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Los Angeles, California

Facts & Figures Owner: Linear City LLC, Los

Biscuit Company Lofts

Angeles, CA Type of Project: Adaptive reuse of a bakery into live/work lofts and a


restaurant Size: 160,000 square feet Cost: $42 million




Biscuit Company Lofts is a striking

Construction Time: April 2005 -

new loft building located at the

April 2007

south end of the downtown Los

The Need: Live/work lofts that

Angeles Arts District.

make great use of an obsolete bakery and help revitalize the

The building isn’t exactly new,

surrounding area

however. In fact, it’s 80 years old.

The Challenge: Upgrading the

With this project, owner Linear City

building for a new use while keeping its historical integrity

LLC has transformed an obsolete Nabisco bakery into 104 live/work


lofts and a restaurant. “Emphasizing preservation, sustainable design and enhanced street life, the redeveloped 1925 National Biscuit Company factory carves out 104 residential units while ensuring each has a character and identity of its own,” said Aleks Istanbullu, principal for Aleks Istanbullu Architects, the project’s designer. Biscuit Company Lofts is further energizing a growing new community first established with the Toy Factory Lofts, another Linear City project. “This project solidified the

“These types of buildings have

charm. “Nabisco’s first factory west

new community started at the Toy

been woefully underutilized for

of the Mississippi River, the seven-

Factory,” said Paul Solomon, part-

decades,” added Donald Alec

story, red brick and terra-cotta

Donald Alec Barany Architects, Inc. Project Architect

ner with Linear City.

Barany, president of project archi-

industrial building is typical of

“I think what we’ve been able to

tect Donald Alec Barany Architects,

northern cities in the Midwest and

Aleks Istanbullu Architects Designer

establish between Toy and Biscuit is

Inc. “It is very pleasing to see so

East Coast,” said Istanbullu.

the prospect for having a neighbor-

many of them brought back to life

hood where previously there was

in the last few years.”

Gold Medal Award-winning Team Members

Swinerton Builders General Contractor Gallagher Construction Services Insurance Brokers

Constructed in 1925, this landmark structure was originally

simply industrial use,” said Len Hill,

Because it’s reconstructed from a

conceived as the West Coast

partner with Linear City. “The great

historical building that has been a

headquarters of the National

dividend I’ve found as one of the

part of downtown Los Angeles for

Biscuit Company. It was built at

partners is seeing out of the con-

nearly a century, Biscuit Company

the astronomical cost of $2 mil-

crete, new life.”

Lofts exudes a lot of historical

lion — a price unheard of in the architectural industry at that time. Shortly after its completion, this seven-story “skyscraper” factory had become an architectural sensation in Los Angeles. “If somebody moves into this building, he [or she] really should know that it’s not just a pile of bricks and some nice details, but there’s really a story behind it,” said Yuval Bar-Zemer, partner with Linear City. Transforming the old Nabisco building into lofts, however, was an

Photos courtesy of Douglas Olson Photography


southern california edition

continued on page 6

gold medal award winner

The Architect’s Perspective with Aleks Istanbullu, Principal, Aleks Istanbullu Architects Q: What were some of the drivers behind the design? What design materials or concepts were used? AI: Conceptually, on the bigger scale, we wanted everything that was new to feel new. So, when you enter the building you go through a lobby that has some of the old stuff and some of the new. You see some of the brick as well as some drywall and new light fixtures. Another design driver is that the hallways feel very different in the units. When you go up to a typical floor hallway, the shape of the corridor walls are skewed — they’re not normal rectangular. They’re either angles or they’re curved. So you always feel like you’re in a unique space. The lighting is also done differently — the hallway lighting is different from the unit lighting, which is all daylight, so you know you’re in a different threshold. We wanted the experience of going through the building to be memorable. So the experience of being in the hallway is different from that of being in a unit. Q: What were the greatest challenges encountered on this project, either from your firm’s point of view or as a project team? AI: Cost is always an issue. But it’s more getting the variety of units within an aesthetic vocabulary that had a level of consistency so this thing could be built effectively. So each bathroom may be similar to the other unit bathrooms, but they all have varieties within them. Another challenge was giving the units a unique identity while still keeping them neutral enough to appeal to as many people as possible. Q: What were some of the lessons learned from this project? AI: Working on a historic building was really fun, and it’s a game that I’d want to play again, but it’s extremely time-consuming. If you really want to honor and respect that structure, it’s a very tedious design exercise and you have to spend the time.

