Some Beverly Hills merchants and building owners expressed concern in the July 11 issue of the Business Journal about the effect the Wilshire-Rodeo subway station would have on the neighborhood (“Subway to the Sea? Don’t Stop at Rodeo Drive.”). While I strongly share the desire to protect this world-famous district, I believe these fears are unnecessary, and that the subway will be a great asset for Beverly Hills businesses, commuters and residents. An examination of luxury shopping districts in other cities around the world with subway systems is instructive.
Before moving to Beverly Hills, I grew up in Chevy Chase, Md., close to a subway stop on the Washington Metro system. What kind of effect did the subway station there have? Far from destroying the affluent neighborhood, the area around the station instead has blossomed in the 26 years since it opened. Affluent residents want to live near the subway station so they can easily commute to law firms and well-paying jobs downtown; the average household income within one mile of the subway station is $192,474.
Others from around the region can easily use the subway to come to the area and shop. In fact, a few years ago, a development opened near the subway stop that the Washington Post described as Washington’s answer to Rodeo Drive. Literally less than 400 feet from the subway station escalators, Bulgari, Dior, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara, Ralph Lauren, Cartier and Tiffany & Co. all set up shop.
Office landlords have benefited, too: The Ritz Carlton Hotel Co. moved its corporate headquarters there, and Microsoft rented space.
Meanwhile, another affluent part of the Washington area – Georgetown – suffers without a subway station. Parking is a chore. Luxury retailers that Angelenos associate with Rodeo Drive have chosen Chevy Chase, not Georgetown, for their Washington-area locations.
Might Washington be a fluke? Surely the subway has destroyed luxury areas in other parts of the world? Well, the Paris Louis Vuitton flagship on Champs-Élysées is adjacent to the Métro’s George V station (the station opened in 1900 and doesn’t seem to have spelled doom for the area). The Four Seasons Hotel George V, ranked among the world’s finest hotels, is a short walk down the street. Elsewhere in Paris, the Ritz, and perfumeries and boutiques around plaza Vendôme are surrounded by not one but six subway stops within a five- to 10-minute walk. In London, Slone Street and Bond Street luxury shopping areas are surrounded by Tube stops.