L.A. Uses Tax Breaks to Lure Gensler

Even in a recovering office market, it is unusual for a modest-size 45,000-square-foot office lease to command the attention of a big-city mayor and other officials. That was the case in Los Angeles, however, as the mayor and other leaders publicly touted the architectural firm's decision to relocate to the City of Angels as a vindication of its pro-business policies.

Even in a recovering office market, it is unusual for a modest-size 45,000-square-foot office lease to command the attention of a big-city mayor and other officials. That was the case in Los Angeles, however, as the mayor and other leaders publicly touted the architectural firm Gensler’s decision to  relocate in the city as a vindication of its pro-business policies.  

At a press conference this morning, Gensler confirmed that it will leave its long-time seaside home in Santa Monica and relocate a few miles east in Downtown Los Angeles. Also on hand were top city officials as well as principals of Gensler and the firm’s new landlord, Thomas Properties Group Inc.  Gensler will move to the “jewel box,” a three-story, 32,000-square-foot building situated between the twin 52-story towers of Thomas Properties’ City National Plaza. Gensler is designing a renovation of the jewel box’s top two floors (pictured), and plans to occupy its new space by October.

The move is also a feather in the cap for Thomas Properties, which has invested $185 million in renovations and upgrades in City National Plaza since acquiring the 2.5 million-square-foot property in 2003 in a joint venture with the California State Teachers Retirement System. Rather than actively marketing the jewel box, Thomas Properties held it open until it found “the right creative company that would appreciate its unique attributes,” company CEO Jim Thomas said in a statement. Gensler plans a makeover that will add a mezzanine to create additional space as well as an atrium and skylights to enhance natural light.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa billed Gensler’s planned move as a victory for Los Angeles’ Business Tax Holiday incentive program, which gives businesses that open in or relocate to the city a three-year exemption on gross tax receipts. The mayor’s successful courtship of the architectural firm included attending Gensler’s global partners meeting in December, where he pitched the idea of moving to company leaders. Gensler executives cited City National Plaza’s location near many of the firm’s clients in the decision to relocate, as well as city incentives. Over the next five years, Gensler expects its 250-person office to expand by upwards of 40 percent.