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A Rebirth in Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles’ “hottest block” in Downtown features a construction site that may take until 2019 to complete. However, at that time, the 1.1-million-square-foot structure, which covers half a city block at the southeast corner of Broadway and Eighth, will be a multi-use complex with a private members club similar to Soho House, a Grand Central-style market, restaurants and retail establishments, creative office space, a full seismic retrofit, and restoration of the white glazed terra cotta facade.

Waterbridge Capital, a real estate investment firm based in New York, bought the building, the former Broadway Trade Center, for $130 million dollars in 2014, and has planned a $200 million investment, which will be California’s largest federal Historic Tax Credit project to date.

A huge Beaux Arts structure with Classical/Renaissance Revival ornamentation erected in 1906, the building’s original construction was the talk of the town as the new home of A. Hamburger & Sons, which changed the Los Angeles commercial landscape and boasted that it was the Pacific Coast’s largest department store. Medallions on the original part of the structure contain an “H” for Hamburger.

Asher Hamburger and his sons, David, Moses, and Solomon, had established their first store, originally known as The People’s Store, which opened in a 20-by-75-foot space on Main Street on October 29, 1881. The store first expanded into adjacent spaces and then, within a short three years, moved to a bigger location on Spring Street.

By the beginning of the 20th century, it had outgrown that location, which had 520 employees working on five floors, and built this much larger store. Construction began in 1905, and a grand opening was held in 1908.

The highly innovation store boasted of having one of the first escalators on the West Coast, 13 acres of retail space which made it larger than all the clothing and dry goods stores in the city, restaurants, a grocery store and bakery, a drug store, a meat market, a barber shop, a post office, a telegraph office, medical tenants, an auditorium, an electricity and steam power plant in the basement, and 1200 employees.

The May Company, a department store chain, eventually took it over in 1925, buying it for $8.5 million and expanding by building adjacent additions, until the late 1980s, when they vacated this location. The building then became the Broadway Trade Center and housed an indoor swap meet on the first floor and garment manufacturing on the upper floors.

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