It’s a renaissance in the most literal sense: As the LAPD continues an investigation into the torching of developer Geoff Palmer’s Da Vinci complex, news broke this week that the Italianate apartments are set to be reborn from their own ashes. Despite considerable criticism from the community, construction funded by insurance claims is already underway on the parts of the compound that were destroyed in a December, 2014 blaze. Palmer’s design for the community has not changed—the structure will still be an inward-facing bastion with private parks and a pedestrian bridge that crosses over Temple Street when it opens in just ten months. He responded to our request for comment via e-mail, touching on everything from the phoenix-like resurrection of his work to the search for an elusive arsonist to what—if anything—he learned about L.A.’s housing climate.
How do you feel about the arson investigation so far? Do you have any personal theories?
The authorities have been very responsive and are doing an excellent job of investigating and hopefully finding the person or persons responsible for this crime. I have no personal theories here, other than there is unfortunately senseless evil in the world. Hopefully, the proffered $170,000 reward will attract some one to come forward.
When the original building burned down, there was a huge response from the neighborhood. Some critics of the complex’s aesthetic celebrated the fact that it would not be completed. Conspiracy theorists went so far as to suggest that you or someone from your team may have been involved in the fire.
Of course I was disappointed that a few critics voiced pleasure at this loss. Sadly there will always be a few of those. I was however, very heartened by the overwhelming support I have received from the city, the business community, and others. My personal response is to continue building our successful brand, and I am delighted that our newest building on Temple, which was not damaged by the fire, is now open and leasing up very quickly.
Some have argued that the complex’s layout doesn’t foster a sense of community. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
The few critics are usually those poverty advocates that feel justifiably upset at the gentrification of downtown, which we symbolize. Others are less sophisticated and don’t appreciate the award-winning classical architectural designs and timeless beauty we bring to downtown’s heretofore urban decay and blight. The proof is in our success. We continue to maintain the highest occupancy and rents in the area as we remain the leader and largest provider of downtown luxury resort communities.
What if anything did you learn about Los Angeles—or developing apartment complexes in Los Angeles—from this experience?
This experience has only bolstered my resolve to help solve the dearth of apartments in downtown Los Angeles. Last year, I received the “Hero Award” from the Central City Association (CCA), and I remain proud to be a civic patron.
This interview has been edited and condensed.