downtown los angeles, historic core

Jewelry District Building Sells for $14.7 Million in Downtown LA

The Int'l Jewelry Mart was sold last month in Nov for $14.7 million at about $408 square foot to New York investor Atlas Capital

A historic building on 7th Street located in the very heart of the Jewelry District has just been sold to New York investor, Atlas Capital, for $14.7 million. Escrow closed on the three-story, 36,000 square foot structure — currently named the “International Jewelry Mart” —  just before Thanksgiving, paving the way for new possibilities for another sadly dilapidated building in Downtown LA to be restored and repositioned as something more than just a shabby discount jewelry center. ALTC Realty represented the sellers and Industry Partners represented the buyers in the deal.

Built in 1917, the structure has been altered through the decades with ugly signage plastered on the facade covering up any historic details that may or may not be left intact. Luckily, some ornate detailing still remains on the building’s perimeter edges as well as the top cornice allowing for some architectural context to work off of if/when Atlas Capital decides to upgrade the facade with capital improvements. At over $400 a foot, you better bet the sale of the property likely means a new direction for the building outside of selling wholesale jewelry, which is another sign that the moribund Jewelry District is coming to an end, thank goodness.

What makes this transaction particularly important in the grand scheme of Downtown LA’s urban redevelopment is that the building is literally sandwiched by two other historic structures along 7th Street that have also gotten rid of their wholesale jewelry inside. To the left of the International Jewelry Mart is the beautiful Foreman & Clark at 7th and Hill that is now on the market for sale with potential plans to become a new upscale boutique hotel. To the right is the red-colored LA Jewelry Mart at 7th and Olive that may become a retail/office hub. Both of these buildings are now completely vacant (meaning, all wholesale jewelers have left) and will eventually be replaced with other uses relevant to the new downtown.

If you think about it, if all three of these buildings on the block are repositioned successfully with exciting retail, office, and hotel concepts, then that is a huge substantial chunk taken out of the Jewelry District that will set a new powerful precedent for the rest of the immediate area to follow, further cementing the nail in the coffin.

According to the manager inside the International Jewelry Mart I spoke with, “big changes” are likely to come next year, which is music to my ears!

Some ornate historic detailing is left intact on the building's facade

Some ornate historic detailing is left intact on the building’s facade

The International Jewelry Mart is one of several buildings in the Jewelry District that will be repositioned for other uses, accelerating the shrinkage, and eventual demise, of the Jewelry District

The International Jewelry Mart is one of several buildings in the Jewelry District that will be repositioned for other uses, accelerating the shrinkage, and eventual demise, of the Jewelry District

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41 Comments

  1. hey, try to sound a little less mr. burns when talking about wholesale jewelers losing their longtime locations. they may not fit now, but they have played a tremendous role in commerce and industry in this city and downtown in particular. show a little respect.

    • stephen says

      I agree. Those buildings are serious eyesores but those business supported a lot of LA families. The wording for this post was pretty insensitive

  2. Lawrence says

    I believe the author has a right to his opinion whether folks agree or not. This is a blog after all. The Jewelry District played its role in the Downtown L.A. story, but its becoming clear that its relevance is waning and that the area it occupies is beginning to evolve. Many of the building owners who are jewelers themselves are looking to cash out by selling their buildings or seeking higher and better uses for them which is a good thing when you consider the sorry state of some of these irreplaceable historic buildings. Even when you walk through many of the existing jewelry marts you see high vacancy rates.

    • I love Brighams blog, doesn’t mean we can’t disrespectfully disagree with the post. Also where’s your disclaimer, boyfriend of the blogger 😉😜

    • brendan says

      Agree or disagree about the Jewelry District, I might not agree entirely with your take, but I think there are valid points to be made (the state of many of the historic buildings, the fact that they shut down after 5, etc). The real issue, and what people seem to be responding to, isn’t replacing them but the attitude this blog seems to regularly take towards it–as well as the homeless in Downtown LA. You can advocate for and encourage change without being totally callous and dismissive of these people. I’d really encourage taking a hard look at this.

  3. I love that the building is getting a new life, but I agree with the other commentators. At least honor the district which bears its name. Even if these jewelry businesses leave the area, how much do you wanna bet new developers will continue to call this the jewelry district. At least the jeweleries kept some pedestrian activity during these past few years when no one else would set up shop here.

