The owner of Grand Central Market has launched a makeover aimed at capturing more of the new demographic moving into downtown. The new downtowners who are renting condos and lofts and walking their dogs on Spring Street and Broadway apparently don't appreciate the market's gritty vibe and sub-par produce. The redo is beginning with a "deep cleaning" and repainting of floors, ceilings and columns, to be followed by filling some of the empty stalls with more of the artisan-style purveyors that help make the food halls in other cities attractive to younger, more food-centric urban residents. Longer hours, more welcoming corners to hang out with friends and wi-fi hot spots are part of the plan. Along with the hipster remake of old Downtown venerables like Clifton's Cafeteria and Cole's, and the opening of more bars and restaurants, the market's transformation reflects the continuing shift of downtown's retail clientele away from older single men and bargain-seeking Latinos.
From the LA Times:
Owner Adele Yellin, president of the real estate development company started by her late husband, Ira Yellin, is leading the project and has hired consultants Joseph Shuldiner, who founded the Institute of Domestic Technology and Altadena Farmers Market, and Kevin West of Saving the Season. BCV, part of the design collaboration behind the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, is the architect, and Rick Moses is the developer.
Shuldiner and West said the renovation of the 27,000-square-foot market, built in 1917 on the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building, is a multi-phase, multiyear project that will fill empty stalls, attract new vendors and rejuvenate longtime retailers.
West and Shuldiner said they hope to install local chefs and entrepreneurs, including retailers of bread, coffee, cheese and wine as well as sustainably raised meat and fish and farmers market produce, while keeping as many current vendors as possible, some of whom have long-term leases. Of the 45 current and potential stalls in the market, about 30 are occupied.
Among the first restaurants to sign on is Soi 7, a Thai restaurant that will set up a street food stall called Sticky Rice in the former La Mamma Burger space on the south side of the market. Carnitas specialist and longtime market tenant Las Morelianas also has committed to a new lease.
The market is popular with the men on the Times food staff, who work almost across the street. But I know Downtown residents who long ago stopped buying fresh produce at Grand Central and travel instead to farmers markets. A number of the stalls are also vacant. Upgrading Grand Central could put it back on the map as a destination for food lovers, and it seems the planners are hoping for buzz like that around the Ferry Building (or the tourist trade like at Pike Street Market in Seattle.)
The location itself is pretty cool by LA standards. Since 1917 the market has occupied the lower floors of the Homer Laughlin Building, designed in the late 1890s as one of the city's first "fireproof" high rises. The Ville de Paris department store was located on the lower floors before it moved down Broadway; then the building was extended the width of the block to Hill Street and the market opened. The city library was located in the building between 1906-1908.
LA Observed photos