By Roger Vincent | LA Times
The once-grand former headquarters of Southern California Edison Co. in downtown Los Angeles has been sold to investors who plan to restore key 1930s features of the building and raise its profile among renters in creative businesses such as entertainment, media and technology.
Built to the city's 13-story height limit when it opened in 1931, the tower at Fifth Street and Grand Avenue was a dominant structure at the foot of Bunker Hill for decades. Since the 1990s, however, it has looked diminutive in its position between two of the region's tallest skyscrapers, the 72-story U.S. Bank Tower and 50-story Gas Company Tower.
Now known as One Bunker Hill, the building has been purchased by investors who recently restored PacMutual center, the nearby former headquarters of Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. that was also built in the early 20th century. The old Edison building needs similar improvements, one of the new owners said.
“The current office space is pretty tired,” said Christopher Rising of Rising Realty Partners. “We're going to start immediately on the renovation.”
The Los Angeles developer bought the building with Houston real estate investment firm Lionstone Investments and Hermes Investment Management of London.
Lionstone was also Rising Realty's equity partners in the PacMutual building. The group bought PacMutual for $60 million in 2012 and sold it for $200 million last month after renovating it and bringing in new tenants such as online fashion retailer Nasty Gal and law firm Hueston Hennigan.
Terms of the sale of One Bunker Hill were not disclosed. Lionstone and Hermes raised a $250-million fund to invest in office properties in high-growth U.S. markets, and One Bunker Hill is its second purchase.
“The resurgence of the downtown submarket of Los Angeles, along with the unique features of this historical property, make this investment very attractive,” Lionstone said in a statement.
The buyers plan to tear out drop ceilings, pull up carpet and undo other “improvements” to the building that were made years ago, Rising said. “We are going to take all of that out so you can get the sense of the volume intended in the original design.”
Terraces on upper floors that were covered with glass walls and roofs in the 1980s will again be opened so they can be used as outdoor patios, he said.
The former Edison headquarters is considered one of the city's classic Art Deco buildings by the Los Angeles Conservancy, President Linda Dishman said.
It was designed by architects James and David Allison, who also designed Royce Hall and other buildings at UCLA. On the entry facade, symbolic figures represent, light, power and hydroelectric energy.
But at the time, the L.A. Times seemed more impressed with the building's all-electric heating and cooling systems.
“It is declared the first skyscraper on the West Coast to manufacture its own climate,” The Times said in 1929. “Use of electricity in the operation of the ventilating system will render temperature control independent of outside air conditions.”
The 270,000-square-foot building, vacated by Southern California Edison in 1970, is about 90% leased, according to real estate data provider CoStar. Among the largest tenants are technology services company ICF International and Torrey Pines Bank.
Santa Monica real estate brokerage Industry Partners, which helped Rising Realty lease PacMutual, also was one of the Edison buyers and will handle leasing.
The new owners will probably stop calling the building One Bunker Hill, Rising said. “We will rebrand it by Thanksgiving.”