Parcel Containing Businesses on Mariachi Plaza up for Sale

A parcel abutting Mariachi Plaza is up for sale. Image: Loopnet
A parcel abutting Mariachi Plaza is up for sale. Image: Loopnet

From the looks of a real estate posting on Loopnet, the buildings housing J&F Ice Cream, Santa Cecilia, and Libros Schmibros (as well as a home on the back lot) at Mariachi Plaza have been up for sale since mid-March. The asking price: $6,200,000.

The buildings were originally part of a larger 2014 proposal for the redevelopment of Mariachi Plaza by Primestor that would have turned that parcel into “retail and commercial office space that could provide a combination of food and beverage retail opportunities [and] a fitness center” and the adjacent vacant lot at Bailey into an eight-story office building with six floors of parking and two floors of medical offices.

The new footprint of the plaza project. The green represents private property Primestor would acquire. Source: Metro
The planned footprint of the 2014 plaza project. The property currently up for sale is in green; Primestor was working on acquiring the property to push the full project through. Source: Metro

Together, the two new buildings would have provided 120,570 square feet of commercial space, no housing, and been called “La Plaza del Mariachi.”

Recognize this place? Me, neither. But it's a rendering of the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)
The Plaza del Mariachi plaza as envisioned by Primestor back in 2014. (Source: Metro)

The community quickly rallied to send that project back to the drawing board and to hold Metro to broken promises to work with the community on the redevelopment of the site.

The project itself was almost universally reviled for its seeming erasure of the existing community, right down to the renaming of the space.

Many of the concerns about the incorporation of the private parcel into the project hinged on the fact that those were not just community-serving businesses but ones that also celebrated the mariachis that gathered there.

The loss of the murals on the ice cream shop, many argued, was just one more effort to make the plaza unwelcoming to the community that had made it what it was. Several mariachis spoke directly to Metro representatives during public comment periods, asking where they were expected to go once their faces were erased from the plaza’s walls. There didn’t seem to be room for them on the weird grassy knoll full of picnicking hipsters or in front of the flashy retail seen in the rendering.

The J&F Ice Cream Shop at Mariachi Plaza. The inside also has a lovely mural depicting some of their family members. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The J&F Ice Cream Shop at Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro quickly scrapped the project as well as the effort to acquire the private property abutting the plaza and focused on coming up with a viable project for the lots at Bailey.

Over the course of several workshops last year, Metro worked with residents and stakeholders to establish development guidelines calling for truly “affordable” affordable housing, community-serving retail, and a project that respected and responded to the culture and history of the existing community on the Bailey lots. Those guidelines were sent out to developers earlier this year as part of the Request for Proposals process.

Because the parcel that is currently up for sale was never acquired, however, Metro has less control over its fate. But, as noted on the listing on Loopnet, Metro has proposed guidelines that would provide incentives to developers to build denser community-serving projects with more affordable housing near transit stations (and make it less likely for a project that didn’t adhere to those guidelines to be approved).

Even though it is up for sale, it may be some time before the parcel actually sells. Buildings along 1st Street have gone on and off the market several times over the last few years, with no takers as yet. The debates around the arrival of a third-wave coffee shop and the growing arts enclave along the river have also put Boyle Heights on the map as a formidable community that pays attention to the developers that come into it. And the affordable housing project on the southwest and northwest corners of 1st and Boyle, as well as the plans for affordable housing on the Bailey lots and possibly also one on the southeast corner of 1st and Boyle, suggest that it will not be a community that welcomes a project that does not serve the needs of the existing neighbors. If it welcomes a project at all, that is, given that any new construction would probably mean the end of the existing buildings and their murals.

Find the listing here. Find more on our past coverage of the planning around Mariachi Plaza below.

*many thanks to Sabas Carillo for posting the listing on social media, where I spotted it.