Twenty years ago, Brad Korzen watched in amazement as his hometown Chicago was transformed because older vacant offices were converted to residential buildings.
Now Korzen is a driving force in L.A.'s own mixed-use development transformation. His firm, Kor Group Inc., has been involved from the outset in the city's initial attempts to fill empty office buildings with residents, typically on upper floors, with restaurants or retail shops on lower floors.
"Being from Chicago, I had seen the success of adaptive reuse," Korzen said. "It hasn't been done all that much, but I always felt L.A. was a logical place to be doing it."
Kor Group transformed Standard Oil's former downtown L.A. headquarters into the Pegasus apartments currently the only adaptive reuse project in the high-rise laden Central Business District.
The company developed the Molino Street Lofts, a project in downtown L.A.'s Artist District that contains mostly live-work units. Kor is also converting the art deco Eastern Columbia building in downtown L.A. and the former Broadway Department store in Hollywood into mixed-use condominiums.
And the Kor Group doesn't plan to stop there. Korzen said the firm is in various stages of development of several large projects in downtown and Chinatown.
"People want to live where there are as many amenities as possible," Korzen said. "Whether it's a spa, gym or retail, they want to have those destinations in their building or close by."
Korzen grew up in Chicago and went to the University of Illinois. After graduating from the University of Miami's law school, Korzen knew he didn't want to practice law. Instead he returned to Chicago and, with family and friends as early investors, Korzen began buying and developing small apartment buildings.
He started with two- and three-unit apartments, but gradually he began taking on larger projects. In the late 1980s, Korzen and a law school friend bought an apartment building in Miami Korzen's first purchase outside Chicago.
During that time, the Resolution Trust Corp. was selling properties foreclosed on by savings and loan associations that collapsed in the late 1980s. Korzen came to L.A. to look at a couple properties, and ended up staying.
"I really enjoyed it out here, mostly for all the obvious reasons," Korzen said. "And there was a lot of opportunity."
Kor Group has developed a portfolio of residential buildings containing a cumulative 3,700 units. Most of Korzen's early projects were traditional apartment buildings with luxury features, like designer interiors, extensive fitness centers and elaborate swimming pools.
Even though including such features often made construction more expensive, Korzen found that the flourishes helped him get rents and sales prices at higher than market rates.
Today, Korzen uses the same formula on his adaptive reuse projects. "People have shown they will pay a premium if they can live in gorgeous old buildings that have the amenities of new construction," he said. "It may cost us more money, but people will pay more for that experience."
* Biggest Dealmaker
Principal, The Kor Group Inc.
Accomplishments: Converted the former Standard Oil headquarters in downtown L.A. into Pegasus mixed-use apartments, built Molino Street Lofts live-work project in downtown L.A.'s Arts District and is converting the former Broadway Department store building in Hollywood and the Art Deco Eastern Columbia office building in downtown L.A. into mixed-use condominiums.
Quote: "More than just building apartments, our focus has been on providing a high level of design and amenities."
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