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[IMGCAP(1)]LOS ANGELES-Locally based Milbank Real Estate officially opened the doors Monday to the Roosevelt, its new $150 million Downtown L.A. luxury condominium project. The 222-unit project, at 727 W. Seventh St. at the corner of Seventh and Flower streets, is a conversion of the Roosevelt office building, a 16-story tower that was built in 1927 and is a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument.

The Roosevelt opened with about 30% of its units sold, according to M. Aaron Yashouafar, CEO of Milbank Real Estate. Yashouafar tells GlobeSt.com that Milbank officials have been “very pleasantly surprised by the number of people coming into our sales center and the number of hold checks that we have been receiving over the past two weeks,” especially in light of today’s market conditions.

During Milbank’s nearly three years of construction on the Roosevelt, “We went from a very hot market to a soft market,” Yashouafar says. Milbank bought the Roosevelt in 1998 and operated it as an office building until about 2004, when the company decided to convert it to condominiums to meet the growing demand for residential units in Downtown L.A.

[IMGCAP(2)]Milbank has completed the Roosevelt at a time when many other condominium projects across the country have failed for lack of funding and other financial problems. Yashouafar attributes the successful completion of the project to his company’s experience and its commitment to completing projects that it starts. He notes that last year Milbank finished a 45-story condominium project on the Las Vegas Strip and within two weeks got more than 80% of the units closed in a market where a lot of other projects failed.

“It goes to experience and having a financial commitment to your project,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “If you have to commit additional money to your project, then you do it, rather than relying only on your lender.”

Designed by Killfer Flammang Architects, which has converted more downtown office buildings in the past decade than any other architect, the Roosevelt features units ranging from 850 square feet to 2,800 square feet and priced from $480,000 to $2.3 million, including 16 penthouses. Its standard finishes “exceed what buyers would get as an upgrade in most other projects,” Yashouafar says.

Yashouafar notes that, in addition to its central location in Downtown L.A., other key amenities at the new condominium tower include the Seventh Street Metro station, which is in the basement of the Roosevelt, and four levels of parking inside the building. With the trend toward transit-oriented developments and the growth of public transportation, he says, the Metro station provides a distinct advantage for the Roosevelt in what has become a very competitive Downtown L.A. housing market. Other amenities at the Roosevelt include a physical fitness center, a rooftop pool and lounge with cabanas for private entertaining, an eight-foot-wide fire pit and a cascading water feature, a community wine cellar with personal storage facilities and 24-hour valet parking.

When asked how long he expects it will take to sell all of the units at the Roosevelt, Yashouafar says that it’s very difficult to estimate because “We are in an extraordinary situation right now with so many unknowns regarding the economy and how available financing will be.” Nonetheless, he says, the location of the project and the quality of the units have produced more interest from buyers than Milbank expected. “We are very optimistic that we should be able to get to a sellout faster than might be expected in this market, but it’s very difficult to pinpoint,” he says.

The Roosevelt is part of a portfolio of Milbank residential and commercial properties valued at approximately $800 million in six states ranging from the East Coast to the West Coast. He tells GlobeSt.com that his company is always looking for new opportunities but has become more selective because of the economic downturn and the stalled capital markets.

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