  4. Whitman Lam says

    A low rise 3-story building sandwiched between 2 much taller buildings ? Something tells me this old brick building used to be much taller than it is now.
    Maybe a previous owner chopped off the upper floors to save money on the property tax bill. This was very common in Downtown after the postwar WW2 suburban movement led to inner city blight.

    • Boris says

      This building was always this size. The larger building to the right at 7th and Olive was the Ville de Paris department store when it was built in 1917 and this building had a big sign on top of it with the name of the store. It can be seen in old photos from the 1920s.

  5. I agree with the other commenters. The Jewelry District has been there for decades a little respect should be shown. The buildings may not glamorous but they do contribute to the viability of DTLA. If Brigham hates the district that much perhaps he should buy up properties to mold in the image of the new downtown.

  6. Shahbaz says

    DTLA’s real character and charm is its many unique districts that gave it such a utilitarian urbanity and everyman feel — a complete melting pot of classes and ethnicities. Those of us who moved downtown did it precisely so we could enjoy this urbanity — none of us wanted another Old Town Pasadena or Santa Monica or Hollywood to live and function within. So, we are deservedly scared to see the charming businesses of downtown sold out and replaced with the umpteenth coffee house/gastropub/craft brewery/restaurant/boutique store/mall store/etc. While those things are nice to have as well, we don’t need an over-abundance of any of those things — displacing this great melting pot of people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Let’s be really frank here, besides the skid row homeless, downtown’s main foot traffic is STILL mostly generated by the lower income, latino shoppers in the Jewelry, Fashion, and Toy Districts and along Broadway. Many of these shoppers and retail workers take public transit buses into and out of downtown — generating a street presence every half block with the massive amount of bus stops in the main downtown shopping areas. Yes, there are white-collar office workers walking to grab a meal or meet with a client at times, but most of these people who can afford cars in downtown drive them here and utilize them throughout the day for transport. You’ll notice in areas like South Park, Financial District, Bunker Hill, Civic Center, Little Tokyo that there are major parking structures that cater to these visitors. No matter what ANYONE says, LA is still a car town and will be for the foreseeable future. If downtowners stop owning cars, they will still use Uber, Vespa, personal electric jitney, etc. to get around — people in this town are too spoiled or xenophobic or OCD to use public transit. Being a transplant, this is the one thing about SoCal I can never relate to, why everyone who grows up here dismisses public transit as being too “beneath them” to utilize (to paraphrase). Many of these same people will travel to other places and use the public transit in those cities so willingly — I just don’t get it.

    Anyways, my main point is, if you drive out the lower income downtown visitors, you will likely kill the pedestrian street life that was the original draw of downtown back when there were only a handful of B-rated restaurants and no real nightlife around here.

    Be careful what you wish for…. we don’t need yet another Beverly Hills or Old Town Pasadena.

    • Disgusted says

      Actually, that’s exactly what guys like Brigham want, which is unfortunate. They want to bring the bland monotony of the west-side and west Hollywood to dtla and I can already see that within 2 years. True urban folks who live dtla for the reason of it being dtla and not said mentioned areas earlier, will have moved out and dtla will be the same as everywhere else, just more concentrated with no personality. But usually that what gentrification brings… Bland and entitled people but what they don’t realize is that all they do are chase the most interesting and forward thinking creatives out… Until they take over th next “cool” place to live.

      • Lawrence says

        Right, because decaying historic buildings that completely shut down at 5 pm contributing nothing to pedestrian life or the area’s economic vitality are authentically “urban.” After dark, the jewelry district is hole in DTLAs urban fabric. It’s dirty, unkempt and a haven for all kinds of unsavory activity. I don’t think this is a fate we should be prescribing to one of the best collections of historic buildings left in this region. Should we be okay with once grand buildings and theaters housing half empty and dilapidated diamond marts whose heyday have largely passed? I don’t think so and I think many would agree.

        Cities evolve and its hard for me to believe that bringing these buildings up to a higher and better use is a bad thing. The notion that we should keep things unchanged under some false notion of authenticity is silly. If there is a viable market for wholesale jewelry some will remain, but many of these building owners who are also jewelers see business waning and an opportunity to cash out on property that has greatly appreciated over the last decade. Just as they once capitalized on investing in property in a once dying downtown, other investors and tenants will invest in a resurgent city center and be able to bring these structures back in a way that previous owners couldn’t.

