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Walkability, Downtown Big Draws For Culver City, But Could Be Too Much, Too Fast



Culver City has a lot going for it, from the walkability to the small-town feel, that has filled up office space and sends workers into local restaurants and shops on their lunch breaks. But with that come the challenges, whether dealing with traffic or the growing need for more housing.

"Culver City has almost too much going on too fast because it's too hot," Karney Properties CEO Aliza Karney Guren said at Bisnow's Future of Culver City event at the Marina del Rey Marriott.


The city has a prime location in relation to LA with transit, a historic downtown and a community feel that have lured in tech and entertainment companies.


The amenities Culver City has to offer mean Sony's employees are a big part of the lunchtime crowd Sony Pictures Entertainment Vice President of Studio and Production Affairs Kristin Cavanaugh said. The company is entitled to build over 1M SF in the city and is currently at about half of that, she said, with room available to grow.


"Having those services and restaurants available to us in walking distance is huge to us," she said. "Our employees love the city."


But she does worry about the growing need for affordable workforce housing even as she applauds more tech and media companies coming into the city.

The caps on height and density that limit just how much can go up around town create a challenge for companies looking to build housing, such as Karney Properties.

Guren said she wants to see more height and density in Culver City's transit-oriented district that could lend itself to more low-income and workforce housing.


"Housing is necessary for the city," she said. "A city that has only businesses is not a sustainable city. There have got to be ways to make this work and make money and also serve the community."

There is little incentive at the moment for the city to create more density for housing, Runyon Group principal Joseph Miller said. If housing development is adjacent to the city in LA, but the people who live there shop, eat and work in Culver City, then the city gets the benefit of that without adding to the housing — which is why the housing crisis is more of a regional issue than a local one, he said.


Nearby properties in LA have Culver City's amenities as a key selling point. Being adjacent to the city means having all the benefits of Culver City with fewer restrictions, said Newmark Knight Frank Director Kevin Lachoff, who is on the Culver City planning commission.

Those benefits include the walkability and accessibility of the downtown, which creates an experience that draws people in, panelists said. In recent years, the city has seen a lot of projects turn industrial space into creative office, a trend that is expected to continue. The city has also invested a lot in cultivating its downtown.


That is leading to projects such as Lowe Enterprises' Ivy Station, which will bring 200K SF of office, 200 apartments and a four-star boutique hotel to town; Hackman Capital Partners' Culver Studios and Culver Steps, where Amazon Studios has been on a leasing tear; and Runyon Group's Platform, which is known for its retail component, but is 70% office space, including corporate offices for Sweetgreen, SoulCycle and Technicolor.


"Demand for office space in Culver City is pretty wide-ranging in terms of size," LBA Realty Vice President Eric Brown said. "There's clearly evidence of demand."

LBA Realty bought a building in 2014 that was then occupied by Sony, and it started renovation on what is now One Culver after Sony moved to its new campus at the end of 2016.

Brown said that when Equinox opened in the building in early October, it had the third-highest membership of any of the company's health clubs around the country. WeWork opened in the building in late August and was more than 80% leased upon opening.

He anticipated that the city would only continue to become more desirable as some of the bigger projects finish and companies want to be close to some of the area's bigger tenants, such as Sony, Amazon and Apple.

One project just outside the city is Steaven Jones Development Co. and Creative Office Properties' mixed-use INclave development, which will have 65K SF of creative office, 49 luxury residential units and a 2,160 SF café. When the company first started doing creative office space in the 1990s, Culver City was a sleepy little town, said Lawry Meister, SJDC CEO and Creative Office Properties president. That has completely changed, and she said she expects the city to continue to grow and flourish.

"Culver City is a very dynamic place," Meister said. "Also, it's a small enough community so that you really feel you are part of a community, not just in a huge city."

© 2020 by Lee & Associates Investment Services Group

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