has no renewal options after the current term, is triple net.

Houge said the buyer plans to develop the site once the post office vacates.

Houge and Rick Buckley, also of Insignia/ESG, represented Liberty Livewire in the transaction. Mark Sullivan and Leonard Nadler of Julien J. Studley Inc. represented the buyer. Neither was available for comment last week.

South Bay Submarket Stirs

In a big lease/acquisition deal, distribution company Imagine Fulfillment Services renewed its lease at its 117,217-square foot industrial building in Torrance.

The $8.2 million ($0.58 per foot) deal is good for 10 years and Fulfillment Services has the option to buy the building at 20100 S. Vermont Ave., which it plans to exercise and close next year, according to John Lasiter in Grubb & Ellis Co.'s South Bay office.

In addition to its corporate headquarters, Imagine Services uses the building for warehousing, distribution and as a call center.

ReNew Times

In a Westside lease deal, alternative weekly New Times decided to stay put in West L.A. and renewed its lease at 1950 Sawtelle Blvd. The $1.8 million lease deal is for five years.

Staff reporter Christopher Keough can be reached at 323-549-5225 ext. 235 or at ckeough@labusinessjournal.com.

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