Koreatown is getting its first luxury high rise condos.
And the 23-story tower at the southwest corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue by national developer Forest City Enterprises Inc. has plenty of local flavor.
The Mercury residential development, in a nod to the higher rates of smoking in Asia, includes larger smoking balconies that also can be used to grow small gardens.
"It's common knowledge that a large portion of the Asian community smokes," said Renata Simril, a Forest City vice president and Mercury project manager. "We had an opportunity to provide balconies as an additional amenity if in fact a portion of the population wanted to smoke."
The 238-unit building, which is set to open this month, is an adaptive reuse of a mid-century modern building and is the former Getty Oil Co. headquarters. It was designed by architect Claude Beelman and built in 1963. The renovation has taken about 14 months.
About one-third of the Mercury units have been sold, with prices starting in the high $300,000s and topping out at over $1 million. Lower-end units have open floor plans and higher-end units include closed-off bedrooms. Simril said that 85 percent of the buyers have been Koreans or Korean-Americans.
Forest City has experience with other office-to-residential conversions in Los Angeles. The firm converted the 1100 Wilshire Blvd. office tower into a condo development and turned downtown's Subway Terminal Building into an apartment project.
Forest City has also focused on building an eclectic tenant mix for the 23,000 square feet of ground floor and mezzanine level retail space at the Mercury. While the project will include a Jamba Juice and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf stores, it will also have local, Korean-owned businesses.
Connie Yoon, who grew up in Koreatown, is opening the Fish Pond, a Japanese sushi restaurant, and a franchise of Yogurberry, a popular Korean yogurt chain. Yogurberry will open in May and the restaurant will open this summer.
"I think it's important for any community to have their local flavors blended in with the big franchises," Yoon said. He touted the location of the Mercury across the street from the Wiltern Theatre and a Metropolitan Transportation Authority Red Line subway stop as a positive for the development and the businesses located there.
"I love all the cultural things that are going on there. I know some people think it's nice to keep it a little quiet but that's the way it goes with the future," she said.
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