Photo courtesy of Anne Troutman

1659 11th St., Ste. 200 Santa Monica, CA 90404 310-450-8246

The Owner’s Perspective with Paul Solomon, Partner, Linear City LLC Q: What is the purpose of the new construction? PS: The purpose of the new construction is to recycle an obsolete 80-year-old, seven-story former Nabisco bakery to 104 live/work lofts and one restaurant. Q: Why did you choose the site? What conditions were factors (i.e. zoning, environmental)? PS: The building is located at the south end of the downtown LA Arts District, and across from our previous project, the Toy Factory Lofts. This project solidified the new community started at the Toy Factory. The building is a very good loft conversion structure due to its high ceilings, steel and concrete structure, historic details, large windows, hardwood floors, and so forth. A zoning administrator determination allowed for the change of use to live/work. Q: What is the most unique or important feature of the facility (or of the design/construction process)? PS: The high quality of the loft spaces, with 13- to 30-foot ceilings, abundant natural light and extraordinary urban views. Q: What is the most innovative aspect of the project (or of the design/construction process, financing, environmental)? What could others learn from? PS: A unique feature that created substantial extra value is the entitlement of excess land purchased with the Biscuit building for 113 additional live/work units and three retail units. This additional land was appraised by the seller and viewed by the market as usable for parking. The innovation was to instead envision and entitle a new project on the land and to place the Biscuit parking in the building basement and in a compact new parking structure.

Photo courtesy of Linear City Partners (l to r) Len Hill, Yuval Bar-Zemer, Paul Solomon

Q: How did the strengths and experience of the project team contribute to the success of the project? PS: On the team we have market knowledge, familiarity with the community, construction expertise, financial wherewithal, architectural talent and hands-on involvement by the owners. All of these aspects of the team are necessary to complete a best-in-class project on budget and to generate revenues in excess of pro forma. Q: Were there any innovative strategies involving improved quality, cost-effectiveness or cost reductions? PS: A platform adjacent to the building carries the water-cooling tower and other mechanical equipment, which freed the roof for the construction of a new penthouse floor.

1855 Industrial St., #12 Los Angeles, CA 90021

580 California St., Ste. 1100 San Francisco, CA 94104 415-391-1500

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continued from page 2

extremely involved and complicat-

the project during construction and

ed process. The scope of the project

for 10 years thereafter,” explained

included demolition of tenant

Scott R. Whiteside, ARM, executive

improvements; abatement of envi-


ronmental hazards; installation of

Construction Services. “Due to the

lateral seismic strengthening ele-

residential nature of the project,

ments; and the addition of high-rise

subcontractors could not get insur-

fire, life and safety systems. The

ance. Gallagher structured a pro-

team also had to convert the base-

gram that insured all the contrac-

ment to parking and construct an

tors on site, and was able to do so

adjoining two-story parking struc-

in a cost-effective way that deliv-

ture to accommodate residents’

ered a better insurance program to

parking needs.

the owner than the contractors





cleaning and restoring the his-




could have provided individually,” Photos courtesy of Douglas Olson Photography

he said.

toric facade and internal ele-

Although the project offered up

and refinished hardwood floors.

townhouse lofts, some featuring

ments, including refurbishing the

many challenges, Linear City and

“Nearly all original floor finishes

private gardens and fireplaces. In

floors, windows and elevators,

the rest of the project team saw

(including bathroom terrazzo, con-

addition to the restaurant, the

and performing off-site improve-

the potential in the building. “The

crete vaults and one-inch-thick

building’s amenities include a

ments, such as installing new

building is a very good loft conver-

maple) are preserved and restored,

swimming pool, a park, an entry

street lamps as well as new curbs

sion structure due to its high ceil-

creating a seemingly random quilt

lobby, stylized hallways and on-

and gutters, and planting trees

ings, steel and concrete structure,

within many of the units,” said

site parking.

with a watering system.

historic details, large windows,

Istanbullu. “Additional materials

As of November 2007, the

hardwood floors, and so forth,”

such as steel-clad columns, exposed

Biscuit Company Lofts were already

said Solomon.

brick interior walls, and bronze win-

80 percent sold — an extraordinary

dows remain vital aesthetic attrib-

achievement. Of course, the cre-

utes of the lofts.”

