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Friday, May 27, 2022

FASHION—Wholesale Changes

Parking fears attend CaliforniaMart addition of gift and home center

A planned increase in business at the CaliforniaMart could create a parking crunch in the downtown Fashion District already in the midst of a renovation boom.

The mart, a mini-city of three huge buildings and two smaller structures, will be leasing 1 million square feet, or one-third of its space for a new gift and home accessories wholesale mart.

For the first time, L.A. will have apparel, gift and home accessory showrooms in one spot providing an opportunity to create an economic powerhouse of trade shows and special market weeks that are expected boost the now-slumping downtown hotel industry. Already there is a semi-annual California Gift Show, which occupies two-thirds of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The deal with the Dallas Market Center, George Little Management and DMG World Media was announced with great fanfare, due to the fact that the mart’s vacancy rates at one time hovered near 30 percent.

CaliforniaMart already has between 3,000 to 4,000 people working in the 13-story hub of buildings that has 2,500 parking spaces on site. At least 750 new tenants will begin moving in, some as early as this fall.

“The parking issue will be handled. We’re working on it,” said Kit Marchel, the mart’s executive vice president of marketing and business development.

But if the CaliforniaMart solves its immediate parking problems by using nearby surface lots, the occupants in surrounding buildings will begin to feel the repercussions.

Another project underway

Real estate investor Mark Weinstein is renovating the Gerry Building across from the mart to house more apparel showrooms. Next year, he plans to launch a project to build 580 residential lofts in nine historic structures that surround the area.

“We are trying to figure out a parking strategy,” Weinstein said. “I think everyone is on the same page. We all know we need to create a better parking situation, but how do you go about doing it?”

The parking situation has grown more acute over the years. At one time, there was a sea of spaces surrounding the CaliforniaMart. Old dilapidated buildings felled by the wrecker’s ball were demolished to put up parking lots. But in recent years a new rush to build retail stores along Santee Alley, a popular shopping spot for low-priced clothes, has gobbled up much of that space.

“All of the new building on Santee Alley in the past six years has been on existing parking lots. So now we need parking structures,” said Ilse Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association, a trade organization for Southern California’s apparel and textile industries.

Besides the tenants arriving at the mart, there are plans to generate more buyer traffic with periodic boutique shows that will focus on areas such as stationery or personal care items. This also will tax the parking situation, said Bill Winsor, president and chief executive of the Dallas Market Center.

Winsor is confident there will be enough parking to handle the boutique shows and the semi-annual California Gift Shows held at the convention center. The Dallas Market Center and its partners plan to have shuttles to ferry manufacturers, buyers and sales people between the mart and the center.

“Since January we looked at 11 different sites out there in Los Angeles. Some that was built to suit. Others to renovate and expand,” Winsor said.

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