The Downtown LA News, a local print and online publication that services the busy central business district and its environs, published a story earlier this week about Grand Central Market and its potentially troubling future.
Writer Eddie Kim thinks the timing of the sale from longtime owner Adele Yellin to Beverly Hills-based real estate group Langdon Street Capital is “stunning.” And while he argues that there are plenty of aspects of the market that are intact despite nearly a decade of change, Kim investigates the future of the Downtown LA landmark. Here are the best lines from the piece:
The balance of old and new — and of cheap vs. bougie — feels like some sort of Goldilocks principle is in effect. You look around and see Mexicans and Koreans and Caucasians, the working class and the rich
Kim sees some problems with some of the new tenants, or rather, how necessary they really seem:
I do question why a cheaper produce market had to make way for the shinier, juice- and organics-focused District Market, or why anyone thought a gourmet PB&J stall serving $7 Uncrustables was an idea destined for anything other than a paper shredder, or why the pricey Courage & Craft booze shop has taken a prime spot near Broadway
Apparently the new owners don’t plan on changing too much, at least in the year future:
Langdon’s Daneshgar declared immediately after the sale that initial plans are not to meddle with the tenant lineup, but rather to invest in some improvements to the elevators, lighting, paint and other aesthetic features.
Kim later goes into spectulating as to why Adele Yellin sold to Langdon Street Capital over “other Downtown stakeholders” who might’ve been interested in acquiring the property, which not only includes the Market, but the adjacent 1917 Million Dollar Theatre. Yellin leased out the theatre to a fashion company for five years.
Already many of the rents for tenants has crept up, or shot up significantly, over the years:
The turnover at Grand Central has certainly raised rent revenues. Newer tenants who replaced older vendors, many produce-based, ended up approximately doubling rates, and other food vendors have seen rent hikes from around 30% to 140%
Toward the end of the piece, Kim does a nice job of explaining why Grand Central Market’s place in Downtown, and its importance, has changed over the decades. After white flight in the midcentury, Grand Central Market made a solid return thanks to a Latino customer base. But even that is changing as affluent office workers and newer Downtown residents comprise a significant amount of the walking traffic in the past few years.
To finish, he wonders if Grand Central Market might go the bland/boring way of San Francisco’s Ferry Building or Boston’s Faneuil Hall:
I don’t buy that keeping things as-is in the name of tradition is a progressive way to approach business in a diverse city. I also don’t buy that attracting newer, more affluent customers with artisanal products everywhere in a big food hall should be the endgame, because that ends up jettisoning small business owners of color over time. At worst it’s a form of economic violence. It also makes a place boring as hell.