Urban Evolution.


Chinese developers show a trend toward more efficient units, says Mike Akerly, Vice President and regional manager at Polaris Pacific.

Walking the streets of downtown Los Angeles one can still see traces of the area’s former glory. As buildings are gutted and renovated, majestic art-deco facades occasionally peak out from behind the scaffolding. In its heyday, downtown L.A. was home to a bustling theater district, flagship department stores and a number of grand hotels and residences. But the exodus from downtown, which began in the 1950s, saw Americans embrace a suburban lifestyle. Over time, the thriving city core was reduced to a cluster of abandoned buildings and a resident population of just 10,000 people.

Starting in the early 2000s, however, a number of government incentives have propelled development in the city center and the urban landscape is changing. Historic buildings are being revived, an arts district has emerged, and shiny new towers are being designed for the 24-7 lifestyle found in urban centers like London or Hong Kong.

The Ritz Carlton LA Live was the first new-build luxury condominium to enter the downtown market back in 2010. Now, a number of new projects are underway, a large number of them by Chinese developers, and many selling for over US$1,000 per square foot.

According to real estate firm Transwestern, developers from China have been involved in at least seven of 18 land deals downtown in excess of US $19 million. Their development plans include thousands of new residential units in soaring skyscrapers that will fundamentally change the city’s skyline. “When all these megaprojects are finished, they’re going to have to reshoot the postcard picture of downtown L.A.,” says Mark Tarczynski, executive vice president for Colliers International’s L.A. office.

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