A Los Angeles developer who owns the closed Ivers department store, a Highland Park landmark for more than 70 years, said he will tear down part of the store and renovate the rest to create a mini-shopping center.
Eight shops, including a bakery, video store, doughnut shop, clothing store, mini-mart and an appliance rental store, are expected to open for business by June, according to Jack Nourafshan, an owner of the development firm, Reliable Properties in Los Angeles. The company bought the 37,000-acre site on North Figueroa Street from the Ivers family last year for an undisclosed amount.
Reliable Properties also is considering building a 60-unit apartment building where the Ivers parking lot now stands.
Nourafshan's announcement punctured a dream of local merchants and the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, who for several years have tried to attract a department store or other large single tenant to the Ivers site on North Figueroa Street and Avenue 58 in hopes of revitalizing the depressed business district.
"Everybody hopes to attract a major retailer, but that's impossible," said Arline DeSanctis, a field aide for Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs, whose 2nd District office includes a large part of Highland Park.
Merchants whose shops line the 10-block shopping strip along Figueroa between Avenues 50 and 60 now say they view a mini-shopping center as "the next best thing" to a large tenant.
"Any shopping center is better than an empty building," said Wanda Hatler, a former Chamber of Commerce president who owns Quick'r Print'r across the street from the Ivers site.
Nourafshan believes his development will "give a shot in the arm to Highland Park."
The commercial strip, which 60 years ago was a popular and fashionable shopping district, has suffered in the last 15 years from the growth and popularity of such nearby malls as the Glendale Galleria.
Ivers closed in 1984 after 71 years of business in Northeast Los Angeles because of a decade-long plummet in sales. The Ivers family still operates a store in more affluent La Canada Flintridge.
The developer plans to demolish two structures of unreinforced brick, which do not meet Los Angeles city earthquake standards. Two other buildings will be renovated, Nourafshan said. Plans also include a 35-space parking lot fronting Figueroa.
Reliable Properties said it is conducting a feasibility study to determine the most appropriate use for the old Ivers parking lot on Marmion Way and Avenue 58. An "affordable" housing project is one possibility, but Nourafshan said he has not applied for city permits or reached a final decision.
However, rumors about the possibility of apartments have prompted several calls to Wachs' office from residents who believe that apartments would be inappropriate on the site and would increase noise and litter, DeSanctis said.
Reliable Properties said it specializes in renovation and construction of shopping centers and has built similar developments throughout Los Angeles, including a project under construction at Glendale Boulevard and Alvarado Street in Echo Park.
Nourafshan said the Highland Park shopping center already is 76% leased, at prices ranging from $1 to $1.50 a square foot. He estimated that the center will create jobs for 25 to 40 people.