Years before he worked with some of the tallest athletes in pro sports as owner of the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise, Jim Thomas helped develop the then-tallest building in Los Angeles, the Library Tower. Thomas spoke to our guests at the Lucas Horsfall Breakfast Roundtable, held at the downtown offices of American Business Bank, on Feb. 22, about his fascinating career in real estate development in Los Angeles.

With former partner Robert F. Maguire, Thomas developed the Library Tower (now U.S. Bank Tower), along with the Gas Company Tower and other high-rises that gave a significant lift to L.A.’s business reputation through the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, that Central Library refurbishment and the accompanying Library Tower remain as one of his fondest memories and accomplishments. The creative efforts of Thomas Maguire Partners helped save the Central Library, which other downtown leaders wanted to tear down.

Nowhere near retired from the development business, Thomas spoke to our Breakfast Roundtable guests about the resurgent interest in downtown space, including growth in the Arts District. While traffic into and through the downtown area remains an issue, Thomas foresees traffic improvements, and he continues to envision downtown as a better business environment than surrounding areas, including the westside.

In 2003 Thomas booked a deal as important as the Library Tower, acquiring a pair of office towers at Fifth and Flower streets that were lightly leased, at some 20-percent occupancy. Following a sizable renovation investment, Thomas Properties Group transformed what’s now City National Plaza, which is roughly 90-percent leased. Thomas and Maguire dissolved their business partnership in 1996.

A long-time basketball fan since his days as a college player, Thomas always wanted a shot at owning a pro sports team. He scored majority ownership of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings in 1992 and held onto the franchise until 1999.