Restaurants and retailers from all over Southern California still converge on the Seafood District each day to pick out the best tuna, salmon and other seafood delicacies.
But it's been a while since a seafood wholesaling operation was the largest real estate tenant there.
The major landholder is a wine and spirits distributor: Young's Market Co. LLC, which covers 138,000 square feet of warehouse and office space on nearly nine acres of land around Central Avenue.
The company, with offices in the Bay Area, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, generates more than $1.4 billion in annual sales.
In downtown Los Angeles alone, Young's Market employs 400 people in customer service, credit and a delivery operation featuring 24 trucks.
The number of seafood wholesalers may be on the decline, but the district still offers logistical advantages.
"This location was picked out in the 1950s as being a first-class distribution area," said Paul Vert, chief executive of Young's Holdings Inc., which owns the market. "It is very central to the freeways."
The district is bounded by San Pedro and Alameda streets and Fourth and Seventh streets. Some of its problems are similar to what other industrial downtown neighborhoods face: crime and homelessness.
The district is walking distance from Skid Row. The homeless problem persists despite the formation six years ago of the Downtown Industrial District, which has cleaned up the area and made the streets safer.
The district is home to dozens of wholesale and seafood processing operations, with some of the products arriving daily from as far away as Asia.
One of the larger ones is American Fish & Seafood Co., which has been a neighborhood stalwart since 1947.
Businesspeople from all over the city make the trek for lunch at the Fisherman's Outlet restaurant on South Central Avenue.
Back in the 1950s, the original family owners of Young's Market had a meat processing plant and a seafood wholesaling operation in the district.
The family also had distributed liquor since the end of Prohibition.
Then in 1990, the family sold the business to Vernon Underwood and his family members, who had been running Young's wine and spirits operation.
The new owners sold off the meat and seafood operations to focus on higher-margin wine and spirits.
"We felt these other businesses were more of a diversion and we should really focus on our core business, which was wine and spirits," Vert said.
The second largest property owner is the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates a 6.6-acre depot originally established a century ago for Red Cars but now deploys Metro buses.
The sprawling Alameda Produce Market spills into the neighborhood from the nearby Produce District, making the market's owner, Richard Meruelo, the third-largest property owner in the area.
And despite the area's problems, some believe the district may be next to see some residential conversions.
"What we are talking about are the buildings that are vacant or underutilized and have been for many years," said Estela Lopez, executive director of Central City East Association. "Those buildings are not fulfilling their best use as industrial uses. Many of the owners are looking for new uses."
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