By Edwin Folven, 10/27/2011
Development to Bring 478 Apartments to the Miracle Mile
After remaining vacant for nearly two years, work has begun at the lot at the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, where 478 apartments and ground-level retail space will be built.
The six-story project, known as Wilshire/La Brea, is being built by BRE Properties, a San Francisco-based development company that also has offices in Irvine.
The project site, which takes up the entire block between Wilshire Boulevard and 8th Street, and La Brea and Sycamore Avenues, formerly housed the Columbia Savings bank building, as well as parking lots and some small retail businesses, all of which were razed in 2009. Dave Powers, vice president of investments for BRE Properties, said construction did not begin right away because the design and permitting process took nearly two years. The project has undergone several revisions since it was proposed five years ago, including a reduction in the number of units and a lowering of the height of the units along Sycamore Avenue, where it will be three levels. A pocket park is also going to be built at the corner of Sycamore Avenue and 8th Street, which Powers said will be accessible to all people in the neighborhood.
According to Renee Weitzer, chief of land use planning for Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom La Bonge, 4th District, numerous meetings were held during the planning phase, and there was a lot of support in the neighborhood.
“We feel it was very well designed,” Weitzer said. “We believe this is where the density should be, along Wilshire and La Brea. There is the Bus Rapid Transit coming and the subway is coming, so this is the appropriate place for density.”
But some people believe the project does not fit in with the neighborhood, including Jim O’Sullivan, president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association.
“To me, it was way too big,” O’Sullivan said, adding that his association does not extend east past La Brea Avenue, but that the project will impact the entire surrounding area. “I was particularly upset about what they did on Sycamore Avenue [in lowering the height to three levels]. I thought it should be way lower.”
Liz Fuller, vice president of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, said her organization opposed the original plans but worked with the developer to design a project that will be more palatable for residents. She added, however, that the beginning of the project likely signals the start of at least a decade of construction near the intersection, because after the BRE Properties project is completed in mid-2014, work will likely begin on the subway and a station at Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue.