There are very few corners in Los Angeles where the city's unique history and culture blend in with Hollywood glitz.
One such place is the intersection of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue--the home to the venerable Farmers Market. The corner, within easy walking distance of the La Brea Tar Pits and Raoul Wallenberg Square, is the traditional geographic anchor for the city's Jewish community.
Years ago, it was the venue for automobile races, baseball games and football games. And, when interest waned at events at Gilmore Stadium, the old ballpark--north of the intersection--was demolished in the early 1950s to make way for CBS' Television City.
The area's cultural fabric has fascinated residents and visitors alike.
"I remember as a kid coming here with my grandparents," said David Lash, executive director of Bet Tzedek Legal Center, a neighborhood mainstay. "I saw all the bakeries and Jewish stores and all the elderly Jews yelling at each other in Yiddish. That same scene is still being played out every day. In many ways, it hasn't changed at all."
Now a new development, with a price tag of more than $150 million, is underway, and it is likely to change 3rd and Fairfax for years to come.
On the spot north of 3rd where the Gilmore Bank and the Gilmore Drive-In once stood, construction is about to begin on an outdoor shopping complex, dubbed the Grove at Farmers Market. It will feature a Nordstrom department store, several clothing outlets, a state-of-the-art 12-screen movie complex, restaurants and a bookstore.
It also will include a six-level parking garage for 3,500 cars and an old Red Car trolley replica that will carry visitors from the complex to the Farmers Market.
At the same time, on the south side of 3rd, construction is scheduled to begin soon on more than 1,000 luxury apartments on three parcels of land purchased for $75 million from the owners of the Park Labrea complex of high-rise apartments and other rental units.
The development by Casden Properties of Beverly Hills is separate from Park Labrea and is primarily designed for wealthy professionals.
Officials said the two construction projects are likely to add congestion to a corner already clogged with traffic on most days.
Most of the concerns in recent years have been focused on the Grove development.
Some residents groups and others are afraid that the area's ambience, and residents' ability to walk for many of their daily errands, will be lost in a barrage of autos and pollutants.
"I'm always for change when it is for a good reason," said Park Labrea resident Jeri Coates. "But even so, I feel the area's uniqueness will be lost in the congestion and the pollution [accompanying it]. It makes me sick to look at [the Grove construction site]."
Others see positives in the Grove project.
"It will enhance this area," said Paul Ash, president of the Park Labrea Residents Assn. "Some people are concerned, but I think this will help the area's economic viability."
Park Labrea resident Richard Shane agreed with Ash, noting that he would continue to visit his favorite haunts at Farmers Market. "I go there all the time," he said.
The size and scope of the development have been debated since officials of the A.F. Gilmore Co., owners of the Farmers Market and other parcels in the immediate area, decided in the mid-1980s to reshape the land bordering 3rd Street.
Henry L. Hilty Jr. is the great-grandson of founder A.F. Gilmore and president of the Gilmore company.
He said the current 600,000-square-foot development was at one time proposed to be twice as large, but the company bowed to concerns from such groups as the Beverly Wilshire Homes Assn., which argued that the project was too big.
He attended many community meetings and tried to reassure residents that the Farmers Market, a beloved landmark, would not be affected. Hilty said recently that opposition nevertheless persisted, partly because of the development's size.
When it was scaled down, most residents groups seemed mollified, especially because the company and the project's developer, Caruso Affiliated Holdings of Santa Monica, agreed to pay for mitigation measures to deal with the expected traffic problems, Hilty said.
The mitigation measures agreed to by the Gilmore company and Caruso, costing more than $3 million, will include:
* Computers that will synchronize traffic signals on streets in the area of 3rd and Fairfax.
* Left-turn signals at 3rd and Fairfax. Although there are left-turn lanes there, some locals grouse that it takes 10 to 15 minutes to make a left turn.
* The widening of some streets. On Fairfax, for example, tie-ups frequently occur in the right-hand lanes when an MTA bus stops for passengers. Because cars often cannot change lanes to go around the buses in heavy traffic, a backup of vehicles often has to wait behind a bus until it moves.
* Stanley Avenue, a north-south street that does not go through the Gilmore property, will be extended from Beverly Boulevard to 3rd.