Untold Story: What's Driving Construction of the Tallest Tower West of Mississippi
By now you've heard about the Wilshire Grand. You've even seen the cool videos of the record cement pour. What you don't know is the tale of how the last thing AC Martin CEO Chris Martin spoke about with his son on the morning of Jan. 3, 2012, the day he died, was the project. And how his son's memory drives his work on the 73-story tower.
Chris (here with Interscape Construction's Stephen Russell and Cerrell VP Sean Rossall) says Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho asked him to be the project manager for the site twice over the years, but he wasn't interested. But when Cho approached him a third time in February 2012, it was right after Chris lost his son Patrick. That time Chris said yes, but only if it was in service to his friend Cho and if there was no money involved. "In my mind, I'm dedicating this to his memory," Chris told Bisnow. Patrick died after a long fight with cancer. He was 35. "I remember that morning. He told me he just wanted to go back to sleep and rest," Chris told us. "I told him, 'It's OK. Rest.'"
Construction on the $1.1B, 2.1M SF development is moving along well, Chris told the more than 550 attendees at Bisnow's Evolution of Downtown last week. Upon completion, the building will supplant the US Bank Tower as the tallest building West of the Mississippi. Chris says the project doesn't really pencil out, but chairman Cho's intense love of America and willingness to think long-term is what finally got the project, 30 years in the making, moving forward. Chris tells us Patrick's wife, Danielle, now works at the firm, keeping the fourth generation's impact on the company strong. Patrick had two children and Chris says he's still planning on a fifth generation leading the firm.
Here's Turner Construction VP Brendan Murphy, whose firm is handling the massive tower. Brendan calls it a "once in a lifetime project." Wilshire Grand was originally planned to go up as two towers, with the office space and hotel separate.
But it's not all big towers in Downtown. Our event was hosted at City Constructors' snazzy Chinatown reposition play at 1418 N Spring St. The firm plans to convert the old building into a fancy creative office mixed-use, with three restaurant spaces. CEO Bryson Reaume says the 20k SF project will be complete by the end of the year.
Here's Chris and Ratkovich Co COO Clare de Briere, a Bisnow Power Woman. Her firm has quite the transformative project in the works as well, as its BLOC renovation of the old Macy's Plaza into an open-air destination also is full steam ahead. Clare says the $180M development is making something that was depressing into a true attraction for the city. And knowing that Brookfield has the stranglehold on high-rise office tower space in Downtown, Clare says the office portion of the BLOC will be very different. In fact, it'll be the first Class-A office property with a dog policy.
CBRE SVP Bradford McCarthy says the revitalization of Downtown is partially thanks to the quality of the players taking on the task. "It's the biggest names and the biggest brands in the business building in DTLA," he says. And he says there's no signs of slowing, as even neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and the Arts District are heating up.
Stinberg principal Simon Ha (here with Omgivning principal Karin Liljegren) is one of the few who currently work and live in Downtown. He says the biggest need now is amenities. The multifamily is on the way. The office is there. Now the city has to give people something to do. Karin's firm is working on that, as the architecture, interior design and urban design firm is working on Broadway Trade, converting the old May Co department store at Broadway and Eighth into a 1M SF complex that will feature a two-story food hall with vendors. The coolest part, she says, is the roof, which will have two swimming pools, a park and a bunch of restaurants and bars.
Here's LA Department of Convention and Tourism Development executive developer Robert Ovrom, right, with Tangram VP Mitchel Zelinger (who moderated our revitalization panel). Robert's working on the massive expansion of the LA Convention Center. Contrary to what some may think, Robert's actually happy the NFL didn't choose the Convention Center as a potential landing spot. "The NFL is eight home games a year," he says. "A bigger convention center brings teachers, accountants and has a much bigger economic impact."
Here's Mitchel with his daughter Isabella Zelinger, who also works for Tangram as the marketing and sales event coordinator.
Polaris Pacific VP Johanna Gunther is pitching quite the intriguing sale opportunity. Her firm is marketing the historic Title Guarantee Building on Pershing Square. The high-rise was built in 1930, and later converted to loft units. She says sales will begin this year, beating other major multifamily product to supply-constrained downtown.
Also on the residential front, Carmel Partners' project may house the biggest sign of Downtown's renaissance: Whole Foods. VP Neils Cotter says when the company first reached out to the grocer for its Eighth and Grand mixed-use, it was a non-starter. "Halfway through building, they came back to us," he says. Carmel quickly reacted to accommodate the landmark tenant, which is scheduled to open Nov. 4.