Landlord Uses Legos to Lure Brokers to Downtown Highrise

June 13, 2018

Los Angeles Market Reporter

No Longer Called Citigroup Center, Building is Open for New Leasing, Naming Rights

June 13th, 2018: Jacquelyn Ryan, Los Angeles Market Reporter | CoStar Group

Two hundred Los Angeles commercial real estate brokers recently received deliveries of specialty Lego sets that can be built into replicas of a downtown building made famous by the 1980s television show “L.A. Law.”

Once called Citigroup Center, the 48-story building at 444 S. Flower St. is about to have naming rights available again.

Building owner Coretrust Capital Partners sent the personalized toys with an invitation at a broker’s open house reception at the real-life version of the building this week. Brokers who bring a completed Lego tower are promised a chance to earn cash prizes of up to $10,000 at the event.

At the event, they’ll learn the building will have naming rights available again. The tower has long been called Citigroup Center for the banking group that has occupied the building for decades. But the bank has reduced its footprint to only about 66,000 square feet and will no longer keep its building-top signage. The firm may even move out of the building entirely when its lease is up next year.

The building is currently 20 percent vacant and has been slow to lease up since Coretrust purchased it two years ago for $336 million, or $367 a square foot, according to CoStar data.

Thomas Ricci, co-founder and managing principal at Coretrust, said he knows the building isn’t the tallest or biggest by square footage, but it’s at a popular corner in downtown across the street from the L.A. Public Library.

“So I thought, what can I do to get the brokers’ attention?” he said. “I started to think the way to get to the brokers is through commission or their inner child or their child or grandchild.”

He called Lego directly to try to arrange the specialty sets to replicate the building but they couldn’t do it. Instead, the toy company put him in touch with a private Lego artist who could come up with the replica and create the sets of 956 pieces to send to the brokers.

“The thought is the brokers get their models to take home and they’ll put it on their desk or their child’s room,” he said. “It’s a constant reminder of the building, to bring their clients here, and maybe become a tenant one day.”

Jonathan Larsen, principal at Avison Young Inc., received a set of the Legos recently. He was involved in tenant Citigroup’s original deal as a representative of the then-landlord Grosvenor Group decades years ago.

“People are talking about the Legos and that’s what they wanted,” said Larsen. “It’s kind of fun to see someone being creative. We haven’t had creative marketing programs like this since downtown was being built in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s.”

The project was indeed creative – and also expensive. In all, it cost $30,000 to have the 250 sets created.

Coretrust is underway on a $50 million renovation of the property. It includes a renovation of the sixth floor into what it’s calling “Workplace Innovation Lab” where it has set up an array of different workstations and office layouts across the 22,000-square-foot floorplate that allow tenants to envision their own workplace in the building. It also includes a terrace that the company constructed by peeling away the exterior walls of the building.

“Everyone who has seen it has been blown away,” he said. His company and some other companies use the floor for their own offices but leave it open for tours as well. The broker’s open house will be in this space this week, he added.

Coretrust was founded four years ago by long-time L.A. real estate figures including executives from Thomas Maguire Partners, which was one of the original developers of downtown L.A.’s sky-rises like the 72-story U.S. Bank Tower. It owns half a dozen properties across the country.

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