In Search of Fairfax

Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Farmers Market Development

Starting in the mid-1980s concrete plans for large commercial and public projects in the Fairfax neighborhood began to emerge. In 1983, the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) received preliminary starter funding from the federal government to build and operate the Los Angeles Metro Rail mass transit system, which was slated to run beneath Fairfax Avenue with two stops in the vicinity of the commercial core. These plans for mass transit garnered the attention of private real estate developers and large landowners. For decades, CBS and the A.F. Gilmore Company had owned a 55-acre site on the southern edge of the Beverly-Fairfax neighborhood that featured the CBS Television City complex and Farmers Market though was mostly undeveloped. After the announcement of the MetroRail, the two companies drew up elaborate plans for a four million square foot commercial complex that would include a hotel, an entertainment and theater complex, and a two-story shopping mall.
City planners and journalists examining the question of development in Beverly-Fairfax deemed the Metro Rail and the CBS/Gilmore development as nothing short of transformative for the neighborhood, potentially creating a parking shortage, aggravating the housing crisis, diluting Beverly-Fairfax’s ethnic flavor, as well as bringing more traffic, crime, and congestion to the neighborhood. As journalist Jon Robin Baitz succinctly stated, “one way or another, the face of Beverly-Fairfax is likely to change over the next decade.”

While Baitz was in many ways correct, the two projects ultimately took quite different trajectories.  In March of 1985, a methane gas explosion occurred at a “Ross Dress for Less” store two blocks south of the Fairfax Avenue commercial core. The incident, which injured 21 bystanders, generated new questions about the safety of the MetroRail project and ultimately led to the rerouting of the MetroRail route four miles east of Fairfax. 

As for the proposed mall, in 1986 CBS decided to pull out of the development agreement. Consequently, the Gilmore Company slightly amended its plans and submitted a proposal to the City of Los Angeles for a smaller, two million square foot shopping center on the Gilmore lot.  The early 1990s recession, however, delayed the construction of the mall. It was not until 1999 when construction for the $100 million dollar shopping center,“The Grove at Farmers Market,” commenced. 

Sources: Ethan N Elkind, Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City, University of California Press, 2014; Jon Robin Baitz, “Beverly-Fairfax: Growing, Growing,  Gone? n.d, folder 1, box 35, Western States Jewish History Archive;  Mathis Chazanov, “CBS Quitting Development Scheme in Fairfax Area,” Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1986; Jesus Sanchez, “Farmers Market to Unveil New Development,” Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1998; Debra Zauzmer, “Fear and Renewal: Development comes to Beverly-Fairfax,” Heritage Southwest Jewish Press, January 18, 1985. 

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