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LA may get its own High Line, Wanda Group's $1.2B project in Beverly Hills ... & more

Los Angeles briefs
By TRD L.A. staff | January 01, 2017 01:00PM

Rendering of 670 Mesquit

LA’s High Line?

Los Angeles may soon have its very first Bjarke Ingels-designed development, complete with an elevated park decked over a rail line. In December, two partners announced their plan to seek city approval for a starchitect-designed mega-project along the L.A. River.

One is the Gallo family, which owns part of the site. The Gallos, who number among California’s richest clans, made their fortune from E&J Gallo Winery. They are teaming up with investment firm V.E. Equities to build the Arts District development, which would include 250 rental units, two boutique hotels and 800,000 square feet of office space.

Plans have not yet been filed, but observers say that the development would accelerate the neighborhood’s transformation from gritty to gentrified.

Called 670 Mesquit, the project would also include a pedestrian deck that would extend over the train tracks that divide the river from the Rancho Cold Storage facility on Mesquit Street, which the Gallo family owns.

The design, which would necessitate approval from several public agencies, has drawn comparisons to New York City’s High Line.

LA brokerage merges with SF mega-firm

John Aaroe

Los Angeles-based boutique residential brokerage John Aaroe Group is merging with one of  San Francisco’s largest brokerages, Pacific Union International.

The combined firm will have 1,100 agents working in 38 offices across California.

Founded in 2009, John Aaroe Group, whose CEO is Mark McLaughlin, has nine locations in Los Angeles, including Beverly Hills, Sherman Oaks and the Sunset Strip. The merger will help the firm expand its international reach and increase its use of technology, president John Aaroe said in a release.

Three years ago, Pacific Union — America’s ninth-largest real estate brokerage by sales volume — launched a marketing program in Beijing called Chinese Concierge to pursue Chinese investors, who make up a growing percentage of  both single-family and commercial buyers in L.A.

Mark McLaughlin

With the merger, John Aaroe Group will be able to tap into both Pacific Union’s Northern California market and its Chinese market, according to a company spokesperson, but day-to-day operations will not change. No L.A. agents will relocate to San Francisco, but they will pursue more listings up north, according to John Aaroe broker Aaron Kirman.

“With Asian buyers, a lot of them are looking to buy in both San Francisco and L.A., or at least looking at both cities,” he said.

Chinese Wanda Group notches Beverly Hills victory

The Beverly Hills City Council has voted in favor of a controversial $1.2 billion project proposed by a subsidiary of Chinese giant Wanda Group, paving the way for it to move forward.

Dubbed One Beverly Hills, the development includes a 134-key boutique hotel, 193 luxury condominiums and retail space at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard.

As part of a development agreement hashed out before the council vote, Wanda will pay the city of Beverly Hills upfront fees of $60 million as well as an additional 5 percent surcharge of gross hotel room revenue for the right to build its condo and hotel tower.

The approval did not sit well with rival developer Beny Alagem, who tried to pass a ballot initiative that would have allowed him to build a 26-story condo tower next door, on the site of his Beverly Hilton. The measure failed, thanks in part to the efforts of an opposition group — funded largely by Wanda subsidiary and development partner Athens Group.

Even before Wanda took action to defeat his proposal, there was tension between the neighboring developers. Representatives of Alagem’s Oasis West Realty vocally opposed elements of the One Beverly Hills project.

Now Alagem may challenge the city’s decision, according to spokesperson Marie Garvie.

“We continue to have serious concerns about…the location of the loading dock across from the entrance of the Beverly Hilton,” she said. “Now that the project is approved we will continue to weigh our options.”