Developer scraps plans to tear down West Hollywood’s French Market Place

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West Hollywood’s now-shuttered French Market Place—once a basecamp for LGBT activists—will not be demolished as once feared.

Instead, the former grocery store and restaurant at Santa Monica Boulevard and Laurel Avenue will be resurrected as a sleek new eatery and incorporated into a new office building under new plans filed this month with the city of West Hollywood, developer Faring announced today.

Those plans call for keeping the market place building intact with new offices built above and around it. (The square footage for the offices has yet to be determined, a Faring spokesperson says.) The entire project will be called The French Market.

The restaurant’s facade will be remodeled to “commemorate the LGBT civil rights struggle in America.” It will be wrapped in a bronze relief-sculpture, featuring the faces of local and national LGBT activists, “merging the Market building’s Streamline Moderne and French Revival architectural features with creative office space and ground-level restaurants,” the announcement says.

“Bringing the French Market back to West Hollywood gives this project real soul,” Faring CEO Jason Illoulian said in a statement. “We recognize the connections our community has to this building and this plan will ensure the French Market remains a unique part of WeHo’s future as well.”

The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance has described the French Market Place as a “piece of history,” and the Antebellum blog lovingly dubbed it “the gayest place on earth.”

It opened in 1974 with its “kitschy New Orleans styled interior setting.” But it was more than a restaurant. The building also housed small shops, “including Dorothy’s Surrender, an oh-so-gay Wizard of Oz themed gift boutique.”

According to WeHoville:

Veteran LGBTQ journalist Karen Ocamb notes that the French Quarter “was also the jumping off or come-back point for lots of LGBT political events and a refuge for those needing a break from AIDS protests.” She further reports that the restaurant was crucial in community support for Rob Roberts’ hunger strike on the grassy triangle nearby to urge Gov. Pete Wilson to sign the gay civil rights bill, AB 101.

Faring had originally planned to tear down the French Market Place. It wanted to build a four-story structure with 50,000 square feet of space for offices, 8,600 square feet for a restaurant or restaurants, 4,400 square feet of retail, and 3,200 square feet that could become either a bar or nightclub.

It has changed course to now include strictly ground-floor restaurants with outdoor seating and creative offices. Faring’s new plans will need to be approved by the city before it can move forward.

The exterior of the French Market in 2009.
via Google Maps

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