Historic Downtown LA Grand Central Market Getting New Upgrades in 2013

The historic 1917 market in Downtown LA, Grand Central Market, is getting a major upgrade with some exciting changes coming in 2013

This past Thanksgiving, I received a very exciting tip from a reader who informed me that Grand Central Market — one of the most precious historic gems in Los Angeles located at 3rd between Broadway and Hill — was planning to be revamped in the near future (early 2013). Then confirmation came yesterday when the LA Times reported that the historic 1917 downtown market is, indeed, getting a major overhaul with some very exciting implications that will add significant momentum to both the urban revitalization happening on Broadway and Downtown LA in general.

For one, the team working on this project — put together by the market’s owner The Yellin Company — is top-notch with extensive experience. The architect firm hired is BCV, which was behind the remodel of the beautiful Ferry Building in San Francisco and the World Financial Center Market Hall in New York. The developer, Rick Moses, helped piece together Americana at Brand in Glendale and will be figuring out how to reposition the entire Grand Central Square. In addition, two die-hard/passionate culinary consultants have been brought on board to help oversee the project including Joseph Shuldiner (founder of the Altadena Farmers Market and the Science of Domestic Technology) and Kevin West (former W Magazine editor now successful food-canning business owner).

A lot of positive changes are ahead for the 27,000 square foot Grand Central Market that entails repositioning the market by attracting new vendors and “rejuvenating” long-time retailers that have long-term leases. With a 33% vacancy (15 empty stalls out of 45), filling up the remaining stalls with new creative eateries is an exciting prospect with loads of possibilities. In fact, in addition to downtown-based Soi 7 already signing on to do a new concept called “Sticky Rice” in the former La Mamma Burger space, my sources are telling me that a two Michelin star LA chef may do a seafood concept and the popular LA-based meat butcher duo, Lindy and Grundy, is supposedly in talks as well.

According to the LA Times article, the first phase of renovations has already begun with a “deep cleaning” that takes place at night where the walls, columns, and ceilings are being repainted, and the floors are being cleaned and polished.

Eventually, I see the Grand Central Market going down the same path as the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. Like Grand Central, the famous 1934 Mid-City outdoor market was moribund at one point before The Grove was built next door in 2002. After The Grove — a shopping center with flagship retailers and restaurants — became such a huge success at drawing large crowds back to the immediate area, the Farmers Market got a new lease on life, attracted new investments, and became a wonderful and relevant place again. The parallel here for the Grand Central Market is that our “Grove” is Broadway’s future revitalization, which will also have tremendous drawing power once it becomes a regional (if not international) shopping/dining/entertainment destination.

The biggest advantage Grand Central Market will have over 3rd/Fairfax? Angelenos from far and wide will be able to access the former with superior mass transit: a convenient subway station at 4th and Hill less than a block away.

Let’s take a look at the Farmers Market at 3rd/Fairfax as a successful example of what the Grand Central Market could be like:

The Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax made a huge come back over the last decade after The Grove injected new life back into the area

The Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax made a huge come back over the last decade after The Grove opened in 2002

The Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax has done a good job at branding and providing historical context

The Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax has done a good job at branding and providing historical context

I would like to see the Grand Central Market become a gathering spot

I would like to see the Grand Central Market become a gathering spot

...and a place to enjoy live music while dining

…and a place to enjoy live music while dining

A clean butcher with various meats

A clean butcher department with various meats

A place to grab fresh baked breads that MF Gourmet at Grand Central Market provided at one point

A place to grab fresh baked breads that MF Gourmet at Grand Central Market once provided at one point

New successful culinary concepts like Loteria Grill were spawned at 3rd/Fairfax, which could be the case for Grand Central Market in the future

New successful culinary concepts like Loteria Grill were spawned at 3rd/Fairfax, which could be the case for Grand Central Market in the future

I would love to see more built out stalls like this at Grand Central Market

I would love to see more built out spaces like this at Grand Central Market

This cute barber shop adds a nice nostalgic touch

This cute barber shop adds a nice nostalgic touch

Live demonstrations and classes

Live demonstrations and classes engage the public

Regular programmed events will also engage the public

Regular programmed events will also engage the public

33 Responses to Historic Downtown LA Grand Central Market Getting New Upgrades in 2013

  1. The last time I was in Seattle and walking through Pike’s Place, I wondered why Grand Central couldn’t be more like it…I always feel bad for the tourists that make LA’s Grand Central a destination stop, thinking how disappointed they probably are. This is great news!

