View on Downtown: Nelson Rising at Rising Realty Partners’ headquarters in the PacMutual building.

View on Downtown: Nelson Rising at Rising Realty Partners’ headquarters in the PacMutual building. Photo by Thomas Wasper

Nelson Rising is a man on a new mission – on his old turf. Having spent much of his career leading the development of some of the biggest new skyscrapers in downtown Los Angeles, the 74-year-old real estate veteran is now watching that area transform, and much of it by his own hand. For he has shifted the focus of his company, Rising Realty Partners, to adapting old buildings there into high-end creative office projects. For example, his firm acquired One Bunker Hill last month in a partnership with Houston real estate investment firm Lionstone Investments. We sat down with Rising at his downtown office to talk about his legacy and future plans, his passion for politics and even what it’s like to play golf with Donald Trump.

Question: It doesn’t seem like retirement is in the cards anytime soon, is it?

Answer: I flunked retirement twice. I don’t intend to try again. The first try lasted 18 months then the second only two weeks. Retirement made no sense for me.

You have a reputation for working very long hours. Do you even sleep?

Well, fortunately, I don’t need to sleep too much. So, I get up early every day. I wake at 5:30 a.m. and work out four mornings a week. Then the other three days I go for long walks. 

What is your management strategy like?

One of my favorite phrases is “Bad news doesn’t get better with age.” And so, if something is going wrong, we have a culture where people come to me saying there is a problem, not pretending it’s not there. That notion means we’re all in this thing together. That’s the way you avoid a lot of problems.

Why are you now focused on converting older buildings?

We like to do value add because it is almost like starting anew, but you also get the history. The components that we have downtown, the bones are already here. … (One Bunker Hill) will be a very successful building because of its historical impact and because it’s just a beautiful place to walk into work every day. We learned from (PacMutual) that people like to work in these buildings.

How much will the success of the building that we’re speaking in right now, PacMutual, inform One Bunker Hill?

Well, we’ve learned a lot in the restoration of this. My son Chris played a major, major role in convincing me to buy (PacMutual). I’m very proud of him and what’s here. Our space right now is value add. We’re not out there buying core assets. One Bunker Hill is a beautiful building completed in 1931. It was Southern California Edison’s headquarters. The lobby is sensational. We have some other projects, but I can’t talk about them because they haven’t closed yet.

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