Wilshire and La Brea Project Recognized, but Not Underway

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Los Angeles--A planned mixed-use mid-rise that will include 478 units recently won a Gold Nugget Award but, as yet, has no specific timetable for construction.

Los Angeles–The project might be unfinished–in fact it’s still on the drawing boards, long delayed by the economic turmoil since 2008 and other problems–but at least it’s getting some professional recognition. Such is the story of the mixed-use project planned for development at Wilshire and La Brea avenues in Los Angeles, which won a Gold Nugget Award recently but, as yet, has no specific timetable for construction.

A project by San Francisco-based BRE Properties, the Wilshire and La Brea property is a planned mid-rise that will include 478 units. According to the developer, the design by Thomas P. Cox: Architects incorporates elements such as a pocket park, strategically located landscaping and places for social gatherings that will “soften the urban edge” of the property’s location.

The Gold Nugget judges thought so as well. “This mid-rise apartment building lives amidst urban neighbors, busy streets, bus stops, a future subway station and is bookended by historical structures,” they say in their statement awarding the prize. “All courtyards are hidden from the busy, noisy urban environment yet providing view of the downtown skyline. The building engages the street with a café and retail environment. A double row of trees softens the urban streetscape. This design solution created a structure that stepped down from its tall commercial edge, bringing a softer scale and residential perspective to the existing surrounding neighborhood street.”

The Golden Nuggets honor design and planning excellence for residential and commercial real estate projects from 14 Western states. This year four properties in the category “Best on-the-Boards Mixed-Use Project” won. Besides the Wilshire and La Brea property, the other winners in that category included Aviation Station, also in Los Angeles, 1000 4th St. in San Francisco, and Boardwalk Apartments in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Sustainability will also be built into the development, according to the project’s architects. “The project is heading towards LEED Silver certification, and one of the green components of Wilshire and La Brea is its storm-water management system,” Daniel Gehman, principal and studio director, Thomas P. Cox: Architects, tells MHN. “An elaborate network of planters will be used to filter the first flush of storm water falling on all hard surfaces. In addition, the building’s interior and exterior lighting and HVAC systems were designed with efficiencies to exceed Title 24 [of the California Building Code] by more than 15 percent.”

Now the trick for BRE is to get the project out of the ground. The economy has been against the project, and so have preservationists, who fought the demolition of a 1960s-era structure, the Columbia Savings building, that used to be on the site. BRE prevailed in its efforts to receive entitlements for the project and then razed the former bank, but thus far the parcel is vacant. During the REIT’s most recent conference call this spring, BRE executives said that they expect to break ground in “late 2011.”

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