        • Better to have buildings shut down at 5 pm than vacant buildings. 8th and Hill was way worse before the broadway trade center was bought out and the garfield building is still vacant.

          DTLA is heading in the right direction but it still has a long way to go. On any given Sunday afternoon its still a ghost town much like it was in the 80’s and 90’s.

          • Dennis Smith says

            Though much of downtown became deserted after 5:30 on most weeknights in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Broadway was a very active shopping and theater district at that time and, on the weekends, was positively swarmed with people coming to shop, eat and be entertained. The theater district was far more active at that time with many more theaters open then than there are now,showing movies and presenting the highly popular “variedades” style stage shows that kept the Million Dollar Theater packed with people through the 1980’s. Indeed, my memories of walking down Broadway at night in the 1980’s was that it had a far more active pedestrian culture than exists there now, despite the number of new residential buildings in the district, as the new tenants tend to cleave towards the night life found on Spring Street or on 7th.

            • The early 1980’s yes , Broadway was still a decent shadow of what it had been in the 1950’s and part of the 1960’s – but by the early 1990’s Broadway was in rapid decline and dead at night.

        • Joe Downtown says

          @Lawrence… Says the folks who wrote a post about the new Jersey Mike’s opening up. I wish this blog would replace at least some of their commercial oriented posts with some community ones. There are other kinds of development going on here beyond commercial businesses and high rises. I think you’re hearing from your readership that they see some value in those dilapidated buildings that goes back further than the latest grocery store chain, and that means something to this community and those who chose to live here. That’s not to say that they want to keep them in their current state, but that their story should be taken into consideration as their new life begins.

          • Lawrence says

            @Joe – As a native Angeleno and urbanist, I understand the value of these buildings perfectly well and in their current incarnation, they are wasted and largely neglected. While it’s wonderful that they were inadvertently preserved by the jewelry manufacturers and shops that currently inhabit them because it wasn’t economically viable to tear them down at the time of purchase in the late 70’s and 80’s, most are long overdue for a change in ownership and vision – Especially now that Downtown is making a dramatic comeback.

            I would argue that the value of these structures actually dates back to their original purposes which included a diverse range of commercial businesses (some of which may have been as seemingly mundane as a sandwich shop) that contributed more completely to local commerce and vibrancy. As another commenter noted, most of the current owners of these structures have not been good stewards of them, which is obvious to anyone who steps inside of them. I agree that these buildings mean something to the community and it’s for that very reason that they deserve better. Without investment they will deteriorate further until they see their demise via the next large earthquake. Of course the Jewelry District is part of their story, but I believe their best days are yet to come.

    • corner soul says

      There’s more than enough room downtown for all the chains, and all the boutiques, and all the small businesses. The area is vast, and still largely dominated by parking lots and excess road capacity.

      And what’s with the Pasadena and Santa Monica cheap shots? Clearly you haven’t spent much time in either place, if you think their downtown’s are just glorified outdoor malls.

  7. You can see where the original facade was cut off and the gray siding and signage was plastered on the side of the building. Just terrible that people 30, 40, 50 years ago thought this was a god idea. Hopefully the facade can be restored.

  8. Paul wright says

    If it means another beautiful, historic building will shine once again, then all I can say is GOOD RIDDENS. Decades of tacky signage, decaying historic buildings has to come to an end. Decades of closing down at 5pm with blocks of dead zones while the sun is still shining and havens for mentally ill, drugged out, drug selling and homeless needs to come to an end. Tell me what you see at this very location at 530pm. It’s horrible and needs to come to an end. Many jewelry businesses are not changing with changing times. I see many more people walking up and down 7th St but yet they still shut down with those horrible metal walls at 5 o’clock sharp. For me, to see 3 blocks of dilapidated, historic buildings wasting away with rolled up jewelry stores at 5pm is the worst and needs to go. I wonder if they really care about the community. Look at the Warner Theater Bldg. That needs to be the next historic bldg put up for sale. And as far as chain stores, every major successful downtown has them, why can’t downtown Los Angeles? Why should we have to go outside of our dt community to do some major shopping? Both chains and indies can and should be part of dtla.

