New Design for Pershing Square Revealed!

The Paris-based firm Agence Ter has beaten out three other finalists, winning the competition to redesign Downtown Los Angeles's widely loathed Pershing Square. At a press conference announcing the winner Thursday morning, Councilmember Jose Huizar (who reps the area) noted that their proposal was favored by the public's votes, as well as by the official selection jury for the contest.

Agence Ter's design will take the multiple levels of the park and flatten them out to create a "continuous surface." The newly flat space will have a variety of themed gardens (Sun Garden, Wind Garden, Edible Garden, Moonlight Garden) and a main lawn that will be used for public events like summer film screenings.

The French team's design also featured a "smart canopy" covered in solar panels, which will extend from Fifth Street to Sixth Street along Hill Street, creating a shaded area during the day and, at night, lighting up in an array of colors.

Speaking at the press conference, Agence Ter's Henri Bava says that his team's design takes into account the community surrounding the park, flattening it out so that no matter where one stands, the park "invites people in." Bava adds that the new park is an attempt to "reconcile nature and city, creating an attractive hybrid between plaza and park."

A timetable for when the project will break ground is still in the works. Huizar says that in the next few weeks there will be more details on the renovation project, especially with regards to funding.

Historic PacMutual building in Downtown L.A. is Sold for $200 Million

By Roger Vincent, LA Times

The historic PacMutual center was sold for $200 million on Wednesday, capping a profitable turnaround for what was once a second-tier office complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Rising Realty Partners made over the Beaux Arts-style building from a lower-rent alternative for conventional white-collar firms into a preferred address for businesses in creative fields such as technology and entertainment. It acquired the property at 6th and Olive streets for $60 million in 2012.

The Los Angeles developer exposed the century-old bones of the building by removing "improvements" made in the decades after World War II. Drywall, dropped ceilings and carpet were yanked out to reveal brick walls, concrete floors and even some windows that had been covered for many years. By eliminating some hallways and recapturing idle space, the company raised the amount of rentable square feet 9% to 464,000.

The new owners are Ivanhoe Cambridge, a Canadian real estate investment company, and Callahan Capital Properties, a Chicago private equity firm that buys and manages office buildings in large U.S. cities. Nelson and Christopher Rising, the father and son co-founders of Rising Realty, declined to disclose the sale price, but industry sources familiar with the deal valued it at $200 million.

That is a new high-water mark for the neighborhood, said Petra Durnin, regional research director for real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

"We are now north of $430 a foot, which is a record price for a pure office building downtown," said Durnin, whose firm was not involved in the transaction.

The move to brand such a large property as creative offices was considered risky by market observers when Rising Realty acquired PacMutual. Although bare brick and exposed ceilings were popular in Santa Monica, Hollywood and other neighborhoods popular with creative firms, most downtown office buildings were still fitted out to appeal to the traditional tastes of the banking, legal and accounting firms that dominated downtown's office rental market.

Rising Realty further flouted convention by signing a large lease with Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer known for selling provocative women's wear. In the past, landlords who hoped to rent space to white-shoe law firms would have steered clear of tenants who might be considered racy.

Rising Realty "really took a risk" by making PacMutual creative and bringing in unconventional tenants, said Los Angeles developer Dan Rosenfeld, who was not involved with the project. "They pulled up the bridge behind them. There was no going back."

The gamble paid off. Prominent L.A. trial attorneys Hueston Hennigan this year agreed to a $60-million lease at PacMutual. Other white-collar and creative firms have followed, bringing occupancy from about 50% at its low point after Rising Realty bought PacMutual to more than 90% today. It is charging rents that slightly exceed typical rates in much newer nearby skyscrapers, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

Christopher Rising said PacMutual's appeal relies in large part on its historic features. Eliminating dropped ceilings and uncovering windows were not just cosmetic changes.

"This building was meant to have high ceilings and a high volume of light," he said. "By pulling it back to a sense of what it was like in 1920s or '30s, we had people saying 'I'll pay for this.'"

The three-building PacMutual complex is among the oldest functioning office structures in the city. Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. completed its first building in 1908 and made additions and improvement into the 1930s.

Rising Realty spent about $18 million on improvements such as new boilers and energy-saving features. It also reopened street-level courtyards in the complex and brought in new shops and restaurants.

The developers plan to keep chasing the burgeoning creative office market downtown, said Nelson Rising, the elder of the two founders. They are in the process of acquiring another large historic office building in the neighborhood.

