Adept Urban, Inc. creates luxury in urban living
The angular silhouettes of office buildings comprise the bulk of every city skyline in America. Yet, as the business landscape itself changes through mergers and the rise of flexible working environments, more and more of these familiar structures are becoming relics of the past century. Often occupying choice real estate in the beating heart of a city, though, there’s no reason for these offices to sit unused. To the eyes of Patrick Chraghchian, President of Adept Urban, Inc. (Adept), if a building can’t be used as a place for people to work, it can find new life as a place for people to live.
“These buildings offer things you just can’t get otherwise,” Patrick says. “Views, walkability, easy access to culture and nightlife.”
Adept handles both new construction and renovation of existing buildings, creating unique offerings throughout the Los Angeles area, including cities such as Pasadena and Glendale as well as Los Angeles itself. The company’s business model incorporates development, architecture and build-ing/construction all under one roof.
“Our group is different because we don’t just know the markets, we know the process from beginning to end,” Patrick says. “It’s a different model from a developer hiring an architect, a warranty company, a construction manager and everything else. We can do all those tasks. That knowledge and expertise sets us aside from other competitors.”
Putting Down Roots
Patrick entered the construction business some 35 years ago and founded Adept itself 12 years ago. After finishing college, he spent a year working for another company before he decided to strike out on his own as a general contractor.
“The initial part of my career was as a general contractor,” Patrick says. “About 15 to 18 years ago, we brought in one architect to help with requests for information (RFIs), to deal with professionals and as additional help. That part of the business started growing and soon we took on third-party work. Eventually, the design division took off and stood on its own. The development part of the business started a little afterward around 2003 or 2004. Once we had the architectural part and development up and running, it made sense to integrate everything and have this entire holistic approach. We wanted to see if we could do things a little differently. It came about as more of an evolution. The different divisions did their own things, and then we eventually brought everything together,” he says.
Adept went through a period of steady growth, but it wasn’t until the country began to climb out of the 2008 recession that it truly began to take off.“When we started as a construction company,” Patrick says, “we were used to being competitive and bidding against others. As the construction business grew, we started doing other trades in-house, such as concrete, framing and drywall. Coming out of the 2008 recession, we were fortunate not to have given anything back to a bank. When the markets opened up and demand re-turned we were standing in a position of advantage because we didn’t have foreclosures on our record. We had an in-house crew and we were ready to get to work.”
Finding itself in an advantageous position at the end of the recession, Adept made the most of it. Today, the company is truly international, with offices in Japan, China and the Middle East.
“In 2011 or ’12, we were doing $5 million to $8 million investment projects of 35 to 50 units,” Patrick says. “Today, we’re looking at projects in the $100 million range with $30 million to $50 million in deployed capital. We’re working on two projects, one for a client, one for investment, in the $300 million to $400 million range. We started working with Chinese investors about six years ago, and they’ve been a great part of our business growth. We began working with Japanese investors about two and half years ago and got a real foothold going there earlier this year. The Middle East office is brand new, and we’ll have to see how things go. We don’t do any work in China or Japan—just the development side of the business and selling condominiums.”
Adept’s expertise and its lucrative investments have paid off handsomely in some of the company’s most recent developments. In April, Adept completed work on Vestalia luxury apartments in Glendale, a mixed-use new construction project offering 180 apartments and 17,000 square feet of retail space. As of mid-September, 77% of the units have been leased. Another new development, for which Adept handled the architecture and entitlement, is Lifan Tower in Los Angeles, a 30-story mixed-use, high-rise building with 304 residences totaling about 260,000 square feet of space.
What's Old Is New Again
Renovating and preserving existing structures is also a key element of Adept’s business. In 2006, the company completed the Herculean task of preserving the Boston Centennial Building in Pasadena. Adept was able to salvage the historic exterior and terrazzo floors, renovating the structure into a mixed-use mecca with 18 exposed-brick lofts and 15 townhouses overlooking the route of the annual Rose Parade. It includes 14,000 square feet of retail space.
Adept has just completed what might be the crown jewel of its building renovation portfolio with 388 Cordova, a 9-story Pasadena office tower reimagined as a mixed-use development of luxury residences and office space. “388 is a very exciting project,” Patrick says. “It’s a conversion of an office building from the 1980s. The structure was conceived in a different era, and it was obvious to us that it was a fantastic opportunity to do something unique. We purchased the building and set out to convert it to high-end condominiums and office use. On a clear day you can see Catalina from the south side of our building. Because of zoning changes, nothing can be built to block the views. Because we bought an office build-ing, we were able to convert it, and we can sell units for less than it would cost if we built it from the ground-up. This creates a lot of value for the residential buyers because we can pass that savings on to them.
“Looking at the building now, you’d have a hard time seeing what it was before,” Patrick says. “The amenities are spectacular, with 12-foot ceilings, granite countertops, marble-covered bathrooms and views all-around. No one builds ceilings that high anymore in a building like this because it’s just not feasible. The location to us is very interesting because it’s right in the middle of everything, but feels like it’s away from all the hustle and bustle. In five minutes you’re in the middle of everything, but if you need peace and quiet or easy access, the building offers that to you as well.”
Patrick isn’t the only one who feels strongly about 388. The project won this year’s Gold Nugget Award from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference for Best Multifamily Housing Community in its cate-gory. It also took home this year’s SoCal Award given by the Southern California Builders Association in the category of Best Architectural Design of a Multifamily Community. The public seems to agree with the professionals—since units started selling early this year, more than 70% of the available residences have been snapped up.
The Expert Touch
As proud as Patrick is of 388, there’s always another project coming along for him and his team at Adept, which has grown to about 150 employees across the three disciplines within the company. Adept is working now on another luxury condominium project on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, which should be completed in the next two years. In Glendale, another office building conversion project is set to begin soon.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to spot talent and bring in people with integrity and passion for what they do,” Patrick says. “This is across the board on all sides of the business. While we all have a common goal, our employees have very diverse back-grounds. This helps broaden the view of people working in the company because we are exposed to different backgrounds, ways and lifestyles.”
Patrick and his team at Adept have found a perfect market for their skills and abilities in the cities of Southern California, and have carved out a niche for themselves as experts at the creation of luxury mixed-use developments with a wealth of amenities and lifestyle opportunities.
“I think if I look back to my college years, like most ambitious graduates, I was dreaming of having the largest and best outfit on the planet,” Patrick says. “You go through life and you hit a few walls. I didn’t think I would be here back in 2007 or 2008. The growth since then has been much faster than I expected back then. Most of the last 15 years has been urban higher-end, mixed-use products, both condos and rentals. We don’t do things we’re not experts at.”