Seven years ago architect Wade Killefer conducted a survey of historical properties in downtown Los Angeles that helped kick off the adaptive reuse boom that has shaped downtown into a residential community.
And now amidst a slowdown in adaptive reuse, Killefer Flammang Architects which has profited immensely from the boom has released a second survey on downtown properties that is aimed at encouraging more development. This time, the firm finds it will be more difficult.
Since 2000, when the initial survey was done for the Los Angeles Conservancy, about 20 old buildings have been converted to residential uses, resulting in about 3,500 units. And while Killefer says that there are 60 more buildings that could be repurposed as residential properties, a second round of reuse will require more imagination and determination.
"There are good buildings left, but there are no more Eastern Columbias," Killefer said. "All the easy ones are done."
In the seven years since the initial survey, many of the best buildings in terms of both aesthetics and ease of conversion have already opened. Properties like the Eastern Columbia Lofts, Metro 417 at the Subway Terminal Building and the Pacific Electric Lofts have opened to glowing reviews.
The latest survey found that in addition to the 60 old buildings that could be reused, the area also has about 80 underdeveloped lots that could be built on, for a total of 15 million square feet of potential new development. Killefer has designed many of the historic core's residential conversion projects like the Eastern Columbia Lofts and the Pacific Electric Lofts and would stand to benefit from further business downtown.
Killefer says that part of the reason he conducted the new survey was to encourage dialogue about development issues in the historic core. The architect said he would also be interested in seeing new parks, rooftop gardens and other recreational amenities incorporated into a second phase of adaptive reuse development.
Still, according to Killefer, there is a big obstacle to overcome: a lack of parking. Killefer supports the construction of large parking garages to replace inefficient surface lots. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and other city entities are working on a downtown parking study that will be released later this year.
Ken Bernstein, head of the city's Office of Historic Preservation and a former Los Angeles Conservancy official, acknowledged a slowdown in new adaptive reuse projects. But he believes that problems the area faces can be overcome as the market demands new housing.
"There is a lull it's a reflection of the high rate of development and the need for absorption and the overall real estate market conditions," Bernstein said. "I think one also needs to take the long view, and see that there are additional candidates for conversion over the next five to 10 years."
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.