Developers Buy Landmark High-Rise on Miracle Mile

Times Staff Writer

The former Desmond’s department store building, an Art Deco landmark in the Miracle Mile district of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, has been purchased by developers who plan to add a luxury condominium tower to its site.

The planned improvements follow several projects already underway on a once-glamorous stretch of Wilshire that struggled economically for decades until the city’s core became fashionable again a few years ago.

Legacy Partners, a Foster City, Calif.-based builder, bought the property at 5500-5512 Wilshire Blvd. from a group of local investors doing business as Wilshire Dunsmuir Cos. The price was not disclosed. The building had been listed for sale at $25 million.

Desmond’s was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who also designed the federal courthouse downtown and the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. When it opened in 1929, it was the first high-rise in the shopping district between La Brea and Fairfax avenues grandly named Miracle Mile. Developer A.W. Ross created the fancy destination on what had been a dirt stretch of Wilshire serving nearby barley fields and oil wells.


The building includes two stories of retail space that was home to Desmond’s and later Silverwood’s and Phelps Terkel. Its 10-story office tower created a visual landmark, and its curving ground-floor windows offered passing motorists sweeping views of merchandise displays.

Legacy Partners will restore the building to historical standards, said J.J. Abraham, vice president of development. Legacy also plans to break ground in the spring on a $150-million condominium tower that will rise 13 stories on the parking lot south of the Desmond’s building. When completed in two years, it will include 161 units with an average price of more than $1 million.

It’s one of several projects going on in the area, said broker D. William Blakkolb of NAI Capital, who represented the buyer. They include a six-story residential and retail building planned by Chandler Partners near Wilshire and Detroit Street and a five-story residential project planned by Legacy just west of Desmond’s.

“The whole area has been gentrified since the Grove shopping center opened” on nearby 3rd Street in 2002, said real estate broker Curtis Palmer of Transwestern Multi Housing Capital Advisors, who is selling a new apartment complex in the district. “I’m very bullish on the neighborhood.”