Robertson Boulevard Looks for a Revival
Kim Kardashian was photographed at Cuvée restaurant on Los Angeles’ Robertson Boulevard recently. The paparazzi shooting a much-gossiped-about celebrity walking the retail street brought back memories of Robertson’s glory days. It was a decade ago when buses filled with tourists spotted starlets shopping on the street and top retailers engaged in bidding wars for storefronts.
Robertson was hit hard by the Great Recession and currently has 13 vacancies on its premier strip between Third Street and Beverly Boulevard. However, a number of entrepreneurs are taking a risk on the strip, which once ranked among coveted Los Angeles retail real estate. Around six stores have opened on the street in the past six months. Peri Arenas opened high-end boutique Peri. A at 146 N. Robertson Blvd. on April 6.
Arenas said that moving onto the street was a gamble. “It went down. I want to help it come back,” she said. “I remember when it was the place to be. I am a firm believer in history repeating itself. It will do so on Robertson.” She picked a storefront on Robertson after traveling the city’s other high-end retail streets. She chose Robertson because it is centrally located in Los Angeles and a stone’s throw away from affluent enclaves such as Beverly Hills. Arenas formerly ran the Veri Peri boutique in Palm Springs, Calif.
Arenas forecast that her store will be a destination for stylish people seeking fashion labels that she said are not available at other Los Angeles boutiques. Her boutique is located a couple of storefronts away from the project, which could hold the keys to Robertson’s revival.
Robertson Plaza, located on the 120 block of North Robertson, is undergoing an extensive remodel. Construction crews are transforming a space once known for storefronts, offices and the long-vacant Newsroom Café into a restaurant-centered center.
High-end coffee roaster Blue Bottle Coffee Co. is scheduled to move into Robertson Plaza and will probably open in the second half of this year, said Jay Luchs, one of the leading real estate brokers on the street. Also scheduled to open later this year is The Henry, a Phoenix-headquartered restaurant chain that serves chopped salads, hamburgers, steaks and fish as well as cocktails, according to the restaurant’s website. Other businesses coming to Robertson Plaza will include a boxing studio and a bar.
Food and pop-up shops opening on Robertson will bring people back to the street, Luchs said. “The market is not going to come back for months, but it will be a great street,” he said. Luchs is vice chairman at NewmarkGrubbKnightFrank.
At its zenith, Robertson retail real estate went for $23 per square foot in the middle of 2008. Currently, Luchs said that prices run from $6 per square foot to $7 per square foot.
Fraser Ross opened his boutique Kitross at 115 S. Robertson Blvd. in June 2016. Earlier this month he opened a Kitross Kids boutique across the street. He said that high rents choked the street’s business in the past, and they continue to be too high. He estimated that rents should be cut in half to $3 per square foot.
He mentioned other ways that the street could attract more business. “If we got free parking, we’d get more business to Robertson. Beverly Hills has free parking. Free parking is like free shipping. You don’t want to make people pay just to shop,” Ross said.
New tenants with long leases include Peri. A and Ambassador of Italian Excellence, a design, fashion, jewelry and art store located at 142 N. Robertson Blvd. Max–Bone, a high-end pet-products boutique located at 118 S. Robertson Blvd., also opened recently.
New tenants on the street also include pop-up shops such as T-shirt and hoodie-focused line Mad Happy, which was open for a week at 145 N. Robertson Blvd. It was scheduled to close April 27. A pop-up for luxury footwear designer Tamara Mellon opened on 110 S. Robertson Blvd. and is scheduled to close in July.
The street continues to be the address of designer boutiques such as Chanel, multi-brand designer boutique Curve and Intermix as well as made–in–Los Angeles brands such as Lauren Moshi. The street’s reputation was hurt in the past few years when high-profile retailers such as Lululemon Athletica and Ralph Lauren closed their Robertson locations.