    • Lawrence says

      I agree. Many people argue that we shouldn’t have chain stores in downtown because they can be found in other communities. That logic baffles me to no end. Why should I leave the community I call home to shop in other areas (often times not even in the city of LA!) to get what I need? Downtown should have all of the retail options of other desirable communities in ADDITION to the unique retail and experiences that only a downtown LA can provide. People point to old pasadena and Santa Monica as some sort of warning tale as if the successful redevelopment of those communities is something to be ashamed of. Both places were shitty in the 70s-early 90s and economically moribund. Why are we fetishizing that? They are also both small.

      The difference here is scale and that can’t be overemphasized. Downtown is gigantic in comparison to either of these districts, which allows it more room to balance mainstream and independent businesses for the foreseeable future.

      • brendan says

        Perhaps it’s in part simply a difference in visions for Downtown LA. You’re right that Downtown is bigger and there’s more opportunity to a balance the local and independent with the national. But personally I don’t like much of the commercial sectors of Old Pasadena and Santa Monica. To me they feel like urban malls. I was over in Pasadena this weekend and frankly felt like I could have been anywhere as many, many cities have corridors that look and feel pretty similar.

  9. I’m a longtime fan of Brigham Yen’s blog, ever since the days it was a blog focused on Pasadena. However, I would have to agree with some of the commenters about the dismissive tone expressed on news of redevelopment of various areas of Downtown. I’m sure that things like cleanliness, safety, historic and architectural integrity of buildings are things that everyone can agree on are good things to strive for. Changes that lead to these ends are a good thing, usually. However, the discussion shouldn’t dismiss the significance of the social fabric or contexts that some of these existing businesses, blocks, and neighborhoods are a part of. These jewelry stores have been important to the business owners, patrons, property owners, and the neighborhood for a long time. They have been important enough to earn the neighborhood recognition as “The Jewelry District.” I am not opposed to change. If the use no longer serves a purpose, the market will take its course. But question whether we need to revel in hammering the “nail in the coffin” and just blindly look forward to the next hip, shiny thing, or redevelopment just for the sake of redevelopment, and whether it will result in meaningful urbanism or not (ahem, LA Live). I wonder whether the author change his tone on the necessary demise of the district if it was Tiffany & Co., BVLGARI, or Cartier moving into this building.

  10. Joshua says

    The whole idea of a “Jewelry District” is completely misguided. No one objects to having jewelry stores here and there. But several blocks of downtown that are devoted to a single use and that shuts down at 5:00? That’s an economic and cultural black hole. Same with the “Fashion District.” Diversity of uses is critical to a vital neighborhood; these “districts” have been preventing that.

    The owners haven’t even been good stewards of these beautiful buildings. Why should we preserve this? Merely because they’ve been here a long time? That means nothing. Because of some totally unsupported sense of authenticity? What does “authentic” even mean when neighborhoods are constantly evolving? There’s no need for that many jewelry stores in one location, especially when these buildings can be used for other things that people actually want and need — places to eat, places to live, etc.

    Yes, jewelry stores are better than vacant buildings. That’s a very low bar. We shouldn’t at all regret the disappearance of the Jewelry District. We should celebrate it and wish the same outcome for the Fashion District.

    • corner soul says

      Agreed… that’s always bugged me about LA in general. Similar retailers clustering into specialty item districts that cater to regional shoppers. No wonder people drive so damn much here. Even if you choose to live in a walkable part of the city, you find yourself having to drive/bus it for the most pedestrian of activities.

      Truly urban neighborhoods have a variety of businesses, so you don’t really need to walk more than a few blocks from your front door for most errands.

  11. I Like Buildings says

    Though I agree with the sentiment that driving out local businesses that have supported families for generations is not good, one serious counterpoint to these jewelry businesses is that a lot of them have seriously polluted their buildings by pouring hazardous chemicals such as arsenic and cyanide down their drains. It has been an ongoing issues for decades. So for everyone that is heartbroken that these jewelry businesses are leaving, how do you feel if these same businesses were cutting corners by not properly disposing of the hazardous materials. I’m sure we are all happy to hear that Exide had to shut down their lead recycling plant after decades of polluting their neighbors – well, a lot of these businesses were just mini-Exides. You don’t have to be big to pollute.

    • Joshua says

      “I agree with the sentiment that driving out local businesses that have supported families for generations is not good”

      Why are we so focused on the relatively small number of people who have benefited from existing local businesses? How about the much larger number of people who will be employed when the upper floors of these buildings are used and when they’re filled with more diverse businesses that are open past 5:00? How about the much larger number of people who will be able to enjoy these new uses, drawing people who aren’t just shopping for jewelry, thereby expanding the commercial activity in the area?

