Groundbreaking Imminent for 8th & Grand Project in Downtown LA

Green tarp construction fencing went up earlier this week in preparation for ground breaking for the 8th and Grand project by Carmel Partners

Green tarp construction fencing went up earlier this week in preparation for ground breaking for the 8th and Grand project by Carmel Partners

One of the biggest urban dead zones in Downtown LA is a vast 3-acre surface parking lot just south of Bottega Louie (voted most popular restaurant in the nation on Yelp in 2011) bounded by Grand, 8th, and Olive St. As you might remember, developer Sonny Astani (Concerto, Vero, etc.) was supposed to develop an audacious 875-unit three-phase project called Opus back in 2006 before the economic recession hit. Obviously that didn’t happen, but now the new owners/developers, Carmel Partners from San Francisco — who purchased the entitled land from Astani for $63 million back in June 2012 — are planning to break ground soon on a scaled back version that will still have a tremendous impact on the development of Downtown LA.

Green tarp fencing — the exciting tell-tale sign of construction — went up earlier this week surrounding the entire perimeter block, which is larger than two football fields combined. As another sign that groundbreaking is imminent, monthly parking passes were apparently discontinued at the surface lot.

The new version from Carmel Partners (seen in the rendering below) will have 700 luxury rental units over a substantial amount of commercial retail space. According to the LA Times, the project will also have a 40-foot rooftop pool on the 8th floor that will be surrounded by cabanas and a lounge with a barbecue. The relatively large rooftop pool is part of the reason why the construction of the building will comprise of concrete and steel (Type-I) instead of using a wood frame model.

The positive impact this project will have for Downtown LA will be tremendous. Not only will it add about another 1,000 residents to the downtown population, but the added retail and restaurants that are likely to wrap around the base of the project, will activate the sidewalks and help tie together the Financial District with South Park and the Historic Core, which are all currently severed from each other, limiting any potential synergy between the districts. What are currently empty sidewalks now in the area devoid of life will eventually be filled with vibrant pedestrian activity when the mixed-use project is fully completed and leased up.

Construction completion is slated for 2016.

A view of the vast surface parking lot (aka dead zone) -- larger than two football fields -- where the new 8th and Grand project will be built

A view of the vast surface parking lot (aka “dead zone”) — larger than two football fields — where the new 8th and Grand project will be built

A rendering of what the 8th & Grand project will look like when completed (Photo: Carmel Partners)

A rendering of what the 8th & Grand project will look like when completed (Photo: Carmel Partners)

38 responses to “Groundbreaking Imminent for 8th & Grand Project in Downtown LA

  1. Sorry but this lot should’ve been reserved for something MUCH larger.

  2. These are the type of developments that land retail leases like Trader Joes. Underground Parking, loading docks, large amounts of square footage. Reminds me of Hollywood and Vine Complex.

  3. I’m sorry but I dont like it. It’s another example of poor planning. Although the scale of this project is probably in line with current demand, in 20 years city planners will be kicking themselves for allowing this project to use so much real estate. If this project is being built with steel it should have been stacked higher and some of the surrounding real estate conserved for future development. For me, its the footprint of the building that’s at issue. I’m not necessarily a high rise fanatic, but a low rise project like this should be built in Little Tokyo, Arts District or in Washington Square but not smack in the middle of Downtown. What will happen is that when the office market picks up steam and there isnt enough real estate to build new office towers, or units to house workers filling those towers then this project will, unfortunately, need to be torn down to meet future demand. For now, it will be a lovely addition to this part of the city, and will certainly activate the street but I would not want to be a tenant of this building 15 years from now.

  4. So, you have the opportunity to build something in downtown LA which could have the possibility of standing for hundreds of years, your name and reputation are on the line and history will judge you (along with the present too)….and this is what they come up with. How pathetic.

    100 years from now, there will be a walking tour of downtown LA, and they will pass by this and say “and here is a fine example of the ‘that will do’ style of architecture of the early 21st century”.