ation of this exceptional project

“New or upgraded building systems in Biscuit Company Lofts include water-source heat pumps,

After two years of planning,

power and lighting,” said Michael


Franken, senior project manager for

Biscuit Company Lofts was born

Additionally, the redesigned

could not have been possible with-

Swinerton Builders, the project’s

— and the finished product is

exterior of the facility showcases

out a first-rate team of experts. “On

general contractor. The scope also

extraordinary. The design cleverly

many eye-catching architectural

the team, we have market knowl-

included new roof-level penthouse

blends meticulous period crafts-

elements. “On the exterior, we

edge, familiarity with the communi-

structures, the addition of a 61-

manship with sleekly modern

recreated two missing gas sconces,

ty, construction expertise, financial

space generator, a sprinkler system,

design elements. And while the

restoring the original six as elegant

wherewithal, architectural talent

the refurbishing of two existing

development provides residents

sentinels alongside the three his-

and hands-on involvement by the

freight elevators, and roof drains.

with a wide range of modern con-



owners,” said Solomon. “All of

veniences, the building still main-

Istanbullu. “Three original street-

these aspects of the team are neces-

tains its historical integrity.

facing loading docks with brick

sary to complete a best-in-class

paving provide a dramatic setting

project on budget and to generate

for a restaurant and bar.”

revenues in excess of pro forma.” 

Gallagher Construction Services, which provided the insurance and





surety services for the project, con-

The spectacular loft spaces boast

tributed greatly to its success.

13- to 30-foot-tall ceilings, sand-

“Gallagher used a contractor-con-

blasted brick walls, abundant natu-

The building also includes 17

trolled insurance program to insure

ral light, breathtaking urban views,

special two- and three-story


southern california edition

— Amy Bell

gold medal award winner

The General Contractor’s Perspective with Chris Tallon, Project Executive, and Michael Franken, Project Manager, Swinerton Builders Q: What is the most unique or important feature of the facility (or of the design/construction process)? CT & MF: The building was built back in the 1920s, and the construction they used was all poured-in-place concrete with in-fill brick and wood floors — those old 2-inch-wide wood plank floors. And it was striking. It really is a very unique loft here in Los Angeles. You don’t see many like it in this area with the real wood floors and brick walls in some of the units. It really sets the building off. It’s the old Nabisco building, which is why they call it the Biscuit Lofts, so it’s a unique piece of history. Q: What is the most innovative aspect of the project (or of the design/construction process)? What could other owners learn from for their future projects? CT & MF: From our perspective, it was working so closely with the client, who had a lot of ideas of his own that he was able to capitalize on. And we used some subcontractors that we maybe would not have used had it not been for the client. The wood floors were set in such a way that some of the floors had to be replaced because of the way in which they installed the walls and the layout of the actual units themselves. So the client was able to hire somebody that could manage the wood flooring so closely and install it so that it was consistent with the history of the building. He was very aggressive with the types of subcontractors that he hired that we ended up taking [them] under our umbrella. So I’d say the most innovative construction method was that the client and contractor

Chris Tallon, Photo courtesy of Robert Downs Photography

worked so closely together to make the financial aspect of the project work along with maintaining the historical integrity of the building. Q: What were some of the lessons learned from this project? CT: I don’t know that we learned any more than what we had anticipated going in. I think it’s important to know the subcontractors that you’re hiring [and] have an understanding of what an adaptive reuse construction is. It’s not a brand-new construction; it’s working with a building that’s probably been around from 50 to 100 years. There are a lot of challenges that come up that you have to be prepared for. At the end of the day, it turned out to be a pretty good project. It turned out beautifully. From an aesthetic standpoint, it’s quite a striking building. The people who live there really enjoy the atmosphere in the building.

865 S. Figueroa St., Ste. 3000 Los Angeles, CA 90017 213.896.3400 fax: 213.896.0027 Michael Franken, Photo courtesy of Robert Downs Photography

24445 Northwestern Hwy. Ste. 218 • Southfield, MI 48075 • 248-945-4700 • fax: 248-945-4701 •

Construction Communications Gold Medal Edition - Southern California's Biscuit Company Lofts  

Special Gold Medal Edition of the Real Estate and Construction Review features Southern California's Biscuit Company Lofts. The Gold Medal B...