downtown los angeles, historic core

Sassony Group’s “Broadway Mall” Project Slated for 4th and Broadway in Downtown LA

(Click image to enlarge) A preliminary rendering of The Broadway Mall, a new ground up shopping center proposed for the NE corner of 4th/Broadway (Photo: Sassony Group)

Back in 2007, you may remember that the short nondescript building that stands at the corner of 4th and Broadway (NE corner) caught on fire in the wee hours of the night. For over 5 years since the fire, the tattered structure has stood empty surrounded by scaffolds waiting for the right time to be redeveloped. Could we be close to seeing some development activity as momentum is gaining on Broadway after both Umamicatessen and Famima have recently opened?

I spoke to a rep at Sassony Group (the owners of the building) who informed me of some exciting changes that are coming soon. Within a year, Sassony Group plans to demolish the building that’s currently there at 4th/Broadway and replace it with a new one, dubbed simply The Broadway Mall, that will be aimed at bringing back “upscale shopping and dining” to Broadway. The shopping center will “feature 42,000 square feet of retail space” and a “25,000 square foot Rooftop Entertainment Sky Park featuring a pedestrian friendly Passage, Artwork Display & Kiosks.”

The plans are still in their preliminary stages and with a build-to-suit option of up to 30,000 square feet, you could theoretically have a grocery store on the ground floor. A Fresh & Easy would seem like the most likely possibility if that were to happen today.

Although the design of the Broadway Mall is preliminary, I am still concerned about its design based on the rendering provided. It just seems like the design is trying too hard to “match” historic aesthetics on Broadway that make it look contrived and fake (like The Grove, etc). I understand that Broadway is a historic street, but modern designs can be executed well and respectful of their neighbors. Design for today instead of mocking the old. Cities like New York, Chicago, London, or Montreal all do fantastic jobs incorporating new buildings with old buildings harmoniously, giving the cities a sense of “living evolution” that could not happen if they all pretended to be stuck in the past.

The NE corner of 4th and Broadway today where the Broadway Mall will be built

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  1. JHM says

    Great sleuthing Brigham. Glad to see that eyesore of a corner finally getting some attention although the design will be critical. Hopefully it will not turn out to be another wasted opportunity a la Hollywood and Highland, etc.

  2. Noe says

    This looks like the Medici/Orsini/Piero. They should try again for something modern and progressive. Broadway needs to reinvent itself by building the future today.

  3. Clark says

    OK – tweak the design, but I’ve had to look at that burned out building for too many years. I remember waking up to sirens and all us neighbors going out to watch the action.
    PLEASE do something like this at my end of Broadway. Perhaps it could attract a huge downtown Apple store! Regardless, anything is better than what’s there, and with any luck they will demolish the non-burned out buildings on both sides of it (sorry Casa India – one less drunk to stumble out after his case of Corona). Please tell me they own those too!
    Thank you Brigham for bringing a bright bit of possible news to my day.

  4. Jason Burns says

    I was just thinking Orsini. Out of place for Broadway. Too low-rise. Also, you’re forcing an “upscale shopping” mall into a neighborhood that is just starting to find its legs.

    As for that rendering: What’s with the street lamps? Where is the new streetcar? Gotta love stock render photos.

  5. Clark says

    I think this neighborhood found it’s legs years ago and has just been waiting for something big to happen. The rental lofts on 4th between Main & Spring started The Old Bank District and the Douglas Building at 3rd & Spring was one of the first “for sale” loft buildings downtown commanding prices from $400-$800k. I bought my loft in 2005 with the understanding the Grand Avenue Project was months from breaking ground. Had I known it would never break ground, I never would have bought where I did. The unique retailers in the neighborhood have been trying to jump start it. Perhaps, if this even gets built, this will help one of the pioneer neighborhoods of downtown’s redevelopment.

  6. Clark says

    One more thing and I’ll shut up – Low rise is good for Broadway. Most of the buildings along broadway are 3-5 stories, other than some big corner buildings. Broadway does not need high rise. Part of the beauty of Broadway is the low rise historic buildings. (Think Old Town Pasadena, Rodeo Drive, 3rd St. Promenade) Keep sun shining on Broadway. Keep Broadway historic and let’s try to make it charming instead of the gross condition it’s in now.

  7. Emily says

    Thanks for the report! I recently discovered your blog and I enjoy reading your posts.

    I’m glad to see that Broadway is developing, but I agree that the design seems inauthentic. Instead of making an ugly strip-mall style building, why not create something unique (or at least aesthetically pleasing)? Broadway has such beautiful, historic buildings and such an interesting atmosphere, so it would be a shame to see it develop into a bland, blah street.

