A $2.5B litmus test for the Century City luxury market

Woodridge Capital sets completion date for first large condo project in a decade

Nov.November 14, 2019 11:55 AM
Woodridge Capital Partners’ CEO Michael Rosenfeld and Sales Director Mary Ann Osborn with a rendering of the project
Woodridge Capital Partners’ CEO Michael Rosenfeld and Sales Director Mary Ann Osborn with a rendering of the project

Spurred by a mall – yes, a mall – luxury residential sales in Century City are up, and now the area’s most ambitious condo project in a decade is finally nearing completion.

After a myriad of delays, Century City based-developer Woodridge Capital Partners is slated to finish both the 143-unit North Tower and the 125-unit South Tower by December 2020, according to Mary Ann Osborn, director of sales for the towers.

Completing construction would be a major vindication for Woodridge, which has faced financing and permitting delays since the City of Los Angeles approved the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners-designed project in 2013.

The question, though, is how many luxury residential condos a neighborhood synonymous with law firm offices can support. Woodridge’s Century City development represents the first big project to go to market since a $1 billion renovation of the Westfield Century City mall, and the first since the Related Companies’ successful Century City condo tower  a decade ago. Those factors make it a litmus test for the area’s luxury market.

“I think there will be a tremendous demand,” said Susan Smith an agent at Hilton & Hyland with listings in Century City. “But these are the type of projects [in Century City] that haven’t existed before.”

There are some data points that suggest the development may succeed.

The North Tower units are now on the market – the first listings arrived in March — and Woodridge has already claimed $200 million in pre-sales last month (Osborn, who was previously the sales director for Related’s tower, did not provide an updated number).

Prices start at $2 million and go up to as much as $50 million for each of the six penthouses (most listings on the MLS range from $2,000 to $2,500 per square foot). The project, which its developers say is valued at $2.5 billion, also features a 394-key hotel called The Fairmont, with 63 additional Fairmont-branded condos. Once completed, the massive development will add 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space to the area. Amenities include multiple swimming pools, a spa, a game room and a private walkway to the recently renovated Westfield Century City mall.

Michael Rosenfeld’s Woodridge, which paid $367 million to acquire the property in 2008 and landed $1 billion in construction financing, is targeting out-of-state buyers to scoop up condos in addition to purchasers from local neighborhoods.

Real estate agents also voiced optimism the condos would sell fast — Coldwell Banker’s Jade Mills called Century City an “established luxury market” — and the data does suggest the area is gaining strength.

Home sales north of $1 million in the 90067 zip code, covering most of what is widely thought of as Century City, jumped from 23 during 2010 to 55 in 2013, to 70 in 2018, according to data provided by Jonathan Miller of appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

Most of those deals happened at the luxury condo tower at 1 W. Century Plaza, including a $22.5 million sale in 2015, the decade’s highest, per Miller Samuel’s data. Megadeveloper Related completed the 42-story, 140-unit high rise in 2010, known as “The Century,” and it’s been the only significant new luxury property to date in the neighborhood.

Related’s condo bet in Century City didn’t look good in the beginning. Sales were initially slow at the Robert A.M. Stern-designed condo due to the recession, according to the project’s first sales director, Coldwell Banker’s Valerie Fitzgerald. But it wound up a success, selling out in 2017 and attracting many buyers from L.A.’s tony west side neighborhoods. Even Rihanna moved to the tower from her Pacific Palisades home.

“Quite honestly, The Century was the first residential building in Century City since the ‘80s,” Osborn said. “But people were drawn to it because of the walkability aspect and security and amenities, and the retail.”

Growing luxury residential demand in Century City is partly about the desire for another walkable neighborhood in a city with some car fatigue, agents said (the extension of the Purple metro line, slated to be completed in 2025, should add to that). It’s also about a mall that got a $1 billion makeover.

“The Westfield Century City mall has led to a tremendous increase in demand,” said Hilton & Hyland’s Smith. “When I grew up here, Century City was just an office space, but it is becoming a central attraction.”

As malls have been pared down or shut down throughout L.A., Westfield completed a $1 billion renovation of its Westfield Century Mall in 2017, with a bet on the neighborhood’s growing luxury residential footprint. The mall revamp included a VIP service with private lounges, elevators, and shopping hours.

Mostly, the mall is a selling point in distinguishing Century City from other West Side neighborhoods in which residents may spend hours in the car to get to restaurants and shops. “People can walk to dinner in Century City because of the Westfield [renovation],” Fitzgerald said.

The mall has sparked talk of further Century City residential development, including a plan by JMB Realty to build a 483-unit condo highrise that has moved forward in fits and starts.

JMB’s latest plan calls for two condo high-rises on Avenue of the Stars, but there is no timeline for construction completion or presales.

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