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Jamison Services Plans to Convert the Former ARCO Tower Into Apartments but Past Still Haunts Them

In Downtown Los Angeles, the ongoing struggle in the office market and the flight of corporate headquarters has been headline worthy. There has also been much said of the potential for converting unused office space into housing. An embattled developer has stepped forward with a plan to repurpose one of Downtown Los Angeles's most iconic buildings.

Jamison Services, Inc., the landlord of a 33-story office tower at 1055 7th Street, has submitted an application to the L.A. Department of City Planning to convert the upper floors of the building into housing. The proposed project includes 691 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units, along with amenities such as theaters, fitness rooms, and business centers.

The adaptive reuse development does not require affordable housing or additional parking. The exterior of the tower, originally designed by Gin Wong Associates, will be retained with some window replacements. This move follows a trend of adaptive reuse projects in newer high-rise structures on the west side of the US-110 Freeway. The City of Los Angeles aims to create more housing by expanding the concept to other neighborhoods, and Jamison Services has already been active in converting office towers into housing along the Wilshire corridor.

The conversion of 1055 7th Street could potentially revitalize other stalled projects in the surrounding area, including neighboring parcels approved for redevelopment with high-rise residential buildings.

Jamison's Past

The Arco Tower project signifies a potential transformation in the area, as the iconic office building is repurposed to meet the growing demand for residential spaces. However, as BDN has previously reported, Jamison and owners, the Lee family, represent a company whose business practices are not without controversy. Their existence in the housing space as both management and as developer has raised the ire of community activists for some time and many suspect that it will continue with this new project.

This project could have beneficial effects downtown, ranging from offering new housing options to reviving economic growth in the neighborhood but many feel the ends do not justify the means. They allege that Jamison has not learned anything from backlash surrounding similar projects along the Wilshire Corridor. Previously, Jamison came under fire for allegedly exploiting workers on their jobsite and for myriad complaints calling them out as slumlords.

BDN spoke to George Bocanegra, a labor leader who was leading the protests at a Jamison office conversion at 3545 Wilshire. "We were protesting on Wilshire. Looks like we'll be protesting at the Arco building soon. Nothing’s changed with this company. As I said before, their projects erode the community from start to finish, inside to out."

Bocanegra hopes that before construction begins, the Lee family will take the opportunity for reflection, change, and progress. Jamison's ambitious downtown apartment conversion project is as high profile as it gets and will certainly have all eyes paying close attention to its progress and eventual impact on the surrounding community. But, according to Bocanegra, if their business practices remain the same, it'll be just, "another Jamison building with poor yelp reviews and people protesting outside."

BDN will be watching the project, if and when it commences, to see if Jamison continues with their old ways and how the community responds.

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