Nova on Wilshire – L.A Rising: Koreatown

Los Angeles Business Journal

September 14, 2020

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Koreatown continues to be a hotbed of development.

“The neighborhood has gentrified and continues to make itself a world-class destination for live, work, play,” said Kitty Wallace, an executive vice president at Colliers International Group Inc.

A large number of karaoke bars and other nightlife options, churches and a museum, along with a range of office buildings and restaurants, have improved the market’s desirability. The location is another reason for the neighborhood’s popularity.

“It’s a combination of the location being central to both downtown L.A. as well as Hollywood, and not far to Beverly Hills and the Westside. It was an area that for a while was offering rents that were lower than downtown L.A. To buy land, you are paying a lower price per foot than you would be if you were in downtown L.A., and it sparked a lot of interest in development there,” said Laurie Lustig-Bower, an executive vice president at CBRE Group Inc.

Now that rents have climbed, that has increased the number of projects in the area.
“It’s now justifying expensive construction like high-rise development,” Lustig-Bower said.

Koreatown-based developer Jamison is the biggest name in the market. Wallace said Jamison is behind more than half the development in Koreatown at the moment.

To date, the family-owned company has developed 2,000 units and expects to deliver another 1,400 by year end. Most of the company’s projects are in Koreatown, with a smattering in areas like downtown.

Jamison has turned some of its office product and parking lots into multifamily buildings.

“They are helping to propel that market,” Wallace said.

One of the largest non-Jamison projects in the area is Vermont Corridor, a 3-acre site owned by L.A. County on Vermont Avenue between 4th and 6th streets. The development will include a 21-story office tower and a six-story building with 72 low-income housing units.

Other projects announced for the area include Harridge Development Group’s Wilshire Galleria, which will be redeveloped into 500 condos and a hotel; a 33-story building at 631 S. Vermont Ave.; the 32-story Soul tower; and Cal-Coast Development Corp.’s 367-unit multifamily project with ground-level retail.

Much of the current demand is for high-end product, Wallace said, a change from the area’s previous “C quality” multifamily product.

“That Hollywood-Downtown-Koreatown contingent became kind of a hotbed for development, and there was demand from renters willing to pay more for the higher-end rentals,” she said.

Wallace added that while some developers may be focused on affordable housing, it is hard for those projects to make financial sense.

“The cost to build and the challenges that you have working in the neighborhood takes a tremendous amount of time. You add the cost and the time of all of that, and that basically ensures that you need to build a high-end product because that is the only thing that pencils,” she said.

Lustig-Bower said many of the projects now have affordable units. Reserving units for low-income tenants often allows builders to tap into density bonuses and build more units overall.

Nova on Wilshire
Location: 3980 Wilshire Blvd.
Description: The seven-story building will have 228 units above ground-floor retail. It will also include a rooftop deck, coworking space, pet station, fitness center and pool.
Developers: Jamison; Wilshire & Wilton is the owner
Architect: KTGY Architecture & Planning
Estimated Completion: November

The Rise Koreatown
Location: 3525 W. 8th St.
Description: The seven-story building will have 364 housing units and ground-level commercial space. It’s owned by Encore Capital Management, records show.
Developers: Cal-Coast Development Corp.
Architect: Nadel Inc.
Estimated Completion: 2021

The Crosby
Location: Crosby North is located at 3350 Wilshire Blvd.; Crosby South is located at 685 Catalina St.
Description: Crosby North has 216 units; Crosby South has 120 units. The buildings share amenities.
Developers: Jamison
Architect: Corbel Architects (Crosby North), DFH Architects (Crosby South)
Estimated Completion: Crosby South opened in July; Crosby North will open in September.

631 S. Vermont Avenue
Description: The 33-story building will have 200 hotel rooms, 250 condos and nearly 50,000 square feet of commercial space.
Developers: JL Real Estate Development
Estimated Completion: 2023