  2. This is awesome! Go DTLA!

  3. This is great news and I’m glad they’ll be keeping some of the existing vendors. I think a mix of the old and the new will keep it more authentic. If this is going to stay open later though, the nightly tent and drug encampment between Angels Flight and the metro stop needs to get cleaned up. That has gotten really bad in the last six months.

  4. i think the food stalls are great (for the most part), but some better produce would be much appreciated! the chinese massage thing is weird, as is the entire bottom floor.

  5. Oh the possibilities! :)

  6. I love Grand Central and am excited for the changes! I go there nearly daily for produce, I always find good stuff but I’ve built a relationship with the vendors there, it’s a great “small town village” feel to go there for me. It’s true that -some- of the produce is sad looking but yesterday I bought two persimmons for .10! I hope they don’t start selling $4 apples like Ralph’s but otherwise I’m happy they are getting a much needed “refreshing”.

    Agree with Jake (hi Jake!) that the Chinese massage place is a little odd but the eyebrow threading lady (also random) is great. Only $7 too!

  7. This is outstanding news! In regard to the sometimes disappointing produce, the individual vendors will probably step-up their game once more discriminating customers start arriving in masses. Most vendors currently buy their produce from the Produce District in DTLA ridiculously cheap and resale cheap because that’s what the customer base currently supports. Once the spenders start arriving, their prices will inevitably increase along with improved quality (hopefully!)

  8. Not sure why anyone cares about the old food stalls. Restaurants go out of business all the time.

  9. This is great news. Nicer shops of all kinds there and nearby would be awesome. But I really hope the Market’s urban character is preserved. No faux nostalgia, please. When I hear mention of the Americana, I totally cringe. The risk is suburbanization, some of which is apparent even in the Fairfax market. I hope the Chinese massage place, as odd as it appears to be, gets to stay. Downtown is a mix of things, including quirky things, and anyone doing an honest job deserves to be part of that mix.

    • @Robert – Grand Central’s urban character is largely a product of it’s location and setting, which is inherently urban. I don’t see that changing with the introduction of new vendors. If anything it will allow for a new range of businesses and patrons to discover Grand Central and will create a dynamic combination of old and new. The Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax is very suburban in setup and it’s surrounding neighborhood is an urban/suburban hybrid from a planning standpoint. The accessibility issues that plague that area don’t necessarily apply to Grand Central, which is convenient to transit and can be accessed on foot by people in the neighborhood. In the end, businesses that offer a competitive product or quality food will likely stay, while those that don’t will go. This is a great for grand central, area residents and the city in general.

  10. That’s great to hear but once Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali bring their insanely over the top and utterly amazing market Eataly to Los Angeles from NYC. Who will really care about Grand Central Market and 10cent persimmons? Downtown LA needs high-end retail and food markets.

  11. Shame on all of you, including Brigham, who are so ignorant of the public transportation system in LA. We live in the Fairfax District for 2-3 months per year; have no car here; can get to the Grand Central Market by public transportation very easily from the Farmers Market and can get to the Farmers Market very easily from Grand Central Market.

    • Shame on you for coming here and feeling the need to berate those who have an opinion that’s different from your own. The Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax is served only by buses that get caught in the same quagmire of congestion that cars do. There is no rail connection that serves the area and it’s built environment is largely suburban in setup making it pretty unpleasant to navigate by foot. If buses ran in dedicated lanes along Fairfax, maybe they would be a more pleasant option, but as it stands now, most people drive to the Farmer’s Market and the Grove (hence the ginormous parking structure that frequently fills up) This doesn’t mean I don’t like Farmer’s Market – quite the contrary I love it! I don’t like the Grove, but appreciate the fact that it made the market relevant again to a new generation. It was dying a sad, slow death in the 90’s.

