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LOS ANGELES, CA-The Kor Group, a locally based investment group, named Taisei Construction of Cypress, Calif. to convert a53-year-old, 13-story office tower at 612 Flower St. in Downtown Los Angeles to 322 apartments.

The 480,000-sf office building, which has been empty for eight years, is the latest in a series of antiquated downtown L.A. office properties, often designated as historic structures, to be adapted as apartments. The buildings usually fill quickly with renters, thanks to the shortage of apartments in L.A.

Contractor Taisei has renovated a number of older, historic buildings into apartments, boutique hotels and new retail, says Emery Molnar, a company senior vice president. For example, Taisei is nearly finished with another project for the Kor Group, the renovation of the Pacific Shore hotel, recently renamed the Viceroy, in Santa Monica, Calif.

The downtown office building conversion will require demolishing the building’s interior while preserving elements deemed historical by the National Park Service, Molnar says.

He says the office property will be converted to studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as 12,000 square feet of street level retail, a rooftop swimming pool with landscaping, and two and one-half floors of parking. The work will also include asbestos removal, earthquake safety upgrades, and upgrades of the electrical, mechanical, plumbing and fire sprinkler systems.

Developers have been converting old downtown L.A. office buildings into apartments for several years, and the downtown digs have proved popular with tenants who find the converted offices hip and trendy. The apartment vacancy rate in downtown L.A. is among the lowest in Southern California, about 2%, with tenants often signing leases before construction of new buildings is completed.

Construction at the 612 S. Flower building is expected to be completed by Summer 2003.

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