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Sunday, Feb 25, 2024

Panoramic Views

Last month, a story that started with the 1994 Northridge Earthquake came to a dramatic conclusion at the grand opening of the Panorama Tower, a new residential high-rise with a $25 million price that was originally an office tower designed by architecture Welton Becket firm. In an epic example of adaptive reuse, the Shomof Group took the old structure in Panorama City and refashioned its 13 stories into a residential tower. Located at 8155 Van Nuys Blvd. in Panorama City, the building originally opened as an office tower in 1962. Following the Northridge Earthquake 26 years ago, the damaged tower stood dormant until Shomof Group assumed control of it. Five years ago, Chief Executive Izek Shomof received an email alerting him that the 89,000-square-foot tower was available. “It was completely gutted out,” Shomof told the Business Journal, adding that he saw it as “a great opportunity for retail ground-floor and residential units.” Housing shortage The motivation behind the adaptive reuse is a dearth of multifamily in the Valley and greater L.A. market, despite Panorama City’s historic reputation as an industrial-zoned section of the region. “There is a very high demand for residential,” Shomof said. Public Information Director at Los Angeles City Planning Nora Frost concurred. “L.A. has worked really hard to actually create more housing,” Frost told the Business Journal by email. “We represent 10 percent of the total population in the state of California, but L.A. is where 25 percent of the housing is getting built in the last few years. At the same time, the city of Los Angeles is 40 percent of the population of Los Angeles County, yet we produce 75 percent of the housing and 85 percent of all multifamily housing.” Frost added that 13 projects with 749 housing units have been approved within Panorama City Neighborhood Council boundaries. Of those combined units, 89 units are affordable, five of them are devoted to extremely low-income households and 973 are market rate. “Some of the most recently proposed housing developments in Panorama City include a 239-unit senior affordable development on Woodman Avenue and a two-phased, four-building (complex with) 180 subsidized apartment units on Lanark Street,” she said in the email. The Panorama Tower fits with the shift of Panorama City from an industrial and manufacturing hub to a residential neighborhood. In the last few years, such projects as Icon at Panorama, a $150 million 623-unit development, and The Plant, a former General Motors factory that now hosts big-box retailers, have improved the context for the new tower. In 2015, the Shomof Group purchased the structure for $12.5 million via an entity called Grand Pacific 7-28 LLC, according to reports. ‘We’re pioneers!’ Log onto the Shomof Group’s website and the first words that appear very large onscreen are: “We’re pioneers!” The downtown L.A. firm bills itself as “one of the first developers to utilize the city of Los Angeles’ Adaptive Reuse Ordinance.” According to the website, the Shomof Group has been converting historic downtown Los Angeles office buildings into live/work lofts with retail spaces, sidewalk cafes, boutiques, bars and restaurants since 1999. Los Angeles City Council President Pro-Tem Nury Martinez (6th District) was among the local dignitaries in attendance at the company’s Feb. 27 ribbon-cutting ceremony in Panorama City for its new tower. Shomof Group most often focuses on the downtown Los Angeles submarket, along such corridors as Broadway and Main Street; and within the Chinatown and Bunker Hill quadrants. “Every project we take over, we’re completely renovating it,” Shomof said. Shomof added that the Panorama Tower project was no more ambitious than any other of his reduxes, except for one element: earthquake safety. “It took more work to do the seismic retrofit,” Shomof said. His project allocated $5 million in retrofitting costs, creating “60 pylons going 60 feet into the ground” and putting in brand-new glass, plumbing and infrastructure to create “loft-style, hipster” living spaces. With the new iteration of the Becket tower, the structure’s original 13 stories have been upped to 14 with the creation of two penthouses at the top. Outside of downtown L.A., Shomof has worked with office and retail edifices along the Ventura Boulevard corridor in Sherman Oaks, Encino and Tarzana. Elsewhere, the company has a hotel project adjacent to the emerging SoFi Stadium in Inglewood — which sports teams L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers will inhabit — opening this summer. “I am an L.A. guy,” Shomof said. “I have some real estate in (Las) Vegas, but mostly concentrated in this area. We like places that are dense with people.” Another atypical aspect of the Panorama City project was its architectural heritage. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Welton Becket firm designed many of L.A.’s most recognizable mid-century buildings including the Los Angeles International Airport Theme Building; Santa Monica Civic Auditorium; and both the Cinerama Dome and the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood. Despite its Welton Becket pedigree, the Panorama City tower was not a historic building but “it’s the tallest building in the area,” Shomof said. Shomof thought the amount of government bureaucracy to get approvals for the Panorama Tower were on par with other old buildings he has revamped. “Let’s not forget that this is L.A.,” he said. Emphasizing that context is critical, he added. “Downtown L.A. was not better than Panorama City back in 1999.” In November, Shomof Group began finalizing leases for Panorama Tower. It currently has a 70 percent occupancy rate, the developer said.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.

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