As of Thursday, November 12, 2020
The Broadway Trade Center was one of the most ambitious projects for revitalizing downtown Los Angeles and bringing high-end retail to a once-blighted urban center. But after COVID-19 and civil unrest, the project has been put up for sale. Located at 801 S. Broadway, it is on the block for $425 million by Waterbridge Capital and Continental Equities, according to the Commercial Observer.
The current owners acquired the historic building for more than $122 million in 2014. They had planned to turn the 1.1-million-square-foot building into a compound that would feature hundreds of thousands of square feet for retail and restaurants. The rest of the project would be slated for uses such as creative-office and hotel space.
The downtown Los Angeles architecture firm Omgivning got the job to renovate the 112-year-old Broadway Trade Center, which previously served as the address for the sprawling A. Hamburger & Sons department store, which installed the first escalator in California. The site was so big it housed the Los Angeles Public Library from 1908 to 1913. It also housed a flagship May Company California department store until the mid-1980s. The Broadway Trade Center housed space for garment factories and studios until redevelopment started in 2014.
Current plans for renovation feature new penthouse structures, a public park, gardens, swimming pools as well as restaurants and bars, according to a statement on Omgivning’s website.
Waterbridge did not answer a request for comment from California Apparel News by press time. However, real-estate watchers in downtown Los Angeles remain bullish on the project as well as the prospect for developing more high-end retail in downtown Los Angeles. Over the past seven years, high-end brands such as Acne Studios, Theory, Paul Smith, Urban Outfitters, Vans, Mykita, Aesop and Ganni have opened locations on the same block as the Broadway Trade Center.
Brigham Yen, a publisher of the “DTLA Rising” real-estate blog and a broker for Coldwell Banker, said that the Broadway Trade Center project remains vital and could play a role in helping downtown Los Angeles’ retail scene.
“The reason why it is important is its location and without a doubt its sheer size, taking up almost a whole city block,” Yen said. “The location is very important. It’s strategically located at the cusp of several districts—the Historic Core, Fashion District, South Park and the Financial District. It could serve as a linchpin to connect all of these distinct districts and help create a more walkable and cohesive urban community.”
The building’s forecasted role as a neighborhood anchor would be crucial to developing the area for retail and attracting people to the neighborhood. Despite the past two quarters of retailers trying to wait out a pandemic slowdown, Yen forecasted that the area would regain momentum.
“There will always be a need for people to have a place to go,” Yen said. “People will always want to go out to stores and to eat. There will still be a need for office space. I think the original vision for the Broadway Trade Center is great.”
However, the downtown area also has to contend with major challenges such as controlling its homelessness. In 2016 and 2017, voters approved city and county measures to fund housing for the homeless. However, solving downtown’s issues will take commitments from everyone who has a stake in the district, said Andrew Turf, a CBRE broker who is also responsible for retail leasing at the Broadway Trade Center.
“The city needs to deal with the homeless crisis or no one will move to downtown L.A.” Turf said. “Landlords need to put money into their buildings and sidewalks and make it a safe and interesting place for people to walk and enjoy themselves.”