Jade Enterprises, a downtown L.A. real estate investment and development firm, has quietly acquired four properties that make up almost an entire square block near the USC campus, shelling out nearly $21 million in a pair of transactions.

The site, which includes well-known USC hangout 901 Bar & Grill, is bounded by Figueroa, Flower, 29th and 30th streets. It is unclear what Jade has in store for the property; likewise, the future of the popular bar is unknown.

Brian Taban, who along with brother Jacob runs Jade, declined in an email to discuss the roll-up.

“We don’t want the publicity,” he wrote.

Brokers familiar with the market say the most obvious choice would be an apartment building or a mixed-use development with student housing.

“There’s a shortage of newer student housing, so presumably that’s what they’d build there,” said Eric B. Moore, a managing director who covers that market for London real estate services firm DTZ, who said zoning would allow for at least five stories with ground-floor retail. “It could also be market-rate condos or lofts. All of the residential projects around there are well leased and very successful. It’s a no-brainer.”

In addition to attracting students from USC, Moore said the nearby Reef creative office building at 1933 S. Broadway, Los Angeles Trade Technical College and a nearby light-rail stop would help sustain residential development.

Jade clearly sees value in investing in the greater downtown area, having spent more than $100 million in the last year alone to acquire property.

In addition to the acquisitions near USC, Jade purchased 209 W. 11th St., a small retail and parking lot site, for $1.4 million in December; that same month, it paid $2.4 million for a 3,180-square-foot retail property at 1051 S. Broadway; it bought a 13,432-square-foot retail property at 1155-65 S. Main St. in April for $4.2 million; and spent $80 million in May for the Figueroa Tower, a 283,000-square-foot Class A office property at 660 S. Figueroa.

Jade has modeled the transformation of the Figueroa Tower after an earlier rehab of a 412,000-square-foot office building at 888 S. Figueroa, which it acquired for $51 million in 2004.

The company’s efforts have paid off in the past. It bought the neglected 13-story Case Hotel building at 1106 S. Broadway for $5 million in July 2003 and sold it in December 2013 for $13.5 million.

Jade also has two mixed-use residential and retail developments in the works nearby. Topaz, a 159-unit apartment complex with 23,000 square feet of retail on 550 S. Main near the technical college, is under construction and is expected to be delivered by July. Its Onyx mixed-use complex at 1300 S. Hope St., blocks from the Staples Center, will have 410 units and 42,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and commercial space. It is expected to break ground this year.

Collegiate focus

In the latest roll-up of property, Jade closed Jan. 29 on the $5.2 million purchase of a two-property portfolio from Calport Resources, a Cheviot Hills investment firm. The deal included a 33-unit, 18,600-square-foot multifamily building at 2913 S. Flower and an adjacent 3,500-square-foot retail building, occupied by Flooring Solutions, at 2917 S. Flower. 

A month earlier, a venture formed by Jade purchased a portfolio that included properties at 2902-04 and 2912 S. Figueroa along with an adjacent 9,645-square-foot lot for $15.6 million.

Together, the two deals give Jade control over an entire square block – with the exception of a lone parcel at 2901 S. Flower, a shuttered hotel owned by New Aster Enterprises Inc.

Downtown real estate sources said negotiations for that site are ongoing. Representatives of New Aster could not be reached for comment.

If Jade is in fact planning a mixed-use development, it will not be alone. USC broke ground in September on University Village, a 1.25-million-square-foot residential and retail center north of the campus. That project will contain a Trader Joe’s market and series of five-story residence halls that will be able to accommodate 2,700 students.

The ample housing in that complex, expected to be completed in 2017, might seem to make it hard for other developments to compete. But brokers familiar with the area said there is an endless need for student housing at USC, with 43,000 students in attendance.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.