Back in March 2012, we reported that Macy’s was planning to put in about $7 million toward a renovation to spruce up an aging (to put it lightly) department store. I called it “lipstick on a pig” because the issue wasn’t just about fixing up an extremely lackluster Macy’s (hidden behind dated brick walls), but more about how poorly designed and detrimental the fortress-like mall is to Downtown LA’s future growth and development, which has effectively severed the Financial District from South Park, preventing the two districts from connecting synergistically. Much more major work would be needed to fix this prime example of poor urban design.
Word on the street this past summer was that the owner of Macy’s Plaza, Jamison Services, Inc., was “quietly” searching for a buyer. Of course they were searching. The location is sitting on a gold mine. Centrally located in the Financial District across the busiest subway station in the LA rail system and facing 7th Street, which has become a bustling Restaurant Row. Development is flourishing all around it, so it wasn’t surprising, but great news nonetheless, when the Downtown News reported yesterday that a reputable buyer, The Ratkovich Company, stepped up to the plate and is currently in escrow to purchase Macy’s Plaza (at an undisclosed price) with a projected May 2013 closing date.
I am cautiously optimistic that there will be a very bright future for the site that Macy’s Plaza occupies today. Major changes are apparently ahead. But exactly how major? “Opening up the glass atrium” fronting 7th Street is the easy part. Even remodeling the front entrances of both the Sheraton on Hope and the 33-story office tower on Flower by replacing the dated 70’s brickwork with a more attractive material is relatively “easy.” However, the biggest offender here that will be more difficult to address is the hulking brick structure, which includes a parking structure sitting on top of a Macy’s, located toward the back of the complex along 8th Street flanked by Flower and Hope. Here on this short block, you’ll find the usual foreboding brick walls, three anti-pedestrian driveways, and two gates meant to keep the homeless out of the building’s crevices. This back portion is especially concerning — 8th Street needs to be activated with retail — and will likely be torn down and redeveloped if “major changes” are truly ahead.
And what will happen to Macy’s? Apparently they are staying put. According to a tip sent in last night, a rep from Macy’s recently disclosed information regarding a “multi-million dollar upgrade” that includes a new “tourist visitor center” concept called Visit Macy’s USA that are only at select properties in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see how Macy’s can be upgraded to “flagship status” without tearing down the existing structure and starting over.
The downtown community will be waiting anxiously for Ratkovich to reveal those exciting, yet nerve-racking details.