Since Urban Outfitters and Acne Studios opened on Broadway in late December of last year, a whirlwind of new retailers have setup shop almost overnight nearby 9th and Broadway and the new Ace Hotel. OAK NYC, Tanner Goods, Aesop, and A.P.C. to name a few. But all up and down Broadway is fair game for other retailers including the apparent signing of Burlington Coat Factory at 7th/Broadway. Now, rumors are picking up that other large well-known brands – which once eschewed Downtown LA like the plague — have not only taken notice of all this new retail activity, but are actively looking for suitable spaces in Downtown LA as well. Where? Specifically along retail-conducive streets like Broadway and 7th Street where large redevelopment projects like The Bloc and Wilshire Grand Tower continue to generate buzz. Names like Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Forever 21, and Anthropologie have all come up as brands searching or eyeing Downtown LA. No exact locations are yet confirmed for any of these brands, but the fact is, eventually they will find a home here. Only a matter of time. Also, within the next month or so, both Zara and H&M will be opening their exciting new LA flagship stores at FIGat7th that will further add fuel to the growing retail fire in Downtown LA.
Back in the heyday of Downtown LA’s nostalgic past in the early 1900s, Broadway and 7th Street were thriving shopping thoroughfares lined with both large and small stores, high end and low end. You had giant posh department stores like Bullock’s at 7th/Broadway and smaller modest chain boutiques like Chandler’s French Room at 7th/Olive, which sold reasonably priced lady’s heels. Then you had nickel and dime stores like Woolworth on Broadway now reincarnated as a discount Ross store. Downtown LA was, in fact, the center of shopping in the entire region at one time, and now coming back after decades of decline, we are beginning to see the first real signs that both Broadway and 7th Street could once again become LA’s premier outdoor urban shopping district. Finally, stores can be proud to open in the heart of Los Angeles (not Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, or West Hollywood) in a much grander and authentic urban context instead of once being relegated mostly to malls like Beverly Center or fake town centers like The Grove.
My wish list, besides focusing on just fashion retailers, includes stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, and even corporate cell phone stores like Verizon and AT&T because you don’t want to leave downtown just to get service when you need it. Is that too much to ask for?
[Update 4/11/14 at 10:27 am: As if almost on cue, after I ran this story last night mentioning J. Crew, literally this morning at 9:30 am, J. Crew's social media Instagram posted a picture of the Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway signaling that J. Crew is indeed planning to open in Downtown LA and likely on Broadway as the picture entails. Location to be determined probably pretty soon.]