JMB Realty Corp. has filed plans for the development of two 47-story condominium buildings and a 12-story residential loft in Century City.
The developer, based in Chicago and the builder of several Century City office towers, is proposing the condominiums on a 5.5-acre parcel it owns near the corner of Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars.
Coupled with plans by New York-based Related Cos. to convert the St. Regis hotel into condominiums, the projects could inject 1,000 new residents into the heart of what up until now has been dominated by offices, a few hotels and retail.
It also could mark a return to what the original planners of Century City had in mind: a master-planned community that would serve as a pedestrian-oriented urban center. But the design was flawed in that the wide boulevards and raised walkways cut off the residential neighborhoods from the towering office buildings, creating barriers and deepening a dependence on vehicles.
"We are getting a lot closer with these types of applications and the types of rehab and renewal projects planned in Century City," said Stuart Gabriel, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. "We are heading in the direction of that organic live/work area we've all been talking about."
The move is also a continuation of a housing trend that is transforming Los Angeles County. As land becomes scarce and prices rise, developers have been refocusing their efforts from tract homes in the suburbs and beyond to infill projects near large centers of employment.
The result has been a wave of new residential projects in and around downtown Los Angeles, Warner Center in Woodland Hills and now Century City.
Proposed to encompass 1.2 million gross square feet, the cost of the three towers could be about $450 million, based on industry-standard construction costs for high-rise residential projects.
One developer estimated that new high-end units in the market could sell for more than $800 per square foot, potentially generating more than $800 million when the projects are sold out.
Joan Kradin, a spokeswoman for JMB Realty, confirmed that the plans had been filed with the city but said the project is in a preliminary stage that would take a couple of years to evolve into a final proposal.
Still, the company has begun the paperwork necessary to begin taking the plans through the city's lengthy approvals process. It filed a request with the Planning Department for a tract map for 483 condominiums on a seven-lot subdivision at 10131-10155 Constellation Blvd.
A second request has been filed for an exemption from the Century City master plan, a guideline for the mix of retail, office and residential uses.
Mike Eveloff, president of Tract 7260 Association, a Century City homeowners association, said his group hadn't been notified of the plans. The association has successfully fought to reduce the size of one new office tower and to place restrictions on another.
"I can tell you for sure we will be heavily involved," Eveloff said. "There should be no development unless adequate infrastructure exists, specifically when it comes to traffic."
JMB Realty has long had a hand in the development of Century City, which was carved out from the former Twentieth Century Fox backlot in the late 1960s. Two decades ago, the company bought large tracks of land that became the sites of its 35-story, 704,000-square-foot Constellation Place, current headquarters of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and the 39-story, 775,000-square-foot SunAmerica Center.
The company also at one time owned 1888 Century Park East and the Century City mall before selling the properties off in the late 1990s to a partnership of Beacon Capital Partners Inc. and CarrAmerica Realty Corp. and Westfield America Inc., respectively.
While 3,000 people live in the apartments and condominiums that ring Century City, few live in the central district dominated by office towers and hotels. The housing developments, including the St. Regis conversion, could add more than 1,000 residents to the area.
Century City also has a number of large development projects under way near the site of the proposed towers that could also be a catalyst for the housing.
Trammell Crow Co. is building 2000 Avenue of the Stars, a 790,000-square-foot office building on the site of the former ABC Entertainment Center, where Creative Artists Agency will be based. The building will also contain a live theater, shops, restaurants and a four-acre park.
Meanwhile, Westfield is in the middle of a $127 million renovation of its 780,000 square-foot outdoor mall. The renovation will add specialty stores, restaurants and expand the Gelson's supermarket. "It has made the area extremely attractive" for residential development, Gabriel said.
With the office vacancy rate close to 19 percent, and 2000 Avenue of the Stars expected to raise levels when it comes online within two years, developers and office brokers say there's no reason for another office tower.
"Right now we don't need any more office buildings in Century City," said Gary Weiss, a partner in Madison Partners. "Constellation Place has been open two years and now we're getting 2000 Avenue of the Stars. I think it makes a lot of sense to make that residential."
JMB Realty has retained architecture firm Johnson Fain Inc. to design the buildings and Latham & Watkins LLP for legal counsel, according to the city filings. Johnson Fain is well acquainted with both Century City and JMB, having designed Fox Plaza and JMB's SunAmerica and MGM tower projects.
JMB officials have also met with city planners and staff members in the office of Councilman Jack Weiss, whose district includes the site.
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