Rising Realty is one of several developers pursuing creative office projects downtown.
Twitter: @rogervincent

Source: LA Times

Exercise Studio Pop Physique Looks for Lift

FITNESS: Pop Physique mulls selling stake to bulk up chain. By Subrina Hudson
Monday, August 31, 2015

Drive around certain L.A. neighborhoods and you’re sure to notice billboards featuring photos of suggestively posed, leotard-clad women or close-up shots of women’s rears in brightly colored undies.

No, those ads aren’t for American Apparel – they’re for Pop Physique, a boutique fitness gym with 20 outlets that’s taken an unconventional approach to its marketing and branding efforts since it first opened in Silver Lake seven years ago.

The strategy seems to be paying off: Pop Physique, which just moved into a new headquarters in downtown L.A.’s PacMutual campus, is gearing up to open additional studios in Pasadena, Venice and New York next month – on top of a studio at its new downtown office. The chain is also looking to raise outside investment for the first time, potentially even selling off a controlling stake.

Jennifer Williams, Pop Physique’s co-founder, said the bootstrapped company has been able to grow quickly but realized it would need help to open additional studios.

“We weren’t quite sure if we wanted to take on investment,” Williams said. “When you’re an entrepreneur and you step over to that side, you might get fired from your own company. There was a fear for a minute, just a thoughtful hesitation, but I think at this point it’s needed for growth.”

Pop Physique is looking for investors at a time when private equity firms have been shelling out big bucks for stakes in trendy fitness studios and when exercise generally has become big business – consider, for instance, the rise of yoga pants as everyday apparel.

Andrea Bell, senior editor of retail and consumer insights at trend forecasting agency WGSN’s Culver City office, calls the health trend “wealthness,” meaning health is the new wealth.

“Postrecession, people didn’t want to show off their Chanel bag or be seen in their Mercedes,” Bell said. “It’s a lifestyle trend and for investors it’s a quick win – the tech bubble is going to burst, real estate is going to fluctuate but people will always want to invest in themselves.”

Up an inch

Williams, a former professional ballet dancer and certified Pilates instructor, said that she and her husband, Deric, opened the first Pop Physique in Silver Lake in 2008 with an investment of $30,000. The original location has since grown to include two studios and serves as the company’s flagship gym.

Williams said that Pop Physique, which blends ballet and Pilates, has been a hit from the start, thanks in no small part to its first piece of advertising: a flier featuring a close-up shot of a woman’s derrière in bright green underwear. The fitness studio filled all of its classes the first week it opened.

While the company’s advertising still hews close to that first shot, the eye-catching flier was more a necessity than a thought-out strategy.

“At the last minute, our landlord said, ‘I’m sorry. You can’t put a sign up,’” Williams said. “So we were, like, How do you open a business with an address and no sign?”

Allyson Rees, an independent retail consultant in Los Angeles who has been teaching at Pop Physique for three years, said the fitness studio’s branding attracted her to take a class seven years ago in Silver Lake.

“That butt shot on the postcard?” Rees said. “I saw that and thought, What is this? and started taking classes.”

Of Pop Physique’s 20 locations, half of them are company owned. It has an office staff of 10 in addition to about 50 teachers, many of them former or current dancers and entertainers. Hourlong classes cost $25 each and memberships offering an unlimited number of classes cost $175 a month.

Williams wouldn’t disclose the number of Pop Physique’s members but said it’s in the thousands, including several celebrities such as fashion designer Trina Turk, actress Katie Holmes and members of L.A. pop-rock band Haim.

For the people

With its branding, pop-heavy music play lists and choice of locations so far, Pop Physique is aiming for a young clientele. And WGSN’s Bell said that young focus has paid off.

“They speak really well to millennials,” she said, pointing to the studio’s clothing line, which features tops printed with suggestive slogans such as “Down an inch, up an inch” and “Barre so hard.” Pop Physique even sells mugs emblazoned with the phrase “Barre Whore.”

“What they did was tap into the mind-set and essentially bank on it,” Bell said. “It’s not like 24 Hour Fitness or Equinox where people associate that with bankers and soccer moms.”

Still, in the seven years Pop Physique has been in business, the boutique fitness space has exploded with new gyms popping up and existing ones expanding. There’s CorePower Yoga, YAS, Exhale, Bar Method and Orangetheory Fitness, just to name a few.

Investors are taking note. L.A. fitness chain Barry’s Bootcamp recently received investment from Greenwich, Conn., private equity firm North Castle Partners for an undisclosed sum rumored to be as much as $100 million. In addition, New York cycling studio chain SoulCycle filed to go public this month with plans to raise up to $100 million.

