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No Fear of Heights for Angelenos

A brand-new year is always full of promise--as well as questions about what's in store for the commercial real estate industry. That's why we're thrilled to host Bisnow's 5th Annual LA State of the Market event on Wed., Jan. 14, at the JW Marriott at LA Live, starting at 8am. (Sign up here.) This week, we chatted with three of our all-star panelists.

An observation deck is in the cards at US Bank Tower, which OUE president and CEO-The Americas Richard Stockton tells us should be open by Q2, offering unparalleled views of DTLA. Within the past 30 days, they've mobilized general contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie and finalized an agreement with Legends (the same group that's developing an observation deck at NYC's One World Trade Center), to operate the facility. Richard tells us construction should go relatively quickly since demo is already done. 

As Richard explains, the building becomes narrower at the 69th floor, where people will be able to access the outside via double doors. An interior staircase will connect to floor 70, which can be partitioned off for private events, creating a double-height observation deck. Gensler is the architect for the project, called OUE Skyspace LA. Additionally, the company has filed plans for an upscale restaurant on the 71st floor. As you likely already know, it's the tallest building in the city. As we told you last month, US Bank Tower landed a blockbuster tenant at the end of '14 with law firm Lewis Brisbois, which moved into 215k SF of the space vacated by Latham & Watkins. Richard says OUE was happy to accommodate the firm's need for short-term space as a result of its existing digs being damaged in the Da Vinci fire.

Another of our panelists, Oro Capital Advisors co-managing partner Vicky Schiff, kicked off the new year deep in plans to launch a self-storage platform with a friend who's also in the business. Between the two, they have a track record of buying and building 28,000 self-storage units. The plan is to develop and redevelop in dense areas of SoCal, NorCal and other Western states. She sees increased occupancies and an expanded market for the self-storage biz, particularly among commercial users running small businesses or Internet-based companies. Vicky says it's an opportune time to develop modern facilities because much about the industry has changed, particularly tech and computerized reservation systems. Some of the existing stock out there is 20-plus years old, she says.

Vicky's working on a couple of other interesting strategies that she's keeping under wraps until Q2. She and her family, including son Jake, usually go skiing or do something adventurous for the holidays. This was the first year they had a staycation, got organized and spent a great time as a family.

New Year's Eve is always a big occasion for Sklar Kirsh LLP founding partner Andrew Kirsh, who'll be one of our moderators. That's when he and wife Courtney (shown celebrating their fifth anniversary with new daughter Clementine on Dec. 31) got married. Andrew expects a lot of activity in our region in '15, given the low-interest-rate environment and stronger economic fundamentals in SoCal. He's repping Canadian, Middle Eastern and Asian investors who are looking at LA as a safe haven to put their money--several of which are slated to close in the first quarter of this year. It also means that many LA- and SoCal-based owners and developers are being outbid by foreign capital, and going to secondary or lesser-known markets to find higher yields. As a consequence, Andrew's busy doing deals in Arizona, Vegas, Seattle, Colorado, Denver and suburbs throughout Texas--he recently did a student housing deal in South Carolina.

In a transaction closer to home, Andrew repped Vista Investment Group in the $15M purchase of Jensen's Recreation Center in Echo Park, which he calls one of the hotter areas of the City (we were the first to bring you the exclusive). The incandescent sign atop the historic (1924) mixed-use multifamily/retail building is a vestige from when it contained a bowling alley and billiards parlor. Andrew says the off-market deal exemplifies persistence, with the buyer repeatedly inquiring about the opportunity to purchase this storied property for several years. Thanks to Madison Partners' Darin Beebower who represented both sides of the transaction, the seller ultimately decided to sell late last year. Timing is everything, Andrew notes. Speaking of time, Clementine occupies most of Andrew's days and nights since she was born eight weeks ago, including those 3am feedings.