    I’m sure money is the issue here, but I find these pseudo-italian buildings kind of embarrassing! I say keep the project, but rethink the design.

  8. Della says

    I am so looking forward to this corner being redeveloped. (Though I hope they find a new name with which to pitch the project.) Is there a tentative timeline yet? I would love to see a Fresh & Easy on the ground floor!

  9. DTown says

    So excited this corner is getting some development! It’s one of the most important focal points of Broadway and this should be a huge boost for further development on the northern end of the street. Very scared about the prelim renderings, however. Couldn’t agree more with your article — modern architecture can live elegantly beside historic buildings… not sure why they’d opt for this faux-Méditerranéen eyesore.

  10. gary says

    this looks like the mall in the fashion district…

  11. sebastian says

    I can say it looks nice, although the roof looks like it’s not done. maybe a copola look would look better. Even though they build new buildings to look like old ones doesn’t meen it’s always a bad idea, I think this will look good in that part of town.

  12. TreeThriver says

    Make it one big “Compramos Oro” Store and I’ll be happy. We need more of these stores.

  13. Evan says

    That faux-traditional design doesn’t complement the existing historic stock at all, and due to the dearth of skilled craftsman and high-quality materials used to construct the original buildings, this wil end up looking like a poor imitation. Rather, we need to design for today as others have said, cities like Amsterdam do this very well, placing high-design modern structures adjacent to centuries-old buildings. Is there a design meeting that one could attend to voice their opinion of this design? it desperately needs to be redesigned in a more modern fashion, and LA certainly deserves better.

  14. archie says

    Tragic. Horrible. Not another stucco, faux-mediterranean, Orsini/Medici style Tuscan pile of rubbish on Broadway, where things are really poppin’. This already looks tired before it’s built. I agree, a more modern, distinctive structure would suit this quiet end of Broadway. If it was the quality construction of the Grove, that would be one thing, but this looks like a mini mall anywhere in LA. Like that Ross on Western and Hollywood Blvd. Boo.

  15. Louie Cuevas says

    How old is the burned out building? If it`s as old as the other buildings around it, perhaps it can be incorporated into part of the design

  16. Rbay says

    This guy Eli Sasson is a complete psychotic! He also owns the Broadway Arcade Building (drug den arcade between 7th and 8th) and a dilapidated looking lot that has been in ruins since it was torched in the 1992 riots ( 20 years — I kid you not!). The only way this corner gets developed is when he sells, which he won’t at market (Arcade building has been for sale approximately 11 years and running). The real shame here is that a building partially destroyed by fire sits abandoned on Broadway and the city does nothing to force this owner to fix. I suspect he’s getting some heat for city officials now with the push to clean up the street, so he came out with the circa 1997 rendering to pacify. He did the same on Manchester and Vermont. Nothing will happen here, h’s a slum lord and doesn’t have the resources or competence to pull off any development project.

  17. tony says

    I have to agree with what most people are saying here. It would be fantastic to have a development at this end of Broadway but this design looks awfully reminiscent of those terrible structures that blight the Fashion District. That block has been sitting “charred” for years. If this land owner cared about their property, was capable, or was “invested” in the community they would have done something a long time ago – even if that something was to simply raze the current structure and clean up the site. The proof is in the pudding so to speak.

  18. Shawn says

    They should model the architecture after a close residential neighbor like the Continental Building on 4th & Spring — none of that cheesy “modern” fashion district crap or whatever that new mixed-use building on 4th & Main — this is not Irvine! We dont need another faux pas like Pershing Square. Make us proud of new development in Downtown.

  19. Robert says

    I would be happy to have a new development but this looks very suburban. Didn’t we make this mistake on the Westside in the 90s? No stucco on Broadway…use more organic materials…even a brick facade would be nice. I hope the city makes this developer go back to the drawing board. I think the height makes sense..just not diggin’ this facade.

  20. topher says

    one word…hideous…broadway has more class than this. downtown needs to be super strict about architectural designs and forbid developers who bring in bad designs.

  21. carter says

    Sassony is one of the largest owners of mini-malls in the county, and this rendering looks like it came from the same architect that did every other project for them.
    Maximize the revenue, minimize everything else is their motto.
    Nothing wrong with the maximization issue, but if they would only realize they could get so much more in return with a qualified architect who could place a new project into the context of the neighborhood, maybe even win an architectural award for the effort, etc. Tenants would then come to the project because of the design, not just because of where it is.
    But as Santa Monica Place found out, 3rd floor food courts are from the school of wishful thinking.

