On a 9½-acre site in downtown Los Angeles adjacent to a light-rail station, developer Geoffrey H. Palmer, founder of Beverly Hills–based GH Palmer Associates, recognized an opportunity to expand his niche.
A longtime developer of multifamily housing, Palmer knew there was little high-end housing for students attending the nearby University of Southern California (USC). The downtown property contained a medical office and outpatient clinic that would remain, but room existed to construct a large, five-story building with 913 apartments and a freestanding structure for amenities.
Completed last year, the building, named Lorenzo, was half occupied by August; the remaining half will be occupied by this August, in time for the new semester’s start.
Architect Alan Boivin of Nelson/Boivin Architects in L.A. designed Lorenzo’s exterior in an Italianate style similar to that of other Palmer buildings with equally Italian names, such as Orsini and Medici. A long entrance drive accented with stately palms and a fountain conjure images of resorts rather than student housing.
Palmer knew that this highly social student demographic wanted plenty of amenities. So Boivin and landscape architect Robert Yamashita of The L.A. Group set aside land for intimate courtyards with lush plantings to soften the brick-and-stucco façade. The team also included two outdoor pools, water jets choreographed to music and lighting, colorful granite pavers, fire pits, a concert area, a roof pool with decks, and a sand volleyball court.
Lorenzo’s interior was designed with a similar upscale focus but a more contemporary vibe. The extensive offerings include an indoor pool; Hollywood-style theater; rec room with gaming arcade; gym; two, professional-size basketball courts; conference center; climbing wall; running track; and dining court complete with beer tap. For students without a car, the developer runs a shuttle to and from USC.
But the most desired student feature is the latest high-speed Internet connection, says Chris Meola, GHP Management’s director of marketing and sales. And since college is also about studying, the interiors provide ample study areas, with desks installed in library-carrel fashion.
The apartments at Lorenzo are much more luxurious than most boomer parents experienced in their college days. The units are leased by bed and come fully furnished with one, two, or three bedrooms; living room with 46-inch, flat-screen TV/DVR; dining area; kitchen with counter; bathroom; washer–dryer; and balcony.
A one-bedroom with twin beds ranges from 647 to 730 square feet and leases for $1,409 per bed per month; a two-bedroom with four beds ranges from 948 to 1,334 square feet and costs $979 a bed per month; and the largest apartment, with six beds divided among three bedrooms, measures 1,286 to 1,331 square feet and costs $899 per bed a month. Since many students travel from abroad, management can match roommates if desired.
Though the developer didn’t apply for LEED certification, many of the property’s features nonetheless reflect a commitment to sustainability: drought-tolerant plantings, low-water fixtures, Energy Star appliances, filtered rainwater, and prefab framing to reduce waste. The site earned a high Walk Score (92), as well.
Designer Caron Swan of The Design Co. in Sherman Oaks, Calif., went for the trifecta in furnishings: comfort, color, and durability. Scott Gwartz, director of corporate partnerships for USC Sports Properties, says the building has helped enhance the area, which USC also aided by bringing in restaurants and hotels.
onto what was happening; there are no apartments, on campus or off, that
compare,” says Gwartz. “We’re now organizing events there, including [ones]
using the basketball courts.”