Blue Bottle Coffee Co. is set to sign a 10-year lease on Robertson Boulevard, and the street’s boosters feel bullish that the gourmet roaster will perk up the long-struggling retail strip between Beverly Boulevard and Third Street.
Two other restaurants, a bar, and gym could soon follow Blue Bottle’s lead, said Jay Luchs, executive vice president at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, who brokered the Blue Bottle deal, possibly boosting foot traffic and attracting other tenants in a roughly two-block area where about a quarter of the storefronts are vacant.
“The street has major potential,” Luchs added. “Nothing happens overnight but I feel the energy will come back.”
The energy has been gone since the recession, when a stampede of stores fled Robertson after its growth in the 1990s and early 2000s into a chic shopping destination. While many other upscale shopping districts have recovered, Robertson has struggled to reinvent itself.
Despite some leasing activity, the bleeding isn’t over. Lululemon Athletica Inc. will close its outpost on Robertson at the end of the month and relocate to the Melrose Avenue shopping district. M.A.C. Cosmetics shuttered its location on the boulevard last week, after opening a store on Melrose in December. A Ralph Lauren Corp. shop and Gregory’s both left last year.
“It’s like a ghost town. It can be very depressing,” said Robert Cohen of brokerage RKF, which is listing a sublease for the Ralph Lauren space. But he thinks Robertson is finally poised for an upswing, despite tough competition from popular retail strips on Melrose and Abbot Kinney in Venice.
“The street is bottoming out, that’s the good news,” he said.
With the exodus have come lower rents and that has allowed up-and-coming brands and boutiques to test the waters. With monthly rents about $8 to $10 a square foot, Robertson offers a substantial discount compared with prime L.A. shopping streets. Monthly rents on Melrose and Abbot Kinney begin at $15 a square foot.
Activewear brand Carbon 38 is scheduled to open a 1,400-square-foot storefront on Robertson this week for a four-month stint. The site is the first brick-and-mortar location for the 3-year-old Beverly Grove company, which until now has only operated online.
“If all goes well, we’ll extend the lease and move in permanently,” said Katie Warner Johnson, Carbon 38’s chief executive. “Robertson was once a fantastic shopping destination and it’s certainly not going away.”
Luxury sleepwear company Sleepy Jones recently opened a pop-up next door. The 3-year-old company, with other locations on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica and in New York, also might extend its lease.
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