LOS ANGELES -- Shuwa Investments Corp., a Japanese company that has invested heavily in high-profile properties in the United States, said this week that it plans to start developing apartments in this country.

"Although commercial real estate investment and development will remain the company's primary focus, we see an opportunity to expand our operations into apartment development," said Takaji Kobayashi, president of Shuwa Investments.

Shuwa, which has a $2.7 billion U.S. real estate portfolio, said it has secured a ground lease for an 81,000-square-foot property on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles with an option to purchase.

The company said it plans to build a "high-quality" apartment complex on the property, in the middle of the Wilshire Corridor area, the site of numerous high-priced apartments and condominiums.

Shuwa, which owns the ARCO Plaza in Los Angeles, the Quaker Tower in Chicago and the ITT headquarters building in New York, said the move into apartments is a "logical expansion" for the company, since it has developed more than 100 residential and commercial properties in Japan.

Jack Parsell, managing partner at Kenneth Leventhal & Co., said Shuwa's decision reflects the strength of some sectors of the residential real estate market. "That kind of property can create a lot of value," he said.

"Shuwa began in this country as a residential developer 10 years ago, so they've really come full circle with this," he said.