Catering to a Market
Developers Randy and Steve Fifield and Michael Sorochinsky recognized an opportunity while working on several projects in Los Angeles for their firm, Century West Partners, which has offices in Chicago and L.A. “We saw how densely populated L.A.’s 2.7-square-mile Koreatown was becoming,” says Randy, a principal of the company. Immigrants had been settling in the neighborhood near Eighth Street and Western Avenue since the 1960s, yet little new construction—and none with amenities and services that would appeal to Korean residents and other demographics—was being built. So in 2011, Century West acquired a 90,000-square-foot, two-acre site, making it a pioneer, says the L.A. architect hired to help, David F. Hibbert of DFH Architects.
Transitioning a TOD site
Located at the corner of Berendo Street and New Hampshire Avenue and in the shape of an “L,” the parcel housed mostly surface parking. The developer’s timing was propitious as the area was transitioning and gaining a broader population, including other ethnicities and Gen Xers and Yers.
The neighborhood’s appeal came partly from the increasingly lively and affordable restaurants, karaoke bars, and yoga studios going in, but also from a metro rail stop one block away that ran down Wilshire Boulevard, says Hibbert. The transit-oriented development (TOD) provided fast access to downtown, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood. And the population is now pegged at about 120,000.
Fine-tuning the Package
Before breaking ground in 2012, the developer conducted focus groups to decide on amenities and apartment square footage. Among the findings: a desire for views, cross ventilation, sunshine, and outdoor living space; hence the plan to include balconies for almost all units and roof decks with grills, big-screen TVs for al fresco dining, and swimming pools. The equally important interior features in what became three separate buildings are well-equipped gyms, business centers, and attractive lobbies with surround sound. To help the buildings fit contextually in the older neighborhood, DFH designed simple, modern façades with composite panels that resemble wood, to add a traditional edge.
Thinking Green Sans LEED
Because green certification adds expense and time for approvals, the decision was made to go green without the hurdles. The buildings, each seven stories high and with underground parking and charging stations, maximize the newly landscaped site. Stucco exteriors with large windows provide views of downtown, the Hollywood Hills, and West L.A., says Hibbert.
The interiors include energy-efficient HVAC systems; low-flow plumbing; no-VOC paints and adhesives; and deep, wide tubs to appeal to this market, says Steve Fifield, co-founder with Sorochinsky. Units range from 400-square-foot microstudios for $1,875 a month to 1,200-square-foot, two-bedrooms for $3,400 monthly.
Building Shared Buzz
Although Century West knew some residents might shy away from socializing, the team encourages mixing by orchestrating events such as wine and cheese get-togethers, cupcake decorating parties, and omelet- and sushi-making parties. “We draw 50 to 60 at many of these events,” Randy Fifield says.
To make daily life easier, the developer hired staff who speak English and Korean, and the team designed the building’s website to enable leases to be completed online if desired. The décor (by L.A. designer Nadia Geller), black staff uniforms, and a 24/7 concierge evoke a hip, boutique- hotel vibe. Phase 1, with 130 units, was finished in December 2014 and is fully occupied; phase 2, with 176 units, is scheduled to be completed in March. The 171-unit phase 3 will be done by May.
K2LA’s success, coupled with a state report detailing the demand for metropolitan living near mass transit, jobs, and entertaining, encouraged the firm to break ground for its next building, the mixed-use Next on Sixth, with 398 residences and a small Target store.