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We're Back to Condos?

Los Angeles

For those keeping score at home, Colorado Commons has changed again. In the San Gabriel Valley foothill community of Monrovia, it was built in 2008 as 68 for-sale townhomes. When the housing market tanked, it switched to rentals. Now the market calls for a return to condo status. (The only comparison for such a dramatic switch is Matthew McConaughey's career.)

Johanna Gunther—SVP with Polaris Pacific, the firm handling marketing and sales—tells us as leases expire, units are being upgraded for sale, with existing tenants getting first crack. The project launched sales with a grand opening on May 17. When an apartment complex goes condo, she says, there's not a huge percentage of renters who decide to purchase—about 10% is a general rule of thumb, depending on the market. (As the saying goes, why buy the horse when you can get the milk for a monthly rent.)

No closings occurred the first time around, so Colorado Commons was never a "broken condo" deal. Barker Pacific Group, which developed the project with PCCP as its equity partner, changed the use upon completion but retained ownership, something Johanna calls rare. Today, developers are once again looking at condos as an exit strategy. People who either own or are thinking of buying an apartment building are asking what they could sell it for as condos and what they would need to put into it renovation-wise, versus how it works out financially as apartments.

The launch of Colorado Commons condo sales also marks Polaris' expansion to the LA area. Johanna notes SoCal has many more submarkets and pockets and thus a lot more geographic opportunities, compared to the Bay Area, where Polaris is HQ'd. (We also have better Mexican food. Just sayin'.) Downtown LA is a great story in itself, she says: There's a huge number of apartments coming on in the next two years, but it's under-housed in terms of condos.

The project is located in the heart of Monrovia's quaint, walkable Old Town, which features a Friday street fair and farmer's market. But perhaps Monrovia's biggest claim to fame is Samson, the bear who visited residents' hot tubs until captured and relocated to an Orange County zoo. (Reached for comment, Samson had little thought on rent vs. owning. But he does like honey.)

Outside of work, Johanna has fraternal twin boys who are 4.5 months old. Additionally, she's into photography, which stems from her post-college tour of Europe. It turned out she had a good eye, using a completely different, more creative aspect of her brain, balancing out the business-oriented side. She favors architectural detail shots as well as landscapes.