Ratkovich Grabs 28-Acre Former Howard Hughes Property in Los Angeles

In a joint venture with Penwood Real Estate Investment Management, Ratkovich shelled out $32.4 million for the land, which is presently home to 537,000 square feet in 11 historic structures, one of which served as the hangar where billionaire aviator and movie producer Howard Hughes developed the renowned Spruce Goose.

October 15, 2010
By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

The Ratkovich Company has just bought a 28-acre piece of Hollywood history in the West Los Angeles community of Playa Vista. In a joint venture with Penwood Real Estate Investment Management, Ratkovich shelled out $32.4 million for the land, which is presently home to 537,000 square feet in 11 historic structures, one of which served as the hangar where billionaire aviator and movie producer Howard Hughes developed the renowned Spruce Goose. Ratkovich has big plans for the property–$50 million plans.

Playa Vista, touted as the first mixed-use community to materialize in West Los Angeles within the last half-century, spans over 1,000 acres between the Marina Del Rey and Westchester neighborhoods, and is presently home to 6,500 residents. The land Ratkovich just acquired has a storied history that extends beyond 1930s Hollywood right into present day Los Angeles’ real estate market. During the high-flying real estate days of 2007, Tishman Speyer joined forces with Walton Capital L.L.C. to acquire 56 Playa Vista acres–including the parcels Ratkovich just snapped–for $200 million. But the party came to an end with the ensuing credit crunch and Tishman and Walton found themselves in default on a $155 million loan.

In December 2009, the property went into receivership and fell into the hands of distressed property management firm Trigild, which then tapped real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis to market the acreage. And just who should sign on to acquire a piece of the Playa Vista pie? None other than Tishman; the company repurchased a 19-acre segment of the site for $35 million in August of this year.

That was the past, now Ratkovich is preparing for Playa Vista’s future. The new owner plans to submit the property and its 11 buildings–all of which are empty aside from the hangar/soundstage–to a sweeping $50 million renovation program from which the new and presumably fabulous Hercules Campus at Playa Vista will emerge. “Inspired by the property’s rich history and the innovative influences of Howard Hughes, the Hercules Campus will become a keystone of creativity, modernism and boldness of thought in Los Angeles,” Wayne Ratkovich, founder and president of Ratkovich, noted in a prepared statement. The campus will offer state-of-the-art office and production space to accommodate avant-garde companies in the entertainment, media and technology industries. CB Richard Ellis will market the space on Ratkovich’s behalf.

Architectural firm Levin & Associates, recognized across Los Angeles as a leader in historic property restoration, is on board as the designer of the redevelopment project, which will be quite progressive in its greenness. In an effort to ultimately take the Hercules Campus completely off the grid by eliminating its dependence on traditional utilities, high-tech engineering with solar and fuel cell technology will be incorporated into the design. Ratkovich expects the Hercules Campus to be ready for its close-up in January 2012.