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SANTA MONICA : Toys R Us Reaches Pact to Buy Property

October 20, 1994|LINDA FELDMAN

Business: Agreement will allow the chain to take over site of Henshey's Department Store building, severely damaged in January quake.

Toys R Us has reached an agreement with the owners of the landmark Henshey's Department Store building in Santa Monica under which the toy chain will buy the 30,000-square-foot property on Fourth Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, a Henshey's official said Wednesday.

Henshey's went out of business two years ago. But it took the Northridge earthquake to officially retire the building, which was severely damaged in the Jan. 17 temblor, dashing the hopes of preservationists who had wanted to restore it.

William A. Spurgin, an adviser to the owners, refused to comment on the amount of the sale agreement, reached this week as demolition crews dismantled the store's venerable sign. He said only that the property was sold at "market value." In 1991, Henshey's President Ralph DeMeglio was quoted as saying the property was worth "somewhere around $12 million."

The sale to Toys R Us, Spurgin said, is "ideal for the community and for the revitalization of Fourth Street." He said architectural plans for the new toy store will be submitted in 30 days and construction should be completed by September, 1995.

The new building, Spurgin said, will be one or two stories high, "compatible with the neighborhood and reminiscent of the historical character of the former Henshey's building." He said Henshey's will be involved in planning the structure.

After the earthquake, the condition of the Henshey's building steadily worsened to the point that engineers decided it was a danger, and the city declared it a public nuisance. Demolition began in late August and should be completed in about two weeks.

When the department store opened in 1925, it was called Bay Department Store. It was renamed Henshey's in the 1930s, when one of the owners, Harry C. Henshey, bought out his partners.

According to the Santa Monica Historical Society, the store's arrival in Santa Monica made it possible for residents to do more of their shopping in town. Declared a local newspaper: "Santa Monica is a big city now."

Originally, the store was 25,000 square feet, which was considered enormous at the time. It was only the second building on the Westside to have elevators. Its motto was: "Always a salesclerk, never a line."

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