      • re “There is no rail connection that serves the area:” There’s no rail system from MOST OF LA to the Grand Central Market, so one can get there by rail only from a small part of the city/county. (A short walk to Wilshire and a pretty quick bus trip to Western, where there is a red line station gets one from the Fairfax District to Grand Central Market…or the other way around pretty easily.)

        Re “it’s built environment is largely suburban in setup making it pretty unpleasant to navigate by foot:” That’s berating us for disagreeing with an opinion of yours. We love walking around the Fairfax Distract, DTLA, Santa Monica, Venice, Beverly Hills, and lots of other parts of the city. (LA isn’t a walking city; rather, it’s 14 or 15 connected walking cities.) We’ve even walked the entire length of Wilshire Boulevard and enjoyed it enormously.

        My guess/opinion is that most Angelenos who come to the Farmers Market, Grand Central Market, and every other iconic location in LA do so because they have no idea that there’s a robust transit system, consisting of buses and light rails.

        • There are more rail and bus connections serving Grand Central (including commuter, Amtrak or otherwise via Union Station) and more coming soon than there ever will be serving Farmer’s Market. The Purple Line will come close with a LACMA stop, but that’s at least 10 yrs out and the walk to 3rd is not short nor is it pleasant for most. If it was, you would see tons of people walking it, but having grown up nearby I know that’s not the case. Sure, you can connect to a bus, but the reality is that many would prefer to get places by rail if they’re going to do so by transit – the same holds true in cities across the world, NY, London etc. The easiest way to identify if an area is truly walkable is if many people are actually walking. Sure the Fairfax district North of the Farmer’s Market has some amenities that local residents can get to on foot, but it’s a small area and the pedestrian traffic dies off quite a bit once you get south of Melrose. Why? It’s still designed mostly for cars. Walking Wilshire in it’s entirety might be a fun novel experience, but the average person living or working in L.A is never going to do that.

          Santa Monica, Venice, Beverly Hills, are all small pedestrian friendly villages as you noted but are again quite small and disconnected from each other. DTLA is a different animal in that it’s truly walkable in almost its entirety and is setup in traditional commercial grid as opposed to other areas in L.A that consist of linear commercial blvds. flanked by suburban housing. It’s also the most transit rich place in the entire county (and Southern California)

          While it’s true that many in L.A still aren’t aware of the transit system we do have, it’s also true that many will wait until there’s an easily accessible rail connection before they attempt to use the system, especially those on the westside. Most in L.A know that we have a bus network, but many don’t use it regularly because it’s not necessarily pleasant nor is it fast or convenient! If we had dedicated bus lanes, it might be a different story, but we don’t yet. Discretionary riders are still a very small part of our overall metro ridership, and that’s particularly true for the bus. Metro’s ridership stats break it down.

          • David Klappholz

            It’s sad that you and other full-time Angelenos appreciate/love less about the city than we part-timers do, but I’ll leave it there, except to say that not a few Angelenos whom we know well feel that riding buses is unpleasant mostly because of the ethnicities and (non)affluence levels of many of those who do ride them.

        • While certainly there are many residents of the City of Los Angeles that do not appreciate or love the City of Los Angeles as much as we would like them to, David. I could not disagree with you more that you include Lawrence and Brigham in that depiction. They are both avid lovers and supporters of our City and make it a point to help support an emerging new paradigm for the City. Like it or not, the City of Los Angeles is built on the premise of personal autos, we all know this (part time and full time residents alike). You of course have your view, that you enjoy walking in the Fairfax district and taking buses in the area, and that is fine. However as time goes on, many people in the greater LA area will continue to tire of the traffic congestion, parking fees, the hassle of dealing with it all. A younger generation is finding the convenience and beauty of living a life without the daily hassle of an automobile. You see this with the upswing in bicyclists around the City, the uptick in people using rail to go to the theater, restaurants, and bars in the dense urban fabric that downtown LA has to offer.
          The Fairfax District, Farmers Market and even the sad excuse for an urban experience at The Grove will always have their audience, but as the entire swath of urban LA from downtown to Santa Monica continues to swell with density, it makes sense that a grade separated rail and or bus lanes will be needed to provide a quick and viable option for people to travel from our myriad of satellite walking villages.
          The City cannot continue to pour money into the cobweb of bus routes, they become inefficient and only help to clog the streets even more. It makes sense that the city begin to funnel growth and transit into corridors that will make ease of travel both fun as well as convenient. Downtown Los Angeles will be the great center of that poly-centric mix.

