Spanish retailer Zara is coming to downtown Los Angeles, bringing a dash of fast fashion to a district increasingly pegged as a potential shopping powerhouse.
The 27,000-square-foot store that the trendy chain plans to open in the Figat7th shopping center next spring will be nearly three times the size of some Zara stores.
The retailer is debuting downtown just as the neighborhood — already developing cachet as a culinary destination and residential center — starts to shed its reputation as a fashion desert.
Once home to L.A.'s big-name department stores, downtown steadily lost its place as a shopping destination outside the draw of Garment District discounters and ethnic retailers. But recent signs point to fresh shopping options.
A new City Target opened in October across the plaza from the Zara space and has had to add more cash registers to deal with customer traffic. Last month a Brooks Bros. store launched down the street.
Macy's Plaza is expected to undergo an overhaul. Urban Outfitters is set to open later this year in the Rialto Theatre on Broadway at 8th Street. And this fall Swedish label Acne Studios will place its largest store worldwide downtown.
"Los Angeles is seen as a global fashion mecca, but in its urban core, there really hasn't been anything," said Bert Dezzutti, senior vice president of the western region for Brookfield Office Properties, which owns Figat7th and signed the 10-year-deal with Zara.
"Introducing fashion downtown is the final step to turning this into a shopping and dining district," he said. "It's now coming into focus."
After a $40-million face-lift, Figat7th has been more heavily skewed toward food than retail. It has more than a dozen existing and planned eateries, including the Flying Pig Cafe, the Melt, Mendocino Farms and Sprinkles Cupcakes.
"There's this food culture here that makes it like the Silicon Valley of the culinary industry," Dezzutti said of downtown Los Angeles.
But even as foodies flooded in, fashionistas continued shunning the area for boutique-studded Southland shopping hubs such as Rodeo Drive, Robertson Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.
Brookfield is trying to refocus its attention downtown by teaming up with Zara parent company Inditex, which beats out Gap Inc. and H&M; Hennes & Mauritz as the largest fashion group in the world.
Inditex's profit soared 22% last year to 2.3 billion euros, or nearly $3 billion. The company also boosted its global store count by 482 locations to 6,009 shops, including Zara and other chains.
Zara attracts the "affluent, educated resident" typical of downtown, Dezzutti said. The chain also operates three stores in Los Angeles as well as locations in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks.
Dezzutti declined to discuss financial terms of the Zara lease but said Brookfield, which also owns the Bank of America Plaza downtown, negotiated with the retailer for roughly six months.
The downtown shop will open on the southern part of the horseshoe-shaped Figat7th on the street level, visible to passersby on Figueroa Street. The flagship store is expected to employ 60 people.
The retailer will reside in a large block on the upper level, with Target taking up much of the middle level and a Gold's Gym and incoming Sport Chalet concept store occupying part of the lowest level.
With the Zara deal in place, more than 70% of the 330,000-square-foot center is leased out, Dezzutti said. The rest is "in some stage of serious negotiation," with a majority of the space expected to go to retail tenants.
"We are very confident that there will be other significant fashion retailers coming," Dezzutti said.
At a glance
Headquarters: Arteixo, Spain
Zara worldwide: 1,751 stores as of Jan. 31
Zara U.S.: 45 stores
Inditex 2012 revenue: 15.9 billion euros, or $20.4 billion, up 16% from 2011