Vertical Living in L.A.: The City's Newest Luxury Condos and Apartments

Nick Springett
Rockwell, in Pacific Palisades

As the housing market resumes its climb, more and more luxury apartments and condos are popping up -- and filling up -- throughout Los Angeles.

Unlike New York, Los Angeles is a place where the well-to-do have the means and the space to spread out. But as the housing market resumes its climb, more and more luxury apartments and condos are popping up – and filling up – throughout the city. These high-end vertical-living options offer considerable amenities for those who can afford L.A.’s sizeable spreads but choose to eschew them for a taste of urban life.

The first wave of new luxury condos went up just as the housing bubble burst in 2009, but in the past year sales have finally picked up for the likes of The Century (1 Century Dr., Los Angeles), The Carlyle on Wilshire (10776 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles) and the condos at The Montage Beverly Hills (225 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills).

Another hotel-branded condo development, The Residences at W Hollywood (6250 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles), located in its own tower adjacent to the W Hotel, is now 60 percent sold since its 2010 opening. This spring the W unveiled its seven “WOW Suite” penthouses, each fully furnished by a different L.A. designer (SFA Design’s boho-chic one-bedroom has already closed for $1.4 million). Still available: a raw 25,000-square-foot space encompassing the 15th floor –which includes eight bathrooms, a beauty parlor and a ballroom that fits 250 guests – listed at $45 million. All units include Brazilian limestone in the bathrooms and Poliform closet systems. Elsewhere in the building, the W’s signature Living Room lounge and residents-only cabanas and pool deck on the rooftop park offer occupants communal places to relax.

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The Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live (900 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles) opened a year later, in 2011, and after its own slow start is now 80 percent sold, including a 5,798-square-foot penthouse that closed at $8.55 million, a downtown record. (Units still available start at $1.9 million for two bedrooms.) Occupying the top half of the 52-story high rise that also houses the Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotels, the tower’s elevator-ride proximity to DTLA’s hottest sports and entertainment attractions has attracted local athletes (the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu and Carl Crawford are residents, as is the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan), foreign investors and well-to-do Southern Californians seeking a pied a terre in the heart of the city. Residents receive discounts, priority reservations and privileged access at L.A. Live’s various restaurants, shops and venues, and HOA fees include access to residents-only perks like private screening and dining rooms, wine storage cages and concierge service.

Perhaps the best proof of the market’s road to recovery is in the most recent crop of luxury real estate offerings, whose developers have refused to cut corners – and prices. Last spring Dubai’s Emaar Properties (the firm behind the Burj Khalifa) opened the Beverly West (1200 Club View Dr., Los Angeles), whose 35 units range from $1.5 million to $22.4 million and are fully customizable, from floor plan to finishes. Condo shoppers seeking an even more intimate setting can consider the concrete bunker on Sunset and PCH that recently made a splashy comeback with a new name. Rockwell (17351 W. Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades), formerly known as Sunset Pacifica, was long abandoned until 2011, when developer 9 Mile stepped in. Keeping the 1980s-era building’s strong bones intact, 9 Mile’s Jake Mathews gutted the interior, laying down white oak flooring and Ann Sacks natural stone, and outfitted the building with Nest thermostats and Control4 technology, which allows residents to monitor their homes and control lights, temperature and electronic appliances remotely. In the six weeks since hitting the market, 11 of Rockwell’s 16 units (each with a unique floor plan, from $895,000) are currently under contract. “Cookie cutter will never be in luxury demand in L.A.,” said Partners Trust’s Tracy Tutor Maltas, who is handling Rockwell’s sales, at the building’s April 30 unveiling, where guests milled through three model units, staged tastefully with furniture from BDDW and Minotti and art curated by star consultant Esthella Provas.

Closer to the action is 432 Oakhurst (432 N. Oakhurst Dr., Beverly Hills). The Etco Homes development hasn’t yet hit MLS and won’t have its grand opening until late August, but almost a third of its 34 condos have already sold, mostly to international buyers looking for a stateside stomping ground. Located on a quiet residential street in Beverly Hills, each of the two- and three-bedroom units (prices start at $1.5 million for nearly 2,000 square feet) includes three parking spaces in the subterranean garage and large, multislide Fleetwood windows and doors that open to private patios. The prime outdoor spaces, though, are the seven spa-equipped penthouse roof decks, the largest of which is a massive 3,464 square feet.

Also coming soon is Ocean Avenue South (1705-1755 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica), which will offer a mix of condos and rental apartments. The Santa Monica street’s first major luxury residential development in almost 20 years is scheduled for completion in 2014. The Related California complex will include 318 residential units (158 condos, 160 apartments) and 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, as well as plazas and gardens landscaped by Mia Lehrer + Associates.

But the depressed market of the past few years has had other developments shying away from sales altogether. When construction on the Hollywood condo formerly known as the Madrone stalled in 2009, real estate equity firm Resmark converted the development into a rental building. Its decision to invest further in luxury amenities, including motorized bottom-up window shades in select penthouses, has paid off, as the redubbed Avenue (1619 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood) is now 90 percent occupied since it opened a year ago. Rents start at $2,150 for a studio and $7,225 a month for a penthouse, the largest a 2,300-square-foot corner duplex (which can come furnished or unfurnished). A two-bedroom guest suite is available at a nightly rate for visiting friends and family. The community-oriented building regularly hosts outreach events for organizations like Outfest, home and garden tutorials with local businesses like nursery Rolling Greens, and resident parties like poolside summer fiestas catered by the likes of Loteria and Paradise Bar. Flexible lease terms make the Avenue, which has housed the casts of HGTV’s Design Star for two seasons, an attractive option for entertainment industry members working in town for months at a time.

Or temporary L.A. residents can choose AKA Beverly Hills (155 N. Crescent Dr., Beverly Hills). The first West Coast outpost of the extended-stay hotel chain opened for stints of one month or more (from $395 a month) in the former Crescent Apartments space last November. Residents get preferred seating at Spago downstairs, which also offers an exclusive room service menu when they prefer to dine in their fully equipped suites. The property features a residents-only garden courtyard and complimentary use of Republic bicycles.

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For the ultimate in apartment luxury, there’s 8500 (8500 Burton Way, Los Angeles), proudly billed as the most expensive apartment building on the West Coast. Already 60 percent leased since its grand opening in November 2012, the building offers rents that start in the $4,000s, and its Waldo Fernandez-designed penthouse is reportedly asking $40,000. The first standalone luxury residential project from The Grove developer Rick Caruso was designed by MVE & Partners, who cut out a large oculus in the roof to allow maximum light exposure for the 87 glass-walled units. The tradeoff for the steep price per square foot is the amenities: Residents have access to personal trainers in the fitness center, a house chauffeur and a rooftop deck featuring a saltwater pool. On the ground floor is chef Suzanne Goin’s recently opened The Larder at Burton Way next to a Trader Joe’s, which offers pantry-stocking service.

Still in the pipeline: two high-end apartment towers on La Brea Avenue, The Huxley (cross street: Fountain Ave.) and The Dylan (cross street: Santa Monica Blvd.), scheduled to complete construction in spring 2014. Named after writers Aldous Huxley and Dylan Thomas, both buildings will feature a mix of residential and retail space. The high-rises are being jointly developed by Monarch Group and Essex Property Trust, and are designed by architectural firm Newman Garrison + Partners.