  5. Agreed with all the above comments. Plus can we discuss the way this rendering highlights a massive open parking lot in the foreground? Showcasing that as their “vision” for Downtown is pretty weak to put it nicely. I’m glad something is being done with this massive “dead zone” (nicely put, Brigham), but it leaves nearly everything to be desired.

  6. Tough crowd. Give it some time. I have a feeling it will be great once it’s actually built.

  7. I don’t have a major issue with this project. I think its good density for the area and design wise it’s safe, but not bad either. It would be nice if it was taller, but it’s not as if there isn’t a precedent for buildings of this height in the area. The key for me is street level activation which this project will provide given the large amount of square footage being provided for retail uses.

  8. I agree with the majority. it should be half the property and double the height. Yes the economics now warrant this scale, but in the future the height will be needed.

  9. I work in downtown and, believe me, there is plenty of fill-in work that’s still required. So griping about Opus is quaint and naive.

    I’m in my 50s and recall going to downtown LA around 1979. Back then — and I still remember the specific day — that I estimated it would take decades of progress before the area was a satisfying place to work in, much less to call home. At that time, almost nobody took seriously the idea that central LA was a good place to locate one’s residence.

    The hunch I had back in the late 1970s existed far before some very impressive changes, which have since occurred, were anything more than a pipe dream. And so, here it is over 30 years later and our city’s original center still has more than a few pockets that are in dire need of infill development or plenty of elbow grease.

    If the past 30 years are a good indicator, I don’t think it’s a stretch to predict that it will take another 30 years before downtown LA is so nice that it’s impossible to grumble about it. So people who are justified in thinking Opus is a lost opportunity either aren’t alive today or, if they’re alive and well right now and will be for the next few decades, will be merely one voice among many of those still hesitant about whether downtown has progressed far enough.

    Unless LA’s economy soars to a degree that has never existed in the past, plenty of Angelenos in the future — around 2043 — likely will still see much more work remains to be done.

    • Karl,

      You make some very good points but I will still agree with the many here who believe there should have been something much taller and denser in this area. Yes, it’s true that there will be many more infill locations to build in the future when the time and economy warrants it, however, that is not more like PROGRESSIVE planning instead of STRATEGIC planning. Your idea reminds me of the way we have always done things in Los Angeles, which is more aligned to an ad-hoc approach than building things in a planned and strategic way. What do I mean by this? Well, take a look around us, are you only seeing what you can compare with from the past? Well, we have new people here now living in downtown and many folks just starting their lives. What could have stopped us from building even taller or better spatial arrangements from the past? It’s called past leadership and the status quo.

      I see Los Angeles coming out of an old phase and starting a new one. This time around however, I think we should try better and stop thinking like the status quo. This location could have had so many options, including a taller structure. Instead, the risk assessment of the developer/banks and the vision of city leadership has brought us this downscaled 8 story box. Poor planning in my opinion as well. My biggest issue is the structural density of this building, which could have been built to last even for 100 years if built correctly (such as taller, denser, and multiple floor commercial/retail). Perhaps the current market won’t support this, and that is why I believe it should have been built in phases with a smaller land footprint like others have mentioned, so that the property could accomodate future growth later on.

  10. I’m glad this is coming, we desperately need more apartments and that part of downtown is wasteland of parking lots. That said, it does feel like something of a missed opportunity. But given the current economics, I’d rather have this than nothing or waiting another 5 years for something to start. I’m not a huge fan of the design, which feels more Santa Monica than downtown to me, and I wish it were larger, but I’ll take it.

  11. My only issue…I just wish that the building was taller.

  12. The upcoming building at 9th and Olive will be 32 stories. Nothing wrong with mixing it up. I love seeing some sky…just not from a parking lot! There are countless parking lots still to be developed. If this building leases out ground floor space to some interesting retail, it will be worth what it lacks in height. 1,000 new residents is pretty decent.

    • exactly. Seattle, SF, Boston, etc… all do a great job of mixing up heights of the buildings. I would LOVE the original Opus project as that was my favorite of all DT projects, but this is still pretty good. Thankfully, they are using quality materials instead of stucco.

