Is L.A.'s tallest residential tower about to rise up from a lot near the U.S. Bank Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi?

If developer David Houk has his way, it will.

Houk is proposing to build one of the highest condominium towers in the world at the site of a parking lot just east of the 73-story bank tower and while such proposals are often viewed with skepticism, downtown real estate observers are hopeful.

Dubbed Park Fifth, the project next to Pershing Square would be anywhere from 71 to 76 stories with 750 condominiums, depending on how the finances finally pencil out. Plans also call for an adjacent 41-story high-rise with a 234-room luxury hotel on the first 15 floors of the building at the nearly half-block site.

The developer's Houk Development Co. would build the project a total of 2.75 million square feet in a joint venture with Namco Capital Group Inc. and Africa Israel Investments Ltd.

"Like every significant high rise you assume and hope they go forward and there are no guarantees, we know that," said Carol Schatz, president of the Central City Association. "We are hopeful this will go forward."

This isn't the first time Houk has proposed building on the nearly 99,000-square-foot parcel at 433 W. Fifth St., which he has owned for well over a decade. In the early 1990s he received city approval to build a similarly sized office tower, but that project never materialized when the downtown office market collapsed amid a deep recession.

In the last few years, however, the downtown condominium market has exploded with an assortment of high-rises many of which are in the 20- to 30-story range. And there are larger proposals, such as Titan Organization Inc.'s South Park project that would include 60- and 49-story residential buildings. Titan has closed escrow on the property on Olympic Boulevard and Grand Avenue and hopes to break ground next year.

However, as the housing market slows and thousands of condominium units come on line specifically in the downtown, some developers are pulling back. Developer Sonny Astani, for example, has said he is shelving plans for one of two high-rise towers.

Still, Houk wants to move forward aggressively with his project and has told the Los Angeles Downtown News that he hopes to start construction in October and complete the project by 2010, by which time he expects the condominium market will have improved.


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