  22. John says

    Super ugly.

    There is nothing wrong with incorporating tradition in to architecture, in fact it should be encouraged. However, tradition should purvey a feeling of authenticity. The cool thing about North American architecture is the felling like it’s always been there. This Orsini copy, by contrast, looks like a 21st century mistake akin to all those hideous buildings in town built in the 70s and 80s.

    At least the burned out building has an excuse to look that way.

  23. Kersu says

    The developer needs to fire his architect (assuming he actually hired one) and go back to the drawing board! I hope the ‘Bring Back Broadway’ initiative will have some input in this matter and not allow a banal three-story stucco box on the same block as the Bradbury building!

  24. Lisa says

    I’m not sure I like that design either but please please make this happen!

  25. Of course we want a new building, not a burned out safety hazard, however, I wish that Owners would understand that if you spend a small % more for good Architects and Designers, it significantly impacts the revenue and use of the building. Qualified, competant teams create successful projects – including managers, operators, engineers etc. If Owners continue to always go with the cheapest route, instead of seeking out value, they will continue to fail.
    Broadway has some of the best designed buildings in the country. Yes, many of them were butchered over the years, but the bones are there and the smart Owners are seeing the value in these gorgeous buildings. I’m assuming and hoping that this rendering is merely a rendering that someone “in house” on the Owners team produced to show a new shiny building. It clearly has some “copy/pastes” from Orsini/Medici, as others have mentioned.
    From a design perspective, from an Architect, I don’t have much to say that is positive about it. However, there is no plan either, I have no idea how you get to those upper floor retail, how does it connect to the street.
    So obviously, I’m not a fan of the design. I personally believe that new buildings should be contemporary of their time – especially on Broadway, where the stock of historic buildings is amongst the best stock in the world – yes, I said in the world. Leave the gorgeous historic buildings intact, repair and restore them, and make the new buildings “new”.

  26. Simon Ha says

    Oh what an opportunity to build something with presence and scale at a prominent corner site, especially with Bringing Back the Broadway and the Street Car. What a wasted opportunity it would be if this really is the vision.

    Not every building has to be a monument or a work of art but I’m hoping that the development and design team can do much better than this bad rendition of a Neo-classical Italianesque Bristol Farms looking building that is completely out of context.

  27. Alan says

    That architecture belongs on Wilshire Blvd somewhere west of the 405, not in DTLA.

  28. Miles says

    Build a boxy Trader Joes and be a community hero. Build this abortion as envisioned and everyone will hope it burns again.

  29. davt says

    They should maximize the airspace and profits by adding residential units on top.

    Sometimes it’s just better to have a plain box architecture but using good material. There’s just too much going on. It’s visual overload. And it’s too suburban faux-history. Downtown LA needs something more modern. This is too much like a suburban mall like The Grove.

  30. carter says

    Well, since no one, myself included, actually looked at the company website to determine just how many suburban projects they have developed or own, here is the list:

    Notice how urbane it is!!!
    Maybe Mike Delijani, president of the BID for the area, can talk some real world practicality into their heads – and make them money in the process.
    And while Mike has not remodeled all of his theatres as of yet, he most surely does not want any of them to be seen in the company of this architectural whack-job.

  31. Paul says

    No cheap suburban looking crap! This is Broadway we’re talking about!

  32. The design is bleh, but the idea is great. Why not open up the space since there are some great views to be had from that corner?

    I also agree — this corner is in need of a modern structure. A failed attempt to mimic the past is not what Broadway needs. It needs some new life. I’m thinking large glass windows and a modern spacious area — somthing more ‘Santa Monica Place’ than ‘The Grove.’

  33. Millie says

    A so-called “modern” structure actually runs the risk of looking even cheaper and more noticeably low budgeted. But the developer may favor the idea of a design that doesn’t attempt any type of traditional styling since it will be less expensive to build and easier to throw together. The fewer embellishments there are, including cornices, decorative columns and insets, the lower the cost.

    Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.

  34. Troy says

    I don’t think mixing modern architecture into a historic neighborhood is a good idea.

    As for the design in the photo simulation, it could work, however they need to change the color. The plain earth-tone color shown is used for suburban strip malls and power centers. This building should use a darker color palette and break up the building by highlighting the different architectural features.

  35. Scott says

    Thanks for reporting on this. I had been wondering about that eyesore at 4th and Broadway. Any updates? It has been nearly 2 years since your post and 7 years since the fire, but it looks like nothing has happened, just as RBay predicted.

  36. Pingback: Looking west on Fourth Street from Spring Street, 1958-2014 | urban diachrony

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