There’s the old adage about not changing horses midstream, and then at the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Beverly West condominium development.
The 21-story project just west of Los Angeles Country Club has been bought and sold, retooled and renamed in the past three years – all while under construction.
It’s nothing less than a poster child for the tribulations that many luxury developments have gone through over the past few years, with an exception: It’s actually getting built.
The project, at 1200 S. Club View Drive, first made a splash in September 2006, when original developer Steve Fifield said the top-floor penthouse would be priced at $14 million, a record at the time. Three years later, the 35-unit project is finally scheduled to open next summer – a year behind schedule.
Fifield Cos., which purchased the development site in 2003, sold the project midstream to Emaar Properties, a large Dubai developer, for $93.2 million in September 2007.
The way Fifield tells it, the sale was a no-brainer. He said that the announcement of several other luxury projects in 2007 created a frenzy in the real estate community. When a broker told him of interest in the project, he jumped at the chance to walk away with profits.
“My Spidey sense told me there was something wrong in the market,” said Fifield, who runs his family’s Chicago development company from Los Angeles. “We saw market absorption of condos starting to slow down. We thought maybe the market had peaked and it was much riskier.”
Indeed, Emaar picked up the property just as the credit markets began to severely constrict. It assigned the development to John Laing Homes Luxury Division, a unit of Newport Beach-based John Laing Homes, which Emaar acquired in 2006.
The way project architect Richard Keating saw it, though, the ownership change was a good thing.
“They actually asked me if there was anything that had been value engineered during the Fifield period that I had concerns about and there were a few things that had to do with landscape quality and the stonework at the base of the building,” said Keating, design partner at Keating Khang Architecture in Pasadena, who was able to make the changes. “They seemed to be taking a longer view and seemed to have deeper resources.”
But the project would suffer a blow when prospective top-floor penthouse buyer Candy Spelling walked away from her purchase, said Keating. Construction hadn’t stop, but it took John Laing Homes about six months to get its sales and marketing operation running. That delay was too long for Spelling and at least one other high net-worth buyer.
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