One of the biggest projects in Downtown Los Angeles, in terms of sheer size, is the transformation of the California Market Center. It aims to turn the hulking, 56-year-old complex into a modern mixed-use hub, and expand beyond its traditional tenant base of fashion showrooms by adding creative office space and extensive ground-floor retail.
Although work has already begun, Brookfield Properties, which acquired a stake in the property in 2017, last week finally revealed its full plans for the project, including how it will create more than 1 million square feet of new creative office space.
The project is budgeted at $170 million and is expected to take two years. The complex at 110 W. Ninth St. comprises three 13-story buildings plus a two-story structure that formerly housed a bank.
The renovation is a joint venture between Brookfield and Jamison Properties, which bought the 1.8 million-square-foot California Market Center in 2004 for $135 million. Plans call for creating new open space.
“With an inviting, amenity-rich and open streetscape, sweeping public space, year-round activations, and unmatched floor plates, the new CMC will draw more creative firms to the heart of DTLA while elevating the region’s existing fashion industry,” Bert Dezzutti, Western Region Executive Vice President for Brookfield Office Properties, said in a prepared statement.
Perhaps the most significant change is that the fashion showrooms the center is known for will be consolidated into one structure, Building C. At its height the complex had more than 1,000 showrooms spread across the three buildings.
The other two buildings will be converted into office space. Brookfield aims to attract creative tenants in the media and design industries to the new offices.
The transformed California Market Center will be a distinct offering in the Fashion District, which doesn’t have office space on this scale, according to Gibran Begum, managing director with the brokerage firm Newmark Knight Frank. He said Brookfield has successfully repositioned other office buildings in Downtown and expects that rents will increase as a result of the work.
“It’s a unique asset in which a campus environment could work well, especially with buildings like The Bloc and Row DTLA and other campus environments starting to get more active with their lease-ups,” Begum said.
The California Market Center was built in 1962 and had an immediate and dramatic impact, according to Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association and the former executive director of leasing for the center (when it was known as CalMart). The complex created a centralized space for the fashion industry.
However, she added, the buildings haven’t been entirely full since the mid-1980s. That trend has picked up speed as online and direct-to-consumer clothing sales become ever more popular.
“The whole business model has changed, where filling the whole building with wholesales showrooms is not a possibility anymore,” Metchek said.
Downtown-based architecture firm Gensler is handling the redesign, which calls for installing energy-efficient windows, as well as adding sky bridges to connect the three buildings. There are plans for a 5,000-square-foot rooftop amenities deck.
The overhaul will also create more public space. The bank structure will be removed, opening up a 13,750-square-foot plaza. The ground floor of the complex will hold 150,000 square feet of retail space, making it one of the largest retail centers in Downtown. In addition to shops and restaurants, Brookfield intends to enliven the space with activities including concerts and special events.
The California Market Center renovation is being conducted in two phases, according to Brookfield, and renovations are scheduled to wrap in 2020.