Historic Westlake Theatre next to MacArthur Park is for sale

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Once poised for a revival and a mixed-use makeover, the landmark Westlake Theatre is now for sale.

The seller? CRA/LA, the successor agency to the defunct Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, which was dissolved under a 2011 state law. CRA/LA is tasked with winding down the business of the former redevelopment agency, and it’s looking to unload the historic venue—recognizable for its steel-framed rooftop neon sign—after failing to find a developer willing to partner on the redevelopment.

In 2016, it issued a request for proposals to rehab the theater and possibly build affordable housing and retail on four neighboring parcels. The goal was to make the area “an attractive regional arts and culture and entertainment destination … while offering employment, housing, education / institutional use and other services.”

But the request for proposals went unanswered, says Jimmy Chai, a broker with the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, which is marketing the property for CRA/LA.

The Spanish-style theater opened in 1926; “exuberant flourishes” to the marquee, box office, and lobby were added later.
Courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield

“No one wanted it. There were too many covenants,” he says. “Now the CRA is just outright selling [the theater] just the way it is.”

The listing highlights the theater’s location next to a subway station, and advertises its potential to become a retail hub, creative office, or night club. It also notes its proximity to Downtown LA: “With over $25 billion in redevelopment transforming Downtown Los Angeles, many of Downtown’s and the Wilshire Corridor’s former theaters are now home to popular venues and retailers such as the Theatre at Ace Hotel, Urban Outfitters, COS (H&M), and CVS.”

The venue fronts MacArthur Park, an area that prior to WWII, had been quite posh. Born to show live vaudeville acts and big-screen films, it opened in 1926 and operated as a theater for 65 years. More recently, it hosted a neighborhood swap meet.

The theater’s ceiling features a mural by Anthony Heinsbergen.
Courtesy of Cushman & Wakefiled
Courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield

Westlake has been on everyone’s gentrification watch list for years. The sale of the theater, and whatever it’s turned into, could very well direct the neighborhood’s future.

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