      Are supposed to sacrifice these economic and cultural benefits merely because jewelry stores happen to be here first? Why are incumbent residents and business owners — who tend to be of a certain race, age, and socioeconomic demographic — privileged over newcomers? What is the moral or economic rationale for that?

  12. Why is everyone assuming they will be restoring the building as opposed to demolishing it for a much larger building? I seriously doubt it will still be standing at the end of this decade. But that is assuming it has rear access exit for a parking garage and a deep enough lot to build a sizable building.

  13. Cool and all .. but what about the poo, can somebody please help with the human/dog mixed feces that will remain in the door & alleyways, sidewalks and stairwells of this revitalized oasis that many of us call home.

    Sincerely,

    DTLA resident

  14. Mr Whitman says

    Yet another blogging about DTLA gentrification. Okay. I am ambivalent about losing our historic DTLA Jewelry Mart. Do I want the DTLA of yesteryear, AKA “Zombieland”, or something akin to Rodeo drive? Of course, neither. We want something in between, and we will get it.

    But I will miss shopping for cheap jewelry, which I have only done once in my lifetime. So… Okay…, I’ll agree with Brigham.

    Say goodbye to the Jewelry Mart, “thank goodness”.

  15. julietrevino says

    i really hope the new owner is ambitious and adds more stories to the top of the building.

    • What do you mean – floating around? By the buyer? Seller? Or….? I walked property yesterday and it backs into an alley which would provide access for a garage and it is a very, very deep lot. In the long term, I can’t see it remaining even if they fix it up for short term use. This developer generally does very, very large projects.

  16. sebstian says

    Just because the jewelry store closed for the owner to remodel the building doesn’t mean they won’t be aloud to release the space when they’re done.

  17. A few points:

    Having a nightlife isn’t necessarily good for revitalization of neighborhood. Look at Valencia Street in San Francisco– it’s almost entirely dead during the day because of the restaurants and bars that have taken over. A variety of business is needed for a neighborhood to sustainably change for the better.

    This is a real estate blog, not a community blog, so I understand the focus on businesses opening up. And because BY is a real estate broker he clearly focusses on the establishments that can pay the highest rent.

    My original point as the first commenter was about tone rather than opinion. I think BY’s language was cold and ignores that actual human beings make up the Jewelry District.

    • Elvira the Countess says

      Entire point of this blog is for real estate. It’s never been about community, and never will be about community. People like this blogger represent the new wave of “community”– community as represented by a new edifice or shop, rather than by a real connection to others. This new wave of “creatives” (LOL) is no different than the old “yuppies” of yesteryear… Always viewing the homeless population as trash instead of human beings, and peeing their pants the moment a new Whole Foods moves in. This is just their type of learned behavior. But have hope! Their still exist some deep, thoughtful individuals out their in the world. But don’t ever expect to see them writing on a real estate blog.

  18. As a local jewelry designer I think it’s important to know that these buildings house A LOT more than just the jewelry wholesalers you see on the street level. There is true American manufacturing happening in the Jewelry District. One that I’m proud to use for casting, stone setting, and polishing my “Made in USA” jewelry collection.

    Behind those doors of those upper floors are incredibly talented craftsman. I would hate to see the entire district go away completely — especially since many of these small businesses are family run. I live downtown and love that I can walk two blocks to meet with my manufacturers and purchase gemstones instead of sending my manufacturing overseas or to the east cost.

    I think there needs to be balance. Have some respect for something we complain about not having enough of these days — manufacturing here in the USA. I highly doubt that NYC will drive away their entire Diamond District or Chicago will close its Jeweler’s Row (which is right off bustling State St. in the Loop). DTLA should be able to revitalize without totally demolishing the entire district. I love being a part of this bustling district!

    ***
    To address the comment above about the business polluting… I do not condone that. I hope that I am working with respectable businesses myself! And to comment on the idea that the businesses are all clustered together…I’m guessing you’ve never had to run 5 errands for one project and go to 5 different businesses in one day to get it done. Having everything close together makes it possible to get things done efficiently! Like I mentioned above, it’s not just people selling finished jewelry. It’s stone cutters, wax printers/carvers, engravers, casters, stone setters, polishers, etc.

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