Pulling Up Stakes: California Market Center, which Otis will be leaving in July.

Pulling Up Stakes: California Market Center, which Otis will be leaving in July. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

Places like New York and Paris typically come to mind when you hear the word “fashion.” Downtown Los Angeles does, too. But the area around Los Angeles International Airport? Not so much.

That’s why Otis College of Art and Design’s decision to move its satellite campus from the downtown Fashion District has many in the industry baffled.

After operating out of the California Market Center at 110 E. Ninth St. for 20 years, Otis will move its fashion program this summer to its five-acre main campus at 9045 Lincoln Blvd. in Westchester. The consolidation at the campus just north of LAX, now in the midst of an expansion, will distance the program from the epicenter of L.A. fashion, as well as from the apartments where many of the fashion program’s roughly 150 students and 50 faculty members live.

Jaime Lee, chief executive of Jamison Realty, California Market Center landlord Jamison Services’ leasing and brokerage arm, called the move to Westchester a blow to the Fashion District.

She said she had been unable to convince the school to enter negotiations for a renewal lease at the center, where it takes up 38,000 square feet for classrooms, a library and fitting studio. It will move when its lease is up in July.

“We tried to express the importance of having them downtown with all the fashion-related brands and (the proximity to) internships within the industry,” Lee said, adding that the move will give students who have settled into apartments and internships downtown a lengthy commute to school. “Most students and faculty live downtown or on the Eastside.”

John Axtell, communications director for the college, explained that Otis is expanding its main campus, and is spending $10 million to do so, according to one published report. As a result of the bigger space, all 1,200 students can be together and share resources and ideas.

The campus expansion, which will be completed this summer, will include roughly 96,000 square feet of building construction. By the time the fashion students join the campus for the fall semester, a new 5,200-square-foot student shop will be open as well as a building with one wing for dormitories and one for classrooms. The wings will be joined by a 300-seat auditorium on the ground level.

Despite the shiny additions to the main campus and an opportunity for greater collaboration across disciplines, many think a move away from the Fashion District is a bad idea.

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