But despite the seemingly saturated market, Williams said Pop Physique is still attracting strong interest from investors.

“People keep coming to us,” she said.

The decision to seriously consider taking outside capital came this year when the company decided to open its first New York location, currently under construction.

“It’s just going to take more capital to cover New York the way we’ve covered Los Angeles,” she said. “We need to go faster.”

The company’s plan is to open more locations by clustering in major metro areas. Right now, its focus is on New York. It also has plans to grow its retail offerings to include more than T-shirts – think leggings and jackets – and to replace its instructional DVDs with an online video subscription model for those wanting to practice routines at home or while traveling.

More money to grow the business is attractive but Williams said she doesn’t want to rush into anything. The company has been meeting with private equity firms and investment banks in New York and Boston, Williams said. She hopes to have an investment finalized by January.

“We need to work with the right people that are in line with our vision,” she said. “Because at the end of the day we did create it and we aren’t going to work with people that are going to take it in some other weird direction.”

Now Open: Pitchoun! Brings Authentic French Bakery to DTLA

DTLA Rising Blog | by Brigham Yen

Opening this past Friday, Pitchoun! is an exciting new French bakery cafe that brings freshly baked baguettes and croissants to Downtown LA’s Pershing Square.

Located along Olive Street at the wonderfully restored PacMutual Building, customers are first greeted by an eye-catching outdoor patio filled with bright orange tables and chairs beckoning customers to sit outside. Upon entering the eatery, you are immediately transported to an intimate space somewhere in Paris.

Founded by French couple Frederic and Fabienne Soulies, Pitchoun! means “kiddo” in the Provençal dialect from Southern France. Frederic trained under several prominent bakers and pastry chefs in both Paris and the French Riviera and now brings a full boulangerie to this side of the world in Downtown LA. In addition, you’ll find other delectable items on the menu including croque monsieur, kouign-amann, and of course an array of soups and salads.

The restaurant, with its French imported chairs and wine barrels repurposed into tables, is designed to look vintage with a splash of modern elements. Although the ceiling height is cavernous, the space still manages to feel surprisingly cozy due to the use of dark colors, brick walls, and wood paneling. There’s even a large fireplace to sit next to that’s perfect for enjoying a cup of cappuccino. To top things off, there are over a hundred French books that adorn the shelves available to peruse.     

Pitchoun! is hoping to get its beer and wine license in late June of this year, which will prompt possibly later hours. For now, the hours are as follows with weekdays open from 7 am to 5 pm and weekends from 8 am to 4 pm.

Pitchoun activates Olive Street across from Pershing Square providing a glimpse into what the future can be like if the entire area surrounding the square is activated the same way

Quick grab and go meals are offered

Eat “pain” (bread) at Pitchoun!

Large windows allow for a peek inside the kitchen

Enjoy live music while dining

Enjoy a French book or a cup of cappuccino sitting by the fireplace

The same fireplace is double sided so it faces the outside patio as well

Dine outside underneath an 80-foot tall vertical garden

Law Firm Gets Creative - Space at PacMutual

Los Angeles Business Journal | Hannah Miet | April 6, 2015

Downtown L.A.’s PacMutual, which has been repositioned to appeal to creative office tenants, last month signed its second-largest lease with an unexpected tenant: a new law firm.

Trial lawyers John Hueston and Brian Hennigan formed Hueston Hennigan in January after splitting from Century City firm Irell & Manella, taking four other Irell partners and more than 20 associates with them. The new firm signed a lease late last month for 21,000 square feet in the 446,023-square-foot Class A office complex at 523 W. Sixth St. The property is now 95 percent leased.

“This demonstrates that well-executed creative office space is the new Class A in downtown Los Angeles, and Hueston’s lease is further evidence of its broad appeal,” said Carle Pierose, a partner at Santa Monica’s Industry Partners, who represented landlord Rising Realty Partners in the transaction.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources said it was a five- to seven-year lease valued at about $9 million.

The firm has occupied 6,000 square feet of temporary office space in the building since January, and about 30 people will work in the space when construction is complete.

Rising bought the building for $60 million in 2012 and has spent about $25 million to upgrade and reposition it as a creative office complex.

Asking rents at PacMutual, near Pershing Square in the Central Business District, are as high $4 a square foot, according to CoStar Group Inc., surpassing the $3.29 fourth-quarter market average for downtown, according to data from Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. There have been 58 lease deals signed in the building over the last two years.

Hueston Hennigan, a white-collar criminal defense practice, chose the location because it was close to the courthouses. The office is being built out to include lawyer offices around the perimeter and group stations at the center.

