Jamison: L.A. Needs More Housing – EXCLUSIVE Q&A, Jaime Lee

Jamison: L.A. Needs More Housing – EXCLUSIVE Q&A, Jaime Lee

Original Article

LOS ANGELES—Jamison Properties is stepping out from behind the curtain. The real estate investor, one of the equity partners behind the Circa mixed-use development in Downtown Los Angeles, has traditionally kept a low-profile, but with new leadership, the firm is now talking more about its business strategy and its future plans, including a transition into multifamily and its recent investment in Koreatown. To find out about the company and its strategic goals and plans, we sat down with Jaime Lee, CEO of Jamison Properties, for an exclusive interview. Here, she gives us an insider look at the company and the market fluctuations behind their investment strategy.

GlobeSt.com: Tell me about the company and your strategy?

Jaime Lee: Jamison is a privately held real estate firm founded by my father Dr. David Lee. Our business model focuses on the acquisition, management and long term hold of commercial real estate properties in Southern California, Nevada and Texas. We currently manage a portfolio of approximately 17 million square feet of commercial office properties with a significant percentage of our holdings located in the Downtown and Mid-Wilshire submarkets of Los Angeles. We are in the midst of a multimillion-dollar capital improvement program to refresh and reposition our existing portfolio to meet the demands of a new generation of office users.  Beyond commercial acquisition and management, we are also launching into residential development and currently have 21 projects totaling 6,700 units in the pipeline. As part of our multifamily initiative, we are partnering with Hankey Investment Company in the development of Circa, a luxury, 648-unit apartment project across the street from the Staples Center.

GlobeSt.com: In the past, the company has kept a low profile. What has changed?

Lee: The biggest change is that the next generation of leadership is taking on more responsibility and sees the value in engaging with the real estate community. While our father is still actively involved in the day-to-day business, my brothers and I each run one of the three branches of the firm. These growing leadership roles come with an increased focus on technology, outreach, and significant reinvestment in our people and programs.

GlobeSt.com: You are planning to make a major capital investment in Downtown Los Angeles and Koreatown. What is your interest in these two submarkets, and what characteristics do they have that are attractive to the firm?

Lee: We are the largest commercial landlord in the Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown submarket, so we have always been heavily invested and interested in this neighborhood. It is one of the densest and most diverse areas in the entire country, which is its great strength. The variety of restaurants, cultures, and nightlife is immense, and the public transportation infrastructure and affordability have made it a very attractive place to live and work. In recent years we have seen phenomenal growth in the interest in the neighborhood from entrepreneurs, entertainment groups, retailers, residents, and even institutional investors.  Downtown also has a similar and more well known renaissance story. We currently own about 4 million square feet of commercial space in downtown and are encouraged by the surge in multifamily development that will bring up to 20,000 new units to the area.

GlobeSt.com: You are also planning to transition into multifamily. What is the impetus for that decision?

Lee: Los Angeles needs more housing. Our transition to multifamily does not in any way indicate a shift away from our focus on our commercial holdings; instead, we are augmenting the products we can offer in response to rapidly increasing demand. About 96% of the residents in Mid-Wilshire are renters, and the average occupancy of the residential properties in the area is about 95%. Rents are also increasing as new residents from other parts of LA see the value in living in a 24/7 live/work/play environment in the heart of the city. Institutional investment is bringing new attention to the neighborhood as well. All of these factors drive this growing part of our business. While we are converting some existing office buildings to residential, two-thirds of our projects are ground-up development.