  13. There are buildings that last 100 plus years and there are buildings that last 20-30 years, In this Economy there is room for only this, but in 20-30 years this will be buldozed for a much bigger project, that’s how it works. Look at the history of buildings in downtown which ones last more than 100 years and which ones don’t for example ( The Wilshire Grand) This will not be a landmark this is only a 20-30 year investment, and then will be buldozed for a skyscrapper hotel 70 stories high like the new hotel they’re going to build, but for now just enjoy it.

  14. Lets just hope careful thought has gone into soundproofing the individual units. I would not want to hear my neighbors activities above or beside me. Also, 3 or 4 mixed use towers should have been built but anything is better than a rundown parking lot.

  15. These comments are amazing. 200+ units per acre is far from low density. It’s very similar to what exists on the Evo/Luma/Elleven block on a nearly identical property size. It’s very high intensity and 1,000 residents per 3 acres works out to 200,000 people per square mile!

  16. Most of these comments are out to lunch. Half the high rises that went up recently were in receivership or foreclosed on because they were too expensive. I’m guessing the height is what it is due to economics.

  17. I completelty agree. People are always saying “well the market wont allow it for now so this is all we have right now” well like Tony said… they could have stacked floors to make this taller and save more room on the same lot for more development.. building short and vertical is just taking up more room in DTLA… yes the City has plenty of parking spaces, but with a mindset of building 7-10 stories?? what happens when majority of the lots have been taken up?? where are we gonna build next?? are we gonna demolish more buildings for new development?? building taller and saving room on the same lot is A LOT more practical for the future.. instead of just 700-units on that lot there could be up to 2,000 maybe more for new towers if all they did was stacked it altogether.

  18. While I would also like to see higher buildings downtown the reality is that this is an empty lot and is surrounded on 2 sides by more empty lots. In general, height density is a process. Buildings get replaced over time when the demand exists to go taller, or when the pressures to build tall are inescapable.

    The developers must have analyzed the project and determined that they could justify a project of this size at this time. Maybe years from now that will be different so more height may make sense at that time.

    • Bert,

      I will have to disagree with you to a certain point. You see, it’s called CITY PLANNING. Developers don’t own all the land in downtown and neither does the city. What can be done though is PLANNING. What the city can do is zone the areas mixed-use and encourage the right developments next to each other, so that it CAN support high-rise towers. For example, the city can support developers so that the spatial arrangements of retail, employment, and residential living can make a central area very walkable and sustainable. I’d even throw in the word “subsidies” as one approach that the city can use as a tool. Unfortunately, too many people think short-sighted, complain about all these tax breaks and incentives developers get from the city, and guess what? Ad-hoc developments all over the place with no central planning that can effectively change our neighborhoods.

      In general, from my opinion, the market becomes a stronger influential factor when city planning is weak. This is what I see in Los Angeles.

  19. To those saying “its not tall enough”, I’d draw your attention to the GLUT of parking lots downtown, not to mention all the shoddy stucco 2 story buildings that will undoubtedly be sold and torn down for something better and taller at some point in the future.

    Downtown LA is massive, and there is PLENTY of room for highrises.

  20. Frankly I walk from my place on Spring/8th down to Figat7th several times a week and I thought that space would have made for a great park with the lot to the south developed into housing. Call me a dreamer, but an actual park right there would have really tied the neighborhoods together IMO.

  21. > they could have stacked floors to
    > make this taller and save more room
    > on the same lot for more development.

    The higher a building goes, the most expensive it becomes per square foot. Building codes require that any structure over 7 or 8 stories has to be built differently (that is, more sturdily) than a shorter structure.

    There also is an abundance of dilapidated properties throughout Downtown that are still waiting for developers with both money and vision. Those locations probably will be sitting around underutilized several years beyond today. Add to that the dozens (or seemingly thousands) of surface auto lots all over the area, including those near 8th and Grand, and there’s plenty of land begging for development.

