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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Johnson Fain lists Chinatown HQ, entitled for resi redevelopment, for sale

The listing cites apartment development potential or ‘as is’ occupancy

From left: William H. Fain Jr. and Scott Johnson (credit: Google Maps)

Updated, Wednesday, August 23, 2017, 1:3o p.m.: Chinatown is getting denser — and a local architecture firm is seeing how much it can bank on its development potential.

Johnson Fain, led by Scott Johnson and William H. Fain Jr., is shopping its 25,700-square-foot headquarters on the north edge of Chinatown, according to listing materials obtained by The Real Deal.

The one-acre acre property at 1201 North Broadway is fully entitled for apartment development. CBRE’s Brad McCarthy has the listing.

The property is home to a one-story building currently occupied by Johnson Fain. But the firm behind Runway at Playa Vista, Chinatown’s Blossom Plaza redevelopment and a host of other prestigious designs plans to vacate once a buyer seals the deal, according to marketing materials.

Johnson Fain began the entitlement process in 2014. In October 2016, the firm filed plans with the City of Los Angeles to raze the company’s headquarters and replace it with a 124-residence project that would include 8,691 square feet of ground-floor retail and office space, and two subterranean levels of car and bike parking. At the time, Johnson Fain co-founder Scott Johnson told Urbanize LA that the project would be “built as a co-venture with a real estate firm.”

In April, after Johnson Fain secured its entitlements, it filed new renderings with the Department of City Planning that show a seven-story building with 118 residences instead. Rather than serving as construction plans, the renderings are meant to  show the full entitled potential of the property should a buyer purchase it, according to McCarthy.

The property is listed as either a redevelopment or an “as is” office for possible office investors or users, McCarthy said.

Representatives of Johnson Fain declined comment about whether they would still partner with a real estate firm to develop the property. Neither CBRE nor Johnson Fain would reveal the asking price.

A smaller parcel of land nearby, a 5,400-square-foot lot at 941 North Broadway that is zoned for a five-story condo project, is listed for $2.6 million. At nearly 47,000 square feet, more than 8 times the size, 1201 North Broadway could fetch well into the mid-teens — or higher, considering its entitlements.

Johnson Fain was founded by Johnson and Fain in 1989. Two-bedroom units at its Blossom Plaza development — near the site of its current listings — clock in between $3,000 to $5,000 a month.

The firm occupied a 14,000-square-foot office at Wilshire Boulevard and Flower Street in Downtown’s financial district until 2004, when Johnson Fain paid $2 million for its current single-story location. The company spent $1.5 million on a building makeover while growing its ranks to include 60 employees, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The building, which is the result of combining four historic structures, was originally a Chrysler dealership that opened in the 1920s. According to the Times, Johnson Fain purchased the building from Alma Connolly and Joe Boccalero, the daughter and son-in-law, respectively, of car dealership founder Domenich Basso. Dwight Hotchkiss of Colliers represented the sellers.

Johnson Fain hasn’t revealed whether it will keep an office in the new complex or at another location once the property is sold.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Dwight Hotchkiss is with Cushman & Wakefield. He is with Colliers.