“We want to emphasize people coming together to share ideas,” said Moez Kaba, a founding partner. “It’s not a hierarchical space with the senior partners locked in their offices, so it is going to be more like what you’d imagine for a Silicon Beach startup space.”

Mike McKeever, a senior vice president at the downtown office of Jones Lang LaSalle, represented Hueston Hennigan in the deal. He said creative office space is in short supply downtown, especially in the Central Business District.

Source: Los Angeles Business Journal

Once-tired PacMutual Plaza is Prime Office Space Again

Renovated PacMutual Plaza is back in demand as tenants shun conventional, formal offices in favor of wide-open rooms, exposed brick and polished concrete.

March 27, 2014|By Roger Vincent

In a sign that the definition of prime office space is undergoing a dramatic shift, an old downtown Los Angeles office complex — once considered second rate — is now outperforming many of its newer, glitzier competitors.

PacMutual Plaza, which dates to 1908, was one of the best addresses in Southern California until an unprecedented office building boom in the late 1980s and early 1990s brought a stately new crop of skyscrapers to town.


For decades to follow, PacMutual — in the same block as the Biltmore hotel in Pershing Square — was a lower-cost alternative to such elite enclaves of corporate America as U.S. Bank Tower, Two California Plaza and the Gas Company Tower.

As a young real estate professional in the late 1990s, Christopher Rising was informed that "PacMutual was for people who wanted to think they were in Class A space when they really weren't," he said.

The definition of what is first-class office space in downtown Los Angeles is in flux, however, as a growing number of tenants shun conventionally formal, discreet offices in favor of wide-open rooms. Exposed brick and polished concrete are preferred by many over carpet, drywall and dropped ceilings.

With that trend in mind, Rising went after historic PacMutual. His Rising Realty Partners bought the complex at 6th and Olive streets for $60 million in 2012 and set out to make its advanced age an asset instead of a liability.

Rising Realty ripped out false ceilings and scraped plaster off the brick walls. It lifted carpet to find marble floors laid by the original owner, Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. On some floors it tore down walls to make small offices into big ones, increasing the overall rentable square footage from 425,000 to 460,000.

"You can have higher density of employees in a big floor plan," said Nelson Rising, Christopher's business partner and father.

Occupancy in the building fell to nearly 50% as the Risings' renovation got underway and the landlords let go of tenants who had secured low-cost leases under previous owners. As they worked on refilling the building, the Risings hoped to appeal to both professional firms and companies in creative fields such as tech and entertainment.

Their strategy was to offer tenants the choice of conventional office space or hipper alternatives where concrete ceilings still bear the impressions of the boards that craftsmen used while casting them a century ago.

It turned out that the raw look associated with dot-com cool appealed to all kinds of companies, suggesting that the cloistered elegance associated with corporate offices of the late 20th century is growing passe.

Professionals such as attorneys want the new look too, said real estate broker Carle Pierose of Industry Partners, who lines up new tenants for the building.

"Just because I went to law school, it doesn't mean my office space has to suck," Pierose said of tenants' attitude. "I want it to reflect my lifestyle."

Rising Realty has signed 56 leases in the last year and a half, Pierose said. Among the new tenants are professional firms, online retailers, fashion companies and video game makers.

The biggest new tenant is Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer that took 60,000 square feet.

Entertainment companies have historically avoided the downtown financial district, but Oscar-winning visual effects firm Magnopus left Santa Monica and agreed to a five-year lease for space at PacMutual with views of its gray beaux-arts-style exterior.

So far, the suits and the creative types who bring their dogs to work have managed to coexist, Christopher Rising said. The complex is more than 90% leased at rents that match or surpass typical downtown rates.

As part of its $25 million worth of improvements to PacMutual, Rising Realty has opened a courtyard off 6th Street that was closed off in the 1930s. Two restaurants will face the courtyard including Tender Greens and bakery Le Pain Quotidian, which will open next week.

French restaurant Tartine will open its first U.S. outpost on the Olive Street side of the complex under an 80-foot-tall wall of live greenery this summer.

Part of PacMutual's lure is its history. The three-building complex on 6th Street between Olive and Grand Avenue is among the oldest functioning office structures in the city.

Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. completed its first building at 6th and Olive streets in 1908. For decades the structure sported a big clock on the roof and a sign saying, "Time to insure."

The insurance company expanded its headquarters during a post-World War I building boom in Los Angeles. In 1921 an addition with two 12-story towers was attached on the west side of the original building. The builders said they required the largest single order for terra cotta ever placed on the Pacific coast to finish the exterior.