With 35 stories and a block-long video display, the Circa complex gives DTLA a Times Square vibe


LOS ANGELES TIMES, October 5, 2018

Article by Roger Vincent

Even in a time of roaring apartment construction in Los Angeles, the new Circa complex downtown is hard to miss.

Its twin 35-story towers overlooking Staples Center are visible from a distance, and its massive block-long video display on Figueroa Street commands the attention of thousands of passing motorists and the day-and-night crowds that surge around the arena, L.A. Live and the nearby Los Angeles Convention Center.

Circa is hardly a place to get away from it all, so the developers who gambled $500 million to build it are betting that there are plenty of prosperous renters who want to be in the middle of one of L.A.’s busiest urban recreation zones.

“When I am in that part of downtown, it’s just electrifying,” said Don Hankey, a Los Angeles multibillionaire who helped bankroll Circa. “That’s one place I would like to live downtown.”

Hankey, who built an auto-financing empire that started with a Ford dealership, developed Circa with his longtime investment partner David Lee of Jamison Services Inc., one of the region’s largest office landlords. Each man owns hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of property, but Circa was far and away the biggest real estate development either had ever attempted.

Circa’s scale is prodigious.

n its 2 million square feet are 648 apartments, including penthouses that rent for $25,000 a month. Its sprawling outdoor amenity deck on the eighth floor has two swimming pools, cabanas, fire pits, gas barbecues, indoor and outdoor yoga spaces, a fitness center, library, wine bar, clubhouse, chef’s kitchen and two fenced-in dog parks — one for big pooches and one for small ones.

At street level there will be stores and restaurants. Circa’s garage has 2,000 parking places. Half of those are set aside for tenants, while the other half are available to people who may be attending games at Staples Center or events at the Convention Center.

Then there’s the 18,000-square-foot pulsing bright LED screen extending a full block that brings a Times Square vibe to the street. Right now, the sign is leased to Nike, which is running ads featuring sports stars Serena Williams and eventually perhaps LeBron James.

Even though thousands of apartments have been built downtown in recent years, the market should be able to absorb them because young people want to be there, said Jaime Lee, chief executive of Jamison and David Lee’s daughter.

Millennials, who range in age from 22 to 37, often prioritize experiences over possessions to a degree their elders didn’t, she said.

“They want experiential living and quality of life,” said Lee, who is herself a millennial. “Quality doesn’t mean a house with a big lawn and a picket fence. It means having a short commute and maximizing time with family and friends.”