Redevelopment of CBS, Farmers Market Studied

Times Staff Writer

Farmers Market and CBS Television City may be redeveloped, according to a study expected to be completed by December.

Urban Investment & Development Co. of Chicago was commissioned by CBS and the A. F. Gilmore Co. to complete a master plan and feasibility study of the combined 52-acre property fronting on Fairfax Avenue between 3rd Street and Beverly Boulevard.

“Purpose of the study is to put together some thoughts about what makes sense for the property,” Norman Elkin, vice president and co-project manager of the Chicago-based real estate development firm, said by telephone last week.

Asked if he thought the property might be turned into a project like Universal City or Disneyland, he answered, “We’ve never built a Disneyland, though I guess there is a lot of interest coming back to L. A. as an area of entertainment. We’re not contemplating a theme park or Disneyland-type project for the site, though, because it isn’t big enough.”

Pioneered Shopping Centers

Urban Investment & Development Co., acquired in 1984 by JMB Realty Corp. (a real estate investment firm with a portfolio of more than $10 billion), prides itself on being innovative.


Its founder, Philip M. Klutznick, developed what the firm terms “the first comprehensively planned post-World War II new town--Park Forest, Ill.” He then pioneered the development of three of Chicago’s first shopping centers.

In 1970, Aetna Life & Casualty purchased the firm, which then developed such downtown mixed-use projects as the 1,134,000-square-foot Arco Tower in Denver, 3.7-million-square-foot Copley Place in Boston, 1,202,000-square-foot One Logan Square in Philadelphia, and 3.1-million-square-foot Water Tower Place in Chicago.

What Elkin termed the “trigger date” for starting the study is June 1. It is due to be completed within six months.

Previous Proposal

This isn’t the first time the property owners have considered redeveloping the site, which was once part of a 256-acre ranch.

In 1984, the Gilmore Co., in partnership with CBS, proposed building a major business and entertainment complex there that may not have left room for the 51-year-old market or a 19th-Century adobe house that is between the market and Television City. The plan, which was to have been developed and designed by Olympia & York California Equities Corp., could have resulted in construction of a project twice as large as Universal City.

City officials voiced concern then over the scope of the development and protection of the historic buildings, saying they feared that the project could set off a bitter City Council fight.

About a year later, a methane gas explosion in the 6200 block of West 3rd Street, which forced more than 160 shopkeepers at the market to close for four days, also created concern over development in the area, especially of a proposed Metro Rail station at Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

Land Had Many Uses

At some point, the 1984 plan to develop the Farmers Market and CBS sites was scrapped, and a decision was made to study other possibilities.

The land has had many uses. Only a few blocks from the La Brea Tar Pits, it was roamed by mastodons, mammoths and saber-toothed tigers in prehistoric times. It was claimed by Spain in 1769.

The land was deeded to Antonio Jose Rocha, a Portuguese carpenter, as part of his 4,439-acre Rancho La Brea (“brea” means tar) in 1828. The part, which now houses Farmers Market and Television City, was sold to Arthur Fremont Gilmore, a pioneer rancher, in 1880.

During the next half century, the land was used for grazing, dairy farming and oil drilling. Then, in 1934, Gilmore’s son Earl, in partnership with another businessman, opened Farmers Market on a corner of the property.

Stadium, Ballpark

From the early 1930s to the mid-1950s, another part of the property was the site of the 18,000-seat Gilmore Stadium, where political rallies, boxing matches, professional football games, rodeos, circuses, Boy Scout jamborees, jitterbug contests, an exhibition of captured German war planes and auto races were held.

Next to the stadium, in 1939, entertainers, including Joe E. Brown, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny and Rudy Vallee, helped open Gilmore Field as the new home of the Hollywood Stars, a minor league baseball team.

The stadium and ballpark were torn down after the 15-acre parcel on which they stood was acquired by CBS in 1950.