Los Angeles is a tough city for malls.
Our retail culture is so flighty — Robertson Boulevard's Kitson is gone and Pinkberry is just a face in the crowd it invented — that it's hard to keep large, semi-permanent monuments to shopping at the top of the game.
The mall is already an endangered species in much of America. Folks don't seek all their goods from one location any more than they desire to read their celebrity, sports and City Hall news from one publication.
In L.A. this problem is particularly acute.
The high-end shopper can find a panoply of finery on Rodeo Drive, Robertson Boulevard, Montana Avenue, Abbot Kinney Boulevard and more. Then there's the open-air Grove, a retail Disneyland that practically sucked all the rest of L.A.'s consumers out of the Westside's enclosed malls.
In recent years local centers have responded to the demise of the mall with renovations: Santa Monica Place took its roof off, and Westfield Century City underwent a handsome redux. Westside Pavilion is reportedly looking at a major remix, too.
The crown jewel of Westside malls, Beverly Hills–adjacent Beverly Center, is getting quite the facelift. Owner Taubman Centers Inc. announced this week that it's planning to spend (placing pinky in the corner of my mouth) half a billion dollars on this endeavor.
Improvements are to include a “ribbon” of new skylights that will “bathe the entire center’s elegant and contoured floor openings and curves in natural light,” a “perforated steel façade,” new, street-level restaurants, a “gourmet” food area and newly opened views of Los Angeles, according to a statement from Taubman.
It's interesting that the modern mall is an “open” space when the concept of such shopping centers was always about being cooped up and removed from the environment outside.
It's testament to L.A.'s urban gentrification and the desire of a new generation of residents to be one with the streets. It certainly seems to be a turn away from the security-minded, closed-to-the-boulevards architecture of yore, the kind described in Mike Davis' book on L.A., City of Quartz.
The center's metallic casing is also noteworthy if not trendy. Early on there was Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall. Then there was the Petersen Automotive Museum. Now this. Soon we'll need sunglasses just to look at buildings.
Robert Taubman said his company was embarking on “an exciting, pedestrian-friendly anchor to one of the most creative and diverse neighborhoods in the world.”
The redesign of the 886,000-square-foot center is being undertaken by Rome's Studio Fuksas.
“The Beverly Center holds a special place in L.A.’s imagination — it’s where an entire generation of Angelenos went on first dates, bought prom dresses and met up with friends on weekends,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Reimagining it for the 21st century is a tremendous investment in making those timeless experiences possible for the next generation of Angelenos. These plans capture the spirit of ambition and innovation that is driving our city’s economic resurgence.”
The renovations are expected to be completed in time for the 2018 holiday shopping season. The mall will remain open during the process, a spokeswoman told us.