Up With Downtown *
It's finally happening, says Los Angeles real-estate developer Paul Solomon
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 2/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Think New York's got a lock on loft living? Not anymore. After a decade of talk, downtown Los Angeles is heating up considerably. The passage of 1999's adaptive-reuse ordinance, which offers financial incentives for converting commercial buildings, immediately sparked the development of three properties in the old banking district.
Since then, 1,000 residential lofts have hit the market, and the Central City Association expects another 3,400 by the end of 2004. That's lots of work for designers and architects: Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh at the Flower Street Lofts across from the Staples Center; M2A Milofsky and Michali at Little Tokyo Lofts, once an elevator factory; David Lawrence Gray at the Orpheum, above the theater; Killefer Flammang at 2117 East Seventh Place and also at Pegasus, where Kelly Wearstler of KWID is handling interiors. Donald Alec Barany and Art Architecture Thought: Studio have taken charge at Santee Court, nine garment-center buildings to be converted in three phases. And because these projects attract a broad demographic, downtown L.A. is morphing into an edgy scene somewhat reminiscent of, yes, early SoHo.
Paul Solomon saw it all coming. Born in L.A., he played golf at Duke University, then completed JD-MBA degrees at the University of Chicago. After a year at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker's office in downtown L.A., he set up the real-estate development firm LinearCity, putting his money—and his personal address—where he believes the city's new horizon to be.
Tell us where you live.
I'm in the arts district, in a loft with sandblasted brick walls and concrete floors. It's one of 15 units at 810 East Third Street, my first loft conversion. The second was 811 Traction Avenue, down the block from SCI-Arc.
What drew you there?
The buildings. And the area feels like a real city. Asians and Latinos are a part of it, and the collision of cultures makes downtown one of this country's most exciting places.
How do you respond to the naysayers?
Services are within a five-minute drive, and getting to the beach is actually easier than from Hollywood, Pasadena, Silverlake, or Los Feliz. As for safety, behavior should be based on common sense. The proof is that a lot of single women have moved to the arts district.
Describe the scene.
There's vintage fashion at Freaks. The Project gallery deals in cutting-edge installation pieces, and Bedlam Art is a hub of the local community. On the food scene, there's R23 for Japanese, plus the delis on Saint Vincent's Alley. Cole's P.E. Buffet, the original French-dip place, holds literary readings. The fabric is there.
Describe your new project?
Toy Factory Lofts is a 1924 building in steel-reinforced concrete.
And your plans for it?
We're developing two retail spaces, 119 lofts spread over seven floors, and three levels of parking. Lofts will range from 780 to 2,000-plus square feet. The average price will be under $400,000.
Why Clive Wilkinson as the design architect?
When he took me to Culver City and showed me TBWA/Chiat/Day, I could see he has an elegant eye. He gets it.
The scope of his work for your company?
Clive did the original feasibility study and layout. He's responsible for the feel of the place as well as the choice of materials.
What do you see as the prime selling points?
These spaces will be truly open, with just kitchens and baths. They'll have white walls and polished-concrete floors. Amenities will include stainless-steel cabinets and appliances, Caesarstone counters, oversize tubs, and Grohe fittings. And almost all units have great views.
Clive does fantastic things with shipping containers. He's using one for the mail room in the lobby.
How does his approach to interiors say "downtown L.A." to you?
Clive works in a hip, industrial vernacular. The shipping container is a perfect fit for the conversion of a warehouse on an abandoned railway spur. He also has a European sensibility that works for downtown, where the energy comes from places other than California.
When you're in down-town L.A., how do you know it's not TriBeCa?
There are views of Dodger Stadium and the Library Tower. More important, though, this area—by the L.A. River and Union Station—is where the city really started. And of course the weather's better!
The residential loft conversion at 811 Traction Avenue. One of the project's developers, LinearCity managing partner Paul Solomon, proving there's really street life there.
Solomon's Toy Factory Lofts at 1855 Industrial Street, slated for April occupancy.
A computer rendering of a Toy Factory roof garden, to feature a pool, a deck, and an outdoor fireplace.
This 1,600-square-foot loft at 811 Traction features red-oak floors and a poured-in-place concrete counter.