One of the biggest eye sores (and embarrassments) in all of Downtown Los Angeles — the 1970s “shopping fortress” known as Macy’s Plaza — has a very bright future ahead of it. One of LA’s most respected developers, The Ratkovich Company, has successfully acquired the dated complex from Jamison Services, Inc for $241 million according to the LA Times. The purchase, which closed escrow last week, includes not only the retail portion (Macy’s, Express, Bath and Body Works, LA Fitness, etc.) but also the 23-story, 485-room Sheraton hotel and the 33-story 700 S Flower office tower totaling 2.4 million square feet. Ratkovich plans to spend $160 million to upgrade the entire complex with some very exciting changes that will dramatically alter the urban landscape of the Financial District.
Macy’s Plaza will be renamed “The Bloc” and will be redesigned by Johnson Fain Architects (based in Chinatown). Current plans call for the complete removal of the enclosed glass atrium that faces 7th Street, making it more outdoor than indoor, and allowing Ratkovich to include a third floor of retail space (there is currently an underground level). From an earlier DTLA Rising report from Dec 2012, Macy’s will be staying put with major multi-million dollar plans to upgrade the department store to a potential “flagship” store, including the possible addition of their Visit Macy’s USA tourist visitor center, which is only in 4 other US cities including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
To address the center’s most flawed design characteristic, being insular and withdrawn from the urban fabric, the brick walls will be removed and the mall will essentially be inverted outward by punching out the walls (i.e., along Flower Street) and inserting new store fronts that engage the pedestrian realm along the sidewalks. Moving to this format would activate the streets with pedestrian activity and strengthen the urban connection between the Financial District and South Park.
The Bloc, which also includes the hotel and office tower, are planned for major upgrades as well. The Sheraton, which underwent a remodeling effort several years ago, will be getting further upgrades including a new swimming pool and hotel gym with a goal to reach a “4-star status.” The office tower, which is currently about 33% vacant, will be repositioned from an undesirable Class B office tower to a “high tech hub” with creative office space (i.e., removing dropped ceilings, exposing concrete floors, etc.) aimed at the growing entertainment, technology, and media companies in Los Angeles. In addition, a rooftop lounge will be added for office tenants to enjoy.
And perhaps the most exciting detail regarding this redevelopment effort by Ratkovich (for an urbanist and transit advocate like myself) is the plan to build a direct pedestrian connection between The Bloc and the very busy 7th/Metro subway station across the street. Since the underground portion of the mall right now is in alignment with the underground metro station, it is entirely possible to provide an easy connection between the two. In fact, the MTA purposefully designed the metro station with “knock out panels” along certain sections of the walls with the very intention that one day, a developer with an urban vision (unlike Jamison Services, Inc), would take advantage of it and allow transit riders to have direct access to the mall akin to what you would experience in great transit-oriented cities like New York or Tokyo.
Construction on The Bloc will take about 2 years starting in early 2014 and completing in late 2015.
For more info, visit The Bloc’s website.