    Park-like space in Downtown runs the risk of being abused by the homeless or drug users. Or open areas in tentative urban settings like Central LA, whether landscaped or a hardscape, can easily end up as windswept and desolate as the large plazas built on Bunker Hill and the financial district.

  22. Why such a demand for everything to be taller?? Heaven forbid the street scape allow a little sunlight to penetrate. There’s plenty of taller buildings in the pipeline around downtown – a low rise with ground floor rentable space trumps an asphalt chain linked parking lot in my book!

  23. I would like to see something taller! This is the downtown LA’s chance to make a grand skyline, why waste the space on medium dense apartments? Even more on 7th and grand since theyre are trying to make that street…i duuno….grand??

  24. I enjoy tall buildings as much as the next guy, but this is plenty tall. Go to the historic core and tell me lots of those buildings don’t feel tall enough, when there are many of them under 7 stories…

  25. Hey Brigham, poped over to Bottega for lunch today and construction on the site has commenced. They were already turning dirt and pulling up the asphalt this afternoon.

  26. I’d have to agree with Bert here. We need more vertical growth in Downtown, but what we need even more of is elimination of these waste-of-space surface parking lots. I will tolerate some low-rise construction if it creates the pedestrian activity that is vital to increasing the density of the neighborhood even more. Agreed that better planning yields better projects, and that avenue should also be vigorously pursued, but I wouldn’t preserve a surface parking lot for another two (+?) years while waiting for the City Planning dynamic to change.

  27. I’d like to add a few more comments about why this project is “Only” 7-stories while the Onni project only a block or so away is 32-stories:

    It comes down to the price paid for the land and the size of the land & associated development:

    1. Carmel Partners (7-story project) paid for MORE per unit for their land than did Onni, the Canadian group, for their site at Olive and 9th (32-story). Roughly $90,000 per unit vs. $60,000 per unit. This means Onni has more room to stretch in their proforma than Carmel. Also, the Onni land purchase included an existing 12-story office building which is already an income generating asset.

    2. Even with the difference in the land price, note that Onni will have to underwrite to much higher apartment rents to make their project pencil. Their construction costs will simply be a lot higher.

    3. Fortunately for Onni, they only have 283 units to absorb. Easier to enter the market at a higher price point with fewer units. By contrast, the Carmel project is 700 units. IF they are doing that all in ONE phase, that is A LOT of units to deliver at one-time. Much better to be at a lower price point so you can lease those units up more quickly.

    4. Finally, note that Onni is a Vancouver based firm with a lot of experience building high-rise multifamily. They MIGHT be more comfortable building this type of structure and are confident they can control the costs. By contrast, Carmel Partners MIGHT be less experienced in high-rise development and less comfortable going vertical. This last point is just a hunch on my part. I really don’t know the profile of Carmel Partners well enough to say for sure.

  28. Anyone know who will be the General Contracor on the Project?

  29. Yes this is a very boring design and such a waste for this space. We are suppose to be such a leading world city and this is the design they come up with. Third world countries are coming up with better design and use of space!

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  31. It would be a Frisco based company that would put such a shitty development there. That’s not the most efficient use of this extremely valuable plot of land. They will probably loose their shirts from this one.

  32. Christian vasquez

    This project is a jock!! We need bigger buildings!!!! They should had built the wilshire Grand at this location, DTLA needs bigger building over on this area! Building a project less than 20 floors on this area is a total waste of land Area!!! Omg is a terrible idea a total terrible development!!! They should had built this project by the union station area instead!!! Angelinos are totally sad with this new project!!! Just leave it like it was!! A total empty parking lot!!!! Reason why I admire UAE in dubai or abu dahbi they dont build unless is biG!!! I have been there 2 times already and i admire their buildings projects!!!! We are always behind here in LA, if you going to built something built to impress or dont built nothing at all…..

  33. I just came across this posting. Does anyone know anything about seismic standards for any of these new buildings? I never read anything about this issue in connection with these huge projects and towers. Is it the case that everyone is confident these buildings will withstand projections of seismic activity in LA?

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