It seems like a trend is beginning to happen in Los Angeles lately: new architect firms opening up office locations in Downtown LA, including the very recent relocation of global architect firm Gensler from Santa Monica to City National Plaza. Now another architect firm, SAA (Shlemmer+Algaze+Associates) known for their interior designs including the upscale Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood, is expanding their LA presence with a new office location also at City National Plaza.
With over 90 “design professionals” spread out over three office locations in Southern California including Culver City, Pasadena, and Newport Beach, SAA’s newest (and most exciting) location in Downtown LA is currently under construction/build-out at the City National Plaza, and more specifically, at the Paul Hastings Tower on the north side of the two-tower property.
I spoke to the COO of SAA, Bob Larlee, out of the Culver City location yesterday and he gave me a rundown of SAA and the new Downtown LA location. According to Larlee, SAA has been actively looking for a location in Downtown LA for about a year now and found this location at City National Plaza as recent as just this past August 2011 (about 4 months ago). And things moved fast because this was exactly what SAA was looking for.
SAA has leased the northern half of the Paul Hastings Tower’s lobby and elevator banks, which has been underutilized since all the tower’s office workers enter and exit through the side facing the actual central plaza. The 4,000 square foot space sat essentially unused, but will now be activated by SAA’s office, employing 22 architects with 18 workstations set up against large expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, providing ample natural light. The design principal at SAA who is also a LEED Accredited Professional, Steven Drucker, was behind the new downtown office’s design.
“The planets were aligned apparently as we were looking for visibility and easy access within the heart of Downtown LA,” Larlee said. “We felt like we needed a physical location in Downtown LA. That’s our business. We are a commercial office interior design firm and Downtown LA is the most concentrated stock of offices in Southern California, so it just made a ton of sense to be near our clients.”
I asked if Gensler’s relocation to Downtown LA had anything to do with SAA moving downtown and Larlee told me it wasn’t the main factor, but it reaffirmed their decision. “We are very excited to be near Gensler,” Larlee said. “And we want to be within walking distance to our clients.”
Apparently, Thomas Property Group–owner of City National Plaza–is hoping that SAA will set a good example of reusing and re-imagining underutilized space for their south tower as well, which also has the same issue of having half of the lobby and elevator banks sitting unused. If the trend continues, could another architect firm locate there as well?
For a company that is considered “LA-based,” it’s good to finally have SAA actually set up shop in “Los Angeles” so-to-speak. I’m excited to see them open in Downtown LA as it continues to help centralize Los Angeles, reversing the ill-effects of diluted sprawl. SAA is wrapping up on construction quickly and will move in their new employees as soon as next week.