CIM Group Inc.'s principals always thought that their Sunset Tower building was going to become red-hot when they were able to convert the high-rise into condominiums.

What they didn't have in mind was the roof catching fire. The blaze began just before 4 p.m. on May 31 atop the 19-story vacant office building, sending a thick black column of smoke into the sky.

"We stopped working and went outside to check it out," said Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Entertainment Business Improvement District. "It seemed like every fire battalion and helicopter in the city was there."

Fire officials extinguished the blaze in about 30 minutes, and there were no injuries or damage to neighboring property reported.

This isn't the first time a fire has broken out at the building at 6290 Sunset Blvd. In 1999, an electrical transformer below the building caught fire and resulted in the tower being deemed unsafe to occupy.

CIM Group bought the building out of bankruptcy about three years ago, but became entangled in litigation involving the former tenants, owners and its insurance companies. The developer only recently settled its claims related to the building and set up a barrier around the property as it began to ready the site for construction.

CIM executives plan to carve out 90 condominiums and 15,000 square feet on the ground floor for shops and restaurants. There also are 165 parking spaces in a three-level underground garage.

It's unclear how much of a setback the most recent blaze will be for the condo-conversion project. CIM officials didn't return calls and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Checking Out
A hotel that has been at the center of a fierce unionization campaign in Santa Monica may be changing hands.

General Electric Capital Corp., the investment arm of General Electric Co., has struck a deal to sell the 253-room Santa Monica Doubletree Guest Suites to Cranston, R.I.-based Procaccianti Group as part of a larger portfolio sale, according to several sources.

Messages seeking comment from Procaccianti weren't returned. A price for the portfolio was unknown, but brokers believe that the Santa Monica hotel could have sold for as much as $200,000 a room, for a total price of about $50 million.

The property, located at 1707 Fourth St., sits on a long-term ground lease held by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Recent efforts by GE Capital to purchase the land from the cash-strapped School District were rebuffed by district administrators, who felt the offering price too low.

GE Capital was willing to pay $10 million for the parcel, and School District officials felt the value is closer to $20 million, according to a source.

Besides issues with Unite HERE Local 11, the pink and white hotel has faced other challenges, especially its location. While the property is a short walk to Third Street Promenade, the beach and shops along Main Street, it's also located on a busy street wedged between the Santa Monica (10) Freeway and the Santa Monica High School campus.

The freeway runs along one side of the hotel, which is across the street from the back of Santa Monica City Hall and the Los Angeles County Superior Court building.

As Santa Monica begins construction of a new parking garage for its Civic Center, many of the hotel rooms will look out upon a busy and noisy construction site.

The hotel has been a destination for corporate conferences and has 12,000 square feet of meeting space. Also, off to the right of the driveway are several offices, some of which are leased to the Los Angeles Times.

Beverly Buy
Tishman Speyer Properties Inc. has agreed to buy Maple Plaza in Beverly Hills, continuing the company's steady pace of acquisitions in one of the county's top-performing office markets.

The New York-based real estate investment firm agreed to pay Realtech Developments Inc. $106 million for the 287,000-square-foot office building, located at 345 N. Maple Drive.

Possibly best known for the upscale restaurant in its lobby called Maple Drive, the building also is home to tenants such as Morgan Stanley and entertainment industry-related companies.

At $369 a foot, Tishman is paying top dollar for the building. Earlier this year a partnership led by investor John Bendheim picked up an 84,000-square-foot office building at 331 N. Maple Drive for $29 million, or $345 a foot.

Messages left at Tishman Speyer's L.A. offices seeking comment weren't returned. Through an assistant, Realtech principal David Wellstein declined comment. The transaction was a direct deal that didn't involve brokers.

Last year, Tishman Speyer paid $40 million for the 125,000-square-foot Beverly Mercedes Place at 9242-9250 Beverly Blvd., which is anchored on the ground floor by Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills. Also, last year Tishman paid $75 million for 6300 Wilshire Blvd., an L.A. high rise located a few blocks east of the Beverly Hills border.

Those purchases came on the heels of the company selling Colorado Center, a 1.1 million-square-foot office park in Santa Monica, to a partnership of Equity Office Properties Trust and TIAA-CREFF for $443.6 million.

*Staff reporter Andy Fixmer can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 263, or by e-mail at .

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