Architecture firm Gensler long ago outgrew its jewel box office in downtown, taking two floors in the neighboring tower at City National Plaza to accommodate nearly 600 employees. Now the firm is breaking down the walls to bring everyone together. Plans call for building a bridge between the jewel box and the tower to its north, where Gensler would remove part of the fourth floor to create a cavernous, flexible space.

“What we’re doing is fairly common within industrial warehouse buildings. The fact that we’re doing it within a traditional office building is significantly more radical and revolutionary,” said Michael White, managing director at Gensler. “Being disconnected just doesn’t work for our business and our culture.”

The firm plans to begin construction in August and to complete the project early next year. The tower space, dubbed the “family room,” will include meeting rooms, window booths, a coffee bar, and kitchen. Plans also call for open space designed for staff gatherings ranging from project presentations to parties.

“You could turn the volume up really loud and not bother anybody,” White said.

Three wellness rooms will offer refrigerators, sinks, couches, and beds, geared for new mothers or employees who need a quiet space to recharge.

The bridge will stretch 30 feet long and 7 feet wide in a minimal design of transparent glass panels. Gensler will remove the walls at the spot where it merges with the jewel box, creating an open-air patio.

The new tower lease is set for 15 years, meant to signal that Gensler will be downtown for a while. White said the funding for the improvements will come from a tenant improvement allowance from building owner CommonWealth Partners, but declined to state the cost.

Gensler is aware its project could serve as a model to landlords and tenants trying to transform corporate skyscrapers into engaging campuses.

“It’s really about the social experience,” White said. “Getting people together and creating spaces that encourage them to connect.”

Office Trading

An affiliate of Lincoln Property Co. has purchased an office complex just east of Playa Vista and has plans to freshen up the 560,000-square-foot site. LPC Realty Advisors I bought the six-building Wateridge campus in Ladera Heights on behalf of a public pension fund for $135 million, or about $240 a square foot, according to a source close to the deal.

The site is about 70 percent occupied. Tenants include Evolve Media, Kaiser Permanente, and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Lincoln’s finance director, Stephen Lindgren, said he expects to draw tenants ranging from tech and media firms to law offices and accountants for the remaining space.

“As Playa Vista and Corporate Pointe continue to tighten, we’ll be able to offer a lower-cost alternative to be in those same markets,” he said.

Several buildings recently traded at Corporate Pointe, about a mile away, for roughly $300 a square foot, with the new owners planning renovations. Right next door, IDS Real Estate Group is constructing a 281,000-square-foot office.

Lindgren said the developments bode well for Wateridge, especially as Playa Vista’s coveted leases get gobbled up and as plans progress for a football stadium in nearby Inglewood. Lincoln’s renovation will add retailers, replace furniture, revamp outdoor plazas, and spruce up empty offices.

The sellers were Mullen Co. of Irvine and Rockwood Capital of San Francisco, who bought the complex for $136 million in 2007.

Hot in Hollywood

Playa Vista isn’t the only office market drawing attention. A 1,900-square-foot office on North Highland Avenue in Hollywood sold last week for $1.8 million. That’s $947 a square foot – setting a record for a Hollywood office sale, according to Jones Lang LaSalle brokers Nicole Mihalka and Angela Sanders, who represented the seller. Lee Polster of Coldwell Banker Westmac represented the buyer.

Polster said the site is slated to become production offices and meeting space for entertainment professionals, particularly to promote the advancement of women in entertainment and media.

El Monte Moves

A townhome development could soon rise on three acres of land in El Monte. The site has been sold to TRI Pointe Homes. Land Advisors Organization represented the seller, LaTerra Development. The price was not disclosed. The project, called Garvey Square, is slated to hold 100 units ranging from 1,126 to 1,821 square feet, plus 32,000 square feet of outdoor space. The site at Garvey Avenue and Peck Road was formerly an auto dealership; it sold for $7.1 million in 2014.

Staff reporter Daina Beth Solomon can be reached at dsolomon@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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