Beverly Hills didn’t get its much-anticipated Bloomingdale’s department store but it looks as if the site will be developed into a high-end retail or entertainment center.
Real estate sources say businessman Louis Gonda is now in escrow to purchase the property between Beverly and Canon drives just north of Wilshire Boulevard.
Gonda didn’t return the Business Journal’s calls about his plans for the property. Nor would the current property owner Bloomingdale’s parent company Federated Department Stores Inc. confirm that a sale is in the works.
However, a source familiar with the negotiations said the property is in escrow and a sale to Gonda should close in March or April.
Other Beverly Hills real estate specialists said they expect Gonda to develop a retail and/or entertainment complex.
Chuck Dembo, a broker with the Gilbert Dembo & Associates real estate firm in Beverly Hills, said the site represents one of the last remaining substantial development opportunities in the heart of Beverly Hills.
“It’s a great location, vacancies are diminishing and the city is ripe for the picking after being ‘left at the altar’ by Bloomingdale’s,” Dembo said, adding that high-end restaurants or perhaps a theater complex would help attract more nighttime traffic.
Dembo also said the immediate neighborhood is seeing a lot of retail leasing activity particularly the stretch of Beverly Drive running north from Wilshire.
The site Federated owns comprises much of the southern portion of the block bounded by Wilshire, Canon, Beverly and Dayton Way.
Federated bought the property in late 1994, and was planning to lease adjacent property owned by the city on a long-term basis. Sources said they expect the property to sell for more than $10 million.
Federated had planned to develop a flagship Southern California Bloomingdale’s, but instead opted to open Bloomingdale’s stores at the nearby Beverly Center and Century City Shopping Center.
David Lightner, deputy director of Beverly Hills’ Planning and Community Development Department, said the city has received no offer from Gonda or anyone else to lease the city-owned parking lots that had been slated for Bloomingdale’s, nor has his department received any development applications for the property now in escrow.
Lou Gonda and his father Leslie Gonda co-founded Century City-based aircraft leasing company International Lease Finance Corp. along with Steven Ferencz Udvar-Hazy.
Last October’s “Forbes 400” list of America’s wealthiest families estimated the younger Gonda’s fortune at $535 million.
Louis Gonda has accumulated a substantial local income-property portfolio, working mostly with developer Raffi Cohen. However, Gonda and Cohen recently parted ways in a dispute involving Cohen’s management of and ownership stake in the portfolio.