If these walls could talk: A decade without progress

One Beverly Hills has yet to break ground after more than 10 years’ delay – now it’s seeking another new owner.

One Beverly Hills, transferred from owner to owner, has struggled to materialize as a hotel and condominium complex for more than a decade.

The unfinished project, acquired by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group in 2014, now looks to fall into the hands of Canadian developer Triple Five Group, according to multiple media reports. Dalian Wanda Group could not be reached and Triple Five Group declined to comment.

Before developers and designers made grandiose plans for the property, One Beverly Hills was simply known as a department store. JW Robinson Co, a California-based department store chain, opened its Beverly Hills branch store and second location at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard in May 1952. The department store would later be swallowed in 1986 by May Company. However, it was not until 1993 that the JW Robinson stores started carrying the Robinson-May name.

In 2004, Beverly Hills, California-based real estate investor and developer New Pacific Realty acquired the site for approximately $35 million, according to data provider Real Capital Analytics. For two years, the firm attempted to work with Robinson-May to design a flagship store to be part of a mixed-use development on the property, New Pacific Realty’s then-chief executive David Margulies told trade publication The Planning Report. Dreams to redevelop the store never came to fruition due to Federated Department Stores merging with May Company in August 2005. By November, the store at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard announced the termination of its lease.

Seeing an opportunity, New Pacific Realty hired architects Richard Meier & Partners in 2006 to design a luxury residential mixed-use project, according to the 2006 The Planning Report article. But before construction even began, British developer brothers Nicholas and Christian Candy’s investment firm CPC Group bought the project for $500 million in April 2007 through a joint venture with the Icelandic Kaupthing Bank, according to RCA.

Unfortunately for the Candy brothers, the expensive acquisition came at the height of the market before the global financial crisis in 2008. Kaupthing dropped out of the project as Iceland’s Financial Supervisory Authority took control of the bank during the 2008 Icelandic banking crisis. More trouble followed in 2009 when CPC Group faced a lawsuit from its creditor Banco Inbursa over a $356 million loan used to acquire the eight-acre project in Beverly Hills. CPC Group defaulted on the real estate loan, which hit its maturity date on October 9, 2008, according to the August 2009 filing. Unable to pay back the $356 million loan, CPC Group had no choice but to give up the property to Banco Inbursa in 2010, RCA recorded.

Despite the foreclosure, the Beverly Hills lot maintained enough charm to attract a group of Asian investors. Banco Inbursa sold the property for $148 million to a group of Hong Kong and Singapore investors represented by Hong Kong-based private real estate firm Joint Treasure International in October 2010. For three years, Joint Treasure held the property in its existing condition – a prime area of land with the shell of a department store. It was not until the summer of 2014 that the firm obtained a permit and demolished the 62-year-old building. Then, just a month after the demolition, a $420 million sale was finalized with Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.

Wanda, through a partnership with developer Athens Group, set out to fulfill the vision of a residential mixed-use complex first laid out in 2006 and rebranded the project as “One Beverly Hills”. But Wanda’s attempt at executing on the plan was less than perfect, a source familiar with it told PERE. He described a revolving door of project managers and developers and Wanda’s inability to understand US regulations and customs. By 2017, Athens Group dropped out of the project and the lot has remained vacant and quiet for more than a year, sources said. The company also faces increasing financial pressure as Chinese regulators looking to crackdown on spending by Chinese conglomerates, ordered banks last year to stop providing loans for some of Wanda’s overseas properties.

Now, the One Beverly Hills project, valued at around $1.2 billion, is in the process of being acquired by Canadian developer Triple Five Group, according to media reports. The transaction is expected to close sometime this month. After 12 years and five different owner groups, perhaps Triple Five will finally see the project to its end.