In 2008, Lion Real Estate Group LLC cashed in on a hot recessionary trend in the local commercial real estate market and bought two distressed loans on a 26-unit Hollywood apartment building. It was a $4.02 million investment that has paid off handsomely.

The West L.A. real estate investor foreclosed on the borrower in February 2009, taking over the vacant property at 920 Wilcox Ave. After a $1.5 million renovation, Lion sold it for $7.25 million to a private investor April 30, making a tidy profit of about $1.75 million on the 29,000-square-foot apartment building.

“We love this business model,” said Jeff Weller, a Lion managing principal. “We’ve identified a couple of more buildings that we want to do.”

The sale breaks down to about $279,000 per unit, or about $250 per square foot. The building is fully leased.

“Credit goes to them for being willing take on the risk with a project like this, with the foresight that if executed properly, they could have this type of exit strategy and a very healthy return on their investment,” said Darin Beebower of Madison Partners, who represented Lion.

Sami Dinar, who represented the unnamed Beverly Hills-based buyer, said his client is pleased with the price.

“I feel the market is really bottoming out in terms of residential income properties,” said Dinar, owner of brokerage YourIncomeProperty.com Inc. “I think to wait to get any lower, you are just going to keep waiting.”

Lion’s renovation of the property included hardwood floors and Caeserstone countertops.

Dinar said the thorough renovation was a key selling point.

Arty Lease

After nearly a decade of wandering, the Architecture and Design Museum has found a permanent home on Miracle Mile. The museum, which was founded in 2001 and goes by the name A+D, has signed a six-year lease for 5,000 square feet of headquarters space at 6032 Wilshire Blvd. The building, which is owned by investor Isaac Hakim, is across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Since its birth, the museum had been located at several L.A. facilities, including the Bradbury Building in downtown and 5900 Wilshire Blvd. on Miracle Mile. A+D had always relied on the kindness of landlords who gave it free rent. But museum director Tibbie Dunbar said that it was decided a few years back it was time to settle down, and the museum has tried to find a home since.

“We made a decision that to have a museum operating on this nomadic scale was really difficult,” said Dunbar.

The lease starts at about $2 per square foot and escalates annually. The museum is paying for the lease, which is valued at nearly $1 million, in an unusual way: A+D is raising money from 20 architects and 20 designers as part of its so-called 20/20 campaign.

According to architect Stephen Kanner, who co-founded the museum, 40 architects and designers have pledged $24,000 each over the next six years. That money will be used to pay for the rent.

The museum, which was without a home since leaving 5900 Wilshire in May 2009, staged its grand opening April 27. The new digs were designed and built for free by several architecture, design and construction firms. Kanner Architects, Gensler and Turner Construction Co. pitched in on the project, among others. Kanner estimated the donated work was worth about $400,000.

“It’s a miracle that this many people are so supportive of this cultural institution,” he said.

Back in the Saddle

Sherry Bower left her job as senior managing director of the Orange County region for CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. in mid-2007 in part because she wanted to travel. She did travel – diving with sharks in the South Pacific was most memorable – but she also kept a role at CB Richard Ellis, working at its personnel training center.

Bower, 59, now has a new high-profile job – this time as managing director of asset services for CB Richard Ellis’ five-county Southern California region. While she enjoyed teaching employees at CB Richard Ellis’ training center in Newport Beach, she is ready for her new role.

“I could see myself doing pretty much anything inside CB that was really interesting and challenging,” said Bower, who started working for the company in 1982. Her new role fits that bill: She’ll be handling disparate issues across a complex region.

Bower started her job at the beginning of May. She said her various roles at the company over the years have prepared her for the challenge.

“I bring a broader perspective to this position,” she said.

Staff reporter Daniel Miller can be reached at dmiller@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.

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