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Planning Commission signs off on much taller tower for 520 Mateo in Arts District

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35 stories instead of 13

An aerial view of Los Angeles. There are many buildings of varying heights.
520 Mateo in the Arts District will now hold a 35-story.
Renderings via Department of City Planning

Developer Carmel Partners is making a drastic change to its Arts District project dubbed 520 Mateo: It’s now plotting a 35-story high-rise, rather than a 13-story tower.

The height isn’t the only part of the project that’s changing. The make-up of the development is too. There will be far fewer live/work lofts—475 instead of 600—and dramatically less commercial space—125,000 square feet dedicated for shops, restaurants, and offices, up from 35,000 square feet.

This latest version was one of the “alternatives” considered in the project’s environmental impact report, which the Los Angeles Planning Commission approved unanimously Thursday, with commissioners calling it “very nice” and “excellent.”

“It does a great job fitting the [neighborhood] context currently, and... it’s a forward thinking project, especially as it supports live/work [housing],” said commissioner Caroline Choe.

At least for now, the tower is bound to be the tallest in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

A shorter, six-story building will house offices.
“Thirty-five stories in the Arts District, well it’s a first,” said commissioner Dana Perlman.

“Thirty-five stories in the Arts District, well it’s a first,” said commissioner Dana Perlman. “I think it makes sense for this project... [But] I’m concerned about all of a sudden seeing increased massing in the district, because of traffic issues and other things.”

But it won’t be the tallest forever. Developer Sun Cal is planning a massive new complex at Sixth and Alameda streets that will be anchored by twin 58-story towers.

520 Mateo will be built about a half-mile away on a 2-acre site bounded by South Santa Fe Avenue, Palmetto Street, Mateo Street, and East Fourth Place, replacing a two-story warehouse and surface parking lot.

An old railroad spur will be turned into a walking path.
The paseo will link Mateo Street to Santa Fe Avenue.

The tower, which will hold shops, restaurants, and lofts—11 percent will be affordable—will be centered on the site, next to a new, six-story building that will house 105,000 square feet of office space.

An old railroad spur along the site’s southern boundary will be turned into a walking path that links Mateo Street to Santa Fe Avenue. Neils Cotter, a partner with Carmel, says that paseo will “hopefully become the heartbeat of this project.”

Commission president David Ambroz criticized the tower’s “boring” flat roof, but said he’s “excited” the buildings will be made with concrete.

“It’s a bit exhausting to see endless two-, three-, and six-story wood frame construction with a short life span in Los Angeles,” he said. “It’s nice to see something that’ll be more timeless.”

The plans will need final approval from the Los Angeles City Council before construction can start.