Finishing (and Filling) Cohen Brothers’ Pacific Design Center

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It’s hard to imagine today, but when Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation bought the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood in 1999, the landmark property was struggling to find tenants. The complex, designed by Cesar Pelli, started with the Blue Building—known as the Blue Whale completed in 1975—followed by the Green Building in 1988 and finally the ground-up construction of the Red Building, completed by Cohen in 2013.

It simply had too much square footage devoted to showrooms, Charles S. Cohen, the president and chief executive, and Marc Horowitz, the senior vice president and national director of leasing at Cohen Brothers, explained over lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant red|seven in the Red Building last month. 

“The Green Building was the beginning of the problem here. There was too much capacity. There is no one city in this world that can handle more than 500 to 600,000 square feet of high-level showrooms,” Cohen said. “That’s why we repurposed it.”

Despite the complex’s striking design, and revamp, which involved adding around 80 windows and office lobby, among other amenities, to the Green Building to the tune of around $70 million and creation of the Red Building to complete Pelli’s original vision, local media chided the Red Building for only starting to sign tenants in 2015. The first among them, as the Los Angeles Times reported, included media and tech company Whalerock Industries and high-end retailer AllSaints. Curbed LA blamed Cohen’s pickiness about what tenants he signed as well as asking for some of the highest rents on the market as a deterrent. However, Cohen takes the long view. 

“It took me 12 years to change the entire roots, to build the Red Building” he said, “and we’re just finishing up the leasing now. It takes time.”