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LOS ANGELES-An 1890s building that has served primarily as a film location in recent years will find new life as 40 live-work lofts in a development by Urban Pacific Builders and Phoenix Realty Group, who say they will begin an earthquake retrofitting of the building at Broadway and Third Street in Downtown within the next several weeks, with construction of the lofts to follow in early 2005.

The project, to be called CityView Lofts, will convert a six-story building that the developers bought from two local private investors in a transaction brokered by Dwight Everest and Irving Bonios of BE Commercial. The building is at 249 S. Broadway, near the Million Dollar Theater, the Grand Central Market and the Bradbury Building.The developers see a “deep and relatively underserved market” for housing for professionals who work Downtown despite the growing number of housing projects there, according to Scott Choppin, managing partner of Long Beach-based Urban Pacific.

Jay Stark, managing director of Los Angeles- and New York-based Phoenix, points out that the firm is providing equity capital for the project through the Genesis Workforce Housing Fund, which Phoenix manages. The Genesis fund is designed “to spur investment in workforce housing so middle-income households can buy their own homes close to employment centers such as downtown Los Angeles.” The lofts are expected to sell in the low $300,000 range, with floor plans from 800 sf to 1,400 sf. The project, at 249 S. Broadway, is being developed at a cost of $16 million and is being designed by Santa Monica-based Donald Alex Barany Architects.Broker Everest of Downtown-based BE Commercial tells GlobeSt.com that the CityView Lofts building had been mostly vacant for 20 to 30 years and that its 50,000 sf of old-fashioned office space had been used primarily for filming, including movies like “Seven” and “8 MM.” Despite the strong demand for conversion projects like this and the prime location, the 249 S. Broadway building was a bit difficult to sell because of its wood frame and un-reinforced masonry construction, Everest explains. “The wood frame and masonry presented advantages and disadvantages,” Everest says. “The building was more challenging structurally than some of the other buildings in Downtown that were from the 1920s that are steel and concrete.” The wood and masonry construction “adds partially to the charm of the building with its wood floors and brick that will come out very nicely in the finished product, but that makes it more challenging in the development phase,” Everest says. He notes that Urban Pacific and Phoenix venture was the third buyer to go into escrow on the property. The first two fell out of escrow after the prospective buyers obtained construction bids that were too high to make the project pencil out.

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