Fixing Wilshire Blvd

After living for more than four years behind the iron bars of the Palazzo West, I was very happy to be moving to a  regular, less secure building on Miracle Mile, where I would actually have a relationship with the street. I was also looking forward to being near Wilshire Blvd, where all sorts of convenient shopping options were just a short block away. It would be a nice change from living across the fake street that is The Grove.

So you could imagine my surprise when I moved and took my first walk along Wilshire, only to realize there really isn’t much there. Where were all the small local businesses? There’s no room, thanks to all of the big-box stores and supermarkets.

In a six block stretch between Masselin and Cochrane, there is an Office Depot and a Staples, a Ralph’s and a Smart & Final, and a Rite Aid and a Walgreens. All along the north side of the street as well. Aside from the Office Depot, which takes up just a third of a block and has an entrance on the street, and the Ralph’s, which takes up a full block but has a large busy entrance out front, these stores severely detract from street life on Wilshire.

They are pretty much just blank walls and are very unpleasant to walk by. They don’t even have entrances on the street; instead, people have to enter through the parking lot. The worst stretch is from Ridgeley and Burnside, where Rite Aid and Smart & Final share the block:

They tried to pretty it up with bushes and a homeless man, but they can’t mask the fact that there is nothing for the pedestrian there.

The same goes for Staples (even though it is a pretty cool building)…

…and Walgreens (which is not a particularly cool building!):

I’m not advocating knocking these buildings down and putting up new ones — that would be a waste of money. But I do have an out-of-the-box idea that could improve the area.

I’m not sure this could be done from a structural point of vew, but if it can, I propose basically blowing-out the fronts of these buildings and inserting stores. Basically, you’d be putting in a series of boxes that would serve as small stores. And I mean small — they would each be only a couple of hundred square feet. You could easily get 20 stores into the three buildings.

The larger stores would have to be willing to give up some square footage, but in return they would get rent from the new businesses, and hopefully increased traffic in their stores.

I would want to keep the rent low — around $1000 per month. I could see this becoming an artists colony of sorts; local jewelry makers, clothing designers and painters could afford the relative cheap rent to sell their wares. It would also be a good place for a little coffee or sandwich shop. 

As far as parking, they could lease spots from the huge FedEx lot. I have a pretty good view of that parking lot, and I can tell you that it is empty all day long.

The hope is that people would park then stroll around at the new stores, thus improving overall street life. Perhaps the stores would even attract people who are visiting LACMA. I think it’s safe to say that current visitors only venture as far east as Museum Square before turning around and going home.

I honestly don’t know it any of this is even feasible. But I think something should be done to make Wilshire a more attractive destination for pedestrians and the people who live in the area.

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