Funky office space hailed as recently as a year ago as being de rigueur for the truly happening L.A. business has become a white elephant.

Hundreds of thousands of square feet are sitting empty, largely on the Westside, and the flood will get considerably deeper in the months ahead.

Much of that space is being offered up for sublease by the original tenants, which have downsized, departed to cheaper space or disbanded altogether. As an increasing number of these struggling creative types slip into bankruptcy, the financial fallout from their exorbitant, wacky office build-outs is spreading to landlords and lenders.

"A lot of people are trying to whistle a happy tune, but when you get through the initial layer of BS, there is not a single person who is not concerned," said Michael Meyer, a veteran commercial leasing attorney at Pillsbury Winthrop LLP.

Much of the space is not easily converted for conventional office tenants. It is filled with such nonfunctional amenities as enclosed eating areas built right into the middle of where a bullpen area should be, wildly patterned concrete floors, or outrageously designed "hang-out" rooms.

"I refer to this stuff as bowling alleys, waterfalls and AstroTurf the really funky stuff that's fairly new, but worthless," said Anton "Tony" Natis, a commercial leasing attorney with Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory.

Some of the space is more easily convertible, like the West L.A. offices vacated by eToys Inc. that was largely run like a typical corporation, with an accounting department, executive offices and back-office operations.

"They have some funky stuff in the lobby a giant Lego dinosaur and giant Etch-O-Sketch so it will cost some money to reconfigure, but not a lot more than (a typical office space)," Natsis said.

Actually, many L.A. tenants today while shunning the excessively wild spaces for fear of being perceived as a dot-com spendthrift are not returning to the plain-vanilla corporate spaces of yesteryear.

"Today's type of tenant wants to be edgier than their father's office, but still professional," said Steven Heisler, director of design at Beckson Design Associates in Los Angeles. "Clients want to be seen as being creative, but they try to distance themselves from looking like a dot-com. They want people to know they're still going to be here in five years."

Examples of the new hybrid space can be seen at Arden Realty Inc.'s Westwood Center building at 1100 Glendon Ave. in Westwood and at the Aquent creative talent agency at 6100 Wilshire.


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