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.


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