Suá Sichuan Superette was the most recent new business to open in the Larchmont Mercantile building, formerly known as the Lipson Building. The Scent Room, which opened this summer, recently held its grand opening, both just in time for the holiday shopping season. Last month, we posted a story that Aēsop skincare products and Catbird jewelry are taking the last of the fourteen retail spaces in the 245-foot-long building and both will open next year.
So now all the ground floor retail spaces of the building are leased out, leaving only an upstairs office space available, according to Adam Rosenkranz, Investment Manager at Christina Development Corporation, who spoke with the Buzz last month. Rosenkranz was part of the team responsible for attracting the tenants for the Larchmont Mercantile project for the Malibu-based company that purchased the building in 2019. In 2020, the company undertook a two-year renovation of the nearly 100-year-old building. The building was re-imagined by Gensler, featuring four different facades using the original footprint of the building and offering retail tenants a “blank canvas” for their businesses. None of the former tenants of the building returned.
Rosenkranz, who has been at Christina Development for five years, told us the word “development” doesn’t accurately describe the company.
“We don’t develop new buildings, instead we buy buildings, renovate them and put them back on the market for lease,” said Rosenkranz, adding they generally will hold a property in their portfolio for years. “Larry is a visionary, he identifies value in properties that other people don’t see,” said Rosenkranz about the founder of Christina, Larry Taylor.
Taylor started the company in 1977 and now owns 65 retail properties, all in the Los Angeles area, on Beverly Dr., Montana Avenue, Main Street in Santa Monica, and Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice and Larchmont Blvd.
Rosenkranz believes the company’s local expertise and ties to the community set it apart from its competitors. He took exception to characterizations that the company doesn’t know the community. According to Rosenkranz, 8 or 9 investors in the Larchmont Mercantile live in the neighborhood. And Christina also purchased another property from the Lipson estate, which they also considered an excellent retail location like Larchmont.
Rosenkranz is delighted to see more activity on the street, which he said needed attention. He likes the diversity of tenants that have taken space in the building.
“Tenants pick us more than we pick them,” said Rosenkranz, adding that they have a waiting list of interested tenants should any spaces open up.
Larchmont has definitely rebounded from a low point during the pandemic when there were nearly thirty vacancies on the street. And retail experts say that turnaround was inevitable because of how the street was designed nearly 100 years ago by Julius La Bonte, whose development office was once located in the Larchmont Mercantile.
“Larchmont is one of the few truly pedestrian-friendly, human-scale walkable shopping blocks in Los Angeles,” said James Botha, a retail architect, who recently led a walking tour of Larchmont for his peers highlighting the unique qualities of Larchmont.
According to Botha, developers either create what he calls “lifestyle” shopping centers to be a destination for consumers, like The Grove or Platform in Culver City, or they buy buildings like the Mercantile and offer tenants the opportunity to create their own space.
“They took over the building, they decided to uniformize the aesthetic, they gave it a name and a brand so the tenants are opting into their brand and using the large storefront windows to showcase their business,” explained Botha. “Larchmont Blvd. has its own historical presence and the shops are very individualized and localized. Each shop has its own exterior identity and branding where tenants have customized their storefront to meet their brand aesthetic. The Larchmont Mercantile has decided to make their portion of the street much more uniform.”
The retail business and new store openings have really picked up in 2023, according to Botha, who added that many of his clients are planning for openings in 2024. While the overall increase in activity is good for Larchmont and other retail districts, there will still be challenges.
“Some retailers will do well, while others will struggle,” said Botha. “But retail has definitely picked up and is coming back to where it left off before the pandemic.”