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Rexford Industrial Pays $43M For LA River Site Where N.Y. Developer Once Hoped To Build Multifamily

A 2021 rendering of the Casitas Lofts project.

A New York developer’s plans for a 419-unit project along the Los Angeles River are officially dead. The developer spent more than four years swimming upstream against a current of pushback from neighboring residents and a coalition of river advocacy groups. 

Developer Pan Am Equities sold the Glassell Park property at 2800 Casitas in December to Rexford Industrial, according to a blog post on the National Resources Defense Council website. Rexford confirmed the purchase to Bisnow

The NRDC confirmed with city planning officials that all applications and in-progress entitlements related to Pan Am’s project, called Casitas Lofts, had been withdrawn. Representatives for Pan Am didn't respond to requests for comment. 

Public records show Rexford paid $43M — nearly double the $22M that Pan Am spent in 2016 to buy the site. 

Rexford sees great potential in the property as is and plans to keep it industrial, Rexford Executive Vice President of Investments Patrick Schlehuber told Bisnow in an email. 

At most, it might receive some upgrades, Schlehuber said. The existing low-rise building at the site is occupied by two tenants. If the tenants vacate after their respective lease terms are up, the company plans “a modest repositioning of the property to bring it up to modern standards,” Schlehuber wrote. 

The property was off-market when Rexford swooped in to buy it. 

“The modern 24’ clearance and overall functionality is rare to find in this dense infill San Fernando Valley/Downtown adjacent location,” Schlehuber said. 

The property at 2800 Casitas Ave. houses a roughly 117K SF industrial building and is industrially zoned; Pan Am would have needed to change that in order to build its project.

Adjacent to Atwater Village and across the river from Elysian Valley, the Casitas site is also immediately north of a huge swath of publicly owned lands that are slated to become public parks. 

The 419-unit project Pan Am wanted to build would have included 35 affordable units for very low-income tenants, a restaurant and beer garden, 19K SF of offices and parking for more than 700 cars.

Some, such as City Council Member Gil Cedillo, whose district includes the site, saw the prospect of new housing on the property as a benefit

The project had a number of vocal critics. It met sustained resistance from groups and residents who felt the development lacked a sufficient amount of affordable housing, would be a gentrifying force for the area and would ultimately limit public access to the river. 

The NRDC and its coalition partners framed the project’s demise as a “win for the LA River.” 

“We have seen a familiar pattern in our city that when green space is fought for by community members and then developed, the real estate hawks then swoop in for a land grab to develop luxury housing adjacent to a new park,” Julia Meltzer, who runs an Elysian Valley-based arts nonprofit, told the NRDC.

“Our coalition has successfully blocked this trajectory, at least for the moment,” Meltzer said.