California Market Center gears up for completion of $ 170 million makeover


CMC’s $ 170 million renovation is expected to be completed next month.

Just before the pandemic hit, Kim Kenson moved her wholesale children’s clothing business to a renovated showroom in Building C, one of three 13-story structures that make up the California Market Center in the downtown fashion district.

“We love it,” said the owner of Kim Kenson Sales Inc., doing business as Smallshop Showroom. “It’s a much better space. It is modernized, more open and has better lighting, better windows.

Now that buyers and tradeshows are back, the only thing missing, she said, is “the restaurants, the cafe, all the amenities that we had before.”
The wait for this place for lunch is almost over for Kenson and some 450 wholesalers at the CMC.

Building owner, New York-based Brookfield Office Properties Inc., is completing a $ 170 million renovation that began in 2018. The second phase of the effort, which is expected to be completed next month, will add 140,000 feet squares of retail and restaurant space at the three-building complex, tucked away in a block bordered by 9th, Main and Los Angeles streets and Olympic Boulevard.

It will also provide some 1.5 million square feet of creative office space in CMC’s Buildings A and B, which housed textile and apparel showrooms before Brookfield took over and bundled them all into one. building C.

Brookfield is keeping the names of the new tenants under wraps for now, but in a 2019 interview, Bert Dezzutti, head of his Western region, defined the space as a “front-
thinking, 24/7 live-work business district.

The renovation, designed by San Francisco-based Gensler, includes updates to the 40,000 square foot event space on the second floor as well as the addition of a 5,000 square foot roof terrace and a outdoor space 30 feet wide. walkways connecting building C to buildings A and B.

Access to Building C, which was renovated in the first phase, will be available through a 13,700 square foot commercial and event plaza that will soon open and replace a two-story bank building now demolished. The change is designed to make it easier for shoppers to flow from other exhibition buildings in the Fashion District: New Mart, Cooper Design Space, Lady Liberty Building, Designers & Agents and Brand Assembly.

“When the plaza opens – and that’s what everyone is expecting – then the front of (buildings A and B) will be a passageway to the fashion building,” said Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association. . “At the moment, a buyer has to go all the way around the Olympic side to enter the building. “

Profit model
Brookfield is the fifth owner of the California Market Center since brothers Harvey and Barney Morse, local underwear makers who today owned the now defunct California Lingerie Inc., opened the complex in 1963. Then known as California Mart, or CalMart, the venue had some 350 showrooms.

The property was foreclosed in the early 1990s after the Morse family defaulted on more than $ 250 million in loans.
New York-based Equitable Life Assurance Co., Morse’s lender, took over in 1994 and sold the property to late real estate investor Judah Hertz in 2000 for $ 90 million. DMG World Media bought a 20% stake in Hertz in 2003. CMC traded hands again in 2005, when Koreatown-based Jamison Properties acquired it for $ 135 million.

Brookfield came into play in 2018, taking over CMC in a deal that valued the property at $ 440 million.
The site was “a major profit center for every group” that acquired it, Metchek said. “No one lost money.”

Personal touch
Her connection to CMC dates back to the early 1960s, when she ran a showroom for Anjac Fashion, a local clothing company that she eventually took over. She was also CMC’s marketing and leasing manager from 1987 to 1994. During her tenure, she said, she faced other local landlords who “made all kinds of promises to tenants.” to try to poach them from CMC.

Metchek also saw the birth of a trend where big brands began to open their own showrooms and welcome buyers to their headquarters, reducing their reliance on places like CMC. Others have started going to buyers with their lines without establishing a permanent showroom.

As some of the trends of the time have evolved into a modus operandi for merchants and brands today, the pandemic has proven to be fertile ground for the normalization of viewing and purchasing merchandise via digital tools.

Showroom owners, however, need not worry, according to Metchek.
“That’s the beauty of clothes, of fashion – a buyer has to smell it, touch it, see it on the model, see how he’s doing, see how it works for his consumer,” she said. “Just showing it hardly works. “

Number of buildings: 3
Redevelopment cost: $ 170 million
Total size: 1.85 million square feet

Other large exhibition buildings at DTLA
• The new market
• Cooper design space
• the Lady Liberty building

• Dallas Market Center
Dallas, Texas
• International market center
Atlanta, Georgia

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