          • David Klappholz

            We’ve met Brigham, on one of Brady’s walking tours, and I’ve read lots of posts by Brigham, so I know that he loves LA. What I wrote, is that he explicitly indicated that he believes that LA doesn’t have a robust transit system, which is untrue. Of course more light rails and/or subways would be even better, but the current system enables us to get anywhere we want.

  12. PS We’ll be pretty sad if the current ethnic nature of Grand Central Market is seriously disrupted. Have a look in the arcade of the Arcade Building to see how gentrification can be overdone.

    • God forbid non-Hispanics decide to move in. *heavy sarcasm*

      • Agreed. The ethnic nature of Grand Central in it’s current form is a by product of a place adjusting to shifting demographics. The same has happened to other institutions and neighborhoods throughout our city. When Grand Central was completed in 1917 is served a very different demographic, but cities constantly evolve and businesses either adjust to and/or embrace the changes to their neighborhoods or they become irrelevant and disappear. Grand Central and Broadway as a whole is now at a crossroads and is embracing the changes to its surrounding neighborhood once again. This will ensure that it remains relevant to a new generation of Angelenos and downtown dwellers.

  13. As a real estate agent who is involved in trying Bringing Back Broadway I applaud this development. I also am trying to get retailers into DTLA where we can buy nice housewares, unique goods, sweet furniture and unique well made items for health and wellness. If you have any ideas let me know! Rene Garcia. mail@renegarcia.net. Keep up the great work Brigham!

  14. Gonna be good. I hope that they will incorprate a wine/beer bar just like the farmers market at the grove. Love all the vendors already at the Grand Central Market, but would love alcohol options especially to entertain guests!

    Monique

    http://www.buttonsandbowsla.com

  15. I was just telling my partner before our holiday trip that Grand Central Market had a great potential to be something like the Ferry Building in San Francisco. This is great news for LA, the food scene and most of all for those of us that live downtown. Now if we could get a Cowgirl Creamery out post here that would be ideal.

  16. Rest in Peace, Grand Central market. It lasted through two world wars, two Great Depressions, but it couldnt survive yuppies. Another great L.A. landmark destroyed.

    • David Klappholz

      Hear, hear!!!…and the Farmers Market was far from moribund before the Grove, though the Grove did bring in more business.

      • @David – sorry but that’s simply not true. I’ve been going to the Farmer’s Market since I was a kid and grew up in that area. The last time I went before the Grove was built there were quite a few empty stalls and the entire place was shut by around 7 PM – it had become the epitome of moribund. I distinctly remember discussing the future of the market with my family on several occasions when I visited in the late 90’s prior to the construction of the Grove (we ate at Dupar’s regularly). It really felt like it was dying and had become a product of a bygone era. I don’t like the Grove next door for various reasons, but I can’t deny the largely positive impact it has had on the Farmer’s Market. It really gave the place a new lease on life.

        While many of the trendier new vendors at the Farmer’s Market came in shortly after the Grove opened, they have mixed in well with the existing family owned businesses in the market like Moishe’s Deli, Patsy’s Pizza, Bob’s Donuts etc. and have created a great mix of old and new. The same evolution will likely take place at Grand Central, where the atmosphere is wonderful but the current group vendors are a mixed bag.

    • Funny I hadn’t heard that the market is being torn down? Oh wait – it isn’t! if anything it’s getting re-worked to serve the downtown L.A of 2013. Implying that the introduction of new vendors spells doom for the market is overly dramatic. Places evolve or they die – it’s really that simple. I’m glad to see Grand Central embrace the changing neighborhood and evolve to serve a new generation of Angelenos and Downtown L.A residents.

  17. Since the GCM moved into the historic Homer Laughlin Bldg in 1917. DTLA has gone through many transformations and it will continue to do so. The market’s current location was originally chosen because of it proximity to the wealthy inhabitants of Bunker Hill. Currently, that well to do demographic is moving back into DTLA and it would appear that the market is changing back to its original roots….

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