A received tentative approval from the West Hollywood City Council on Monday night.
Locally-based BMB Investment Corp. sought to tear down half the block on the southwest corner of Melrose Avenue at Westmount Drive (across from Urth Café) to build a two-story, 30,000 square foot building with 130 parking spaces on two underground levels. The building will primarily house wholesale home furnishings showrooms.
Forty-four people spoke during public comment, the commenters being fairly evenly divided on the project. Residents living nearby voiced their opposition, primarily concerned about the increased traffic on Melrose. Residents also were upset about the possibility of the wholesale showroom switching to a retail showroom, as happened in the building that now houses Kitson.
Restoration Hardware is main tenant
The main tenant for the showroom would be Restoration Hardware, taking up 15,000 square feet of the building. Restoration’s CEO Gary Friedman spoke before the Council, explaining that the upscale, home furnishing chain had moved away from retail business and was now primarily a wholesale business.
Friedman said that 10 years ago, 75 percent of Restoration Hardware’s business was retail, the average purchase being $70. Today, only about 2 percent of the business is retail, the average purchase is $3,000.
When questioned about Restoration Hardware’s Beverly Boulevard location, a half mile from this proposed location, Friedman said it had always been intended as a temporary location.
Councilmember John Duran said that the distinctions between wholesale vs. retail are no longer valid, pointing out that the showrooms in the Pacific Design Center are supposed to be wholesale only but many people walk in off the street and purchase things there.
Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land said she didn’t want to see Melrose filled with chain stores, but also said the city should be flexible.
Massive size of project
Councilmember John D’Amico’s liked the European design of the building, but thought the building’s height of almost 40 feet was too tall. He felt the “massive” building would go against the charm of Melrose Avenue.
Councilmember John Heilman though it was as an attractive building but was also concerned about maintaining the unique quality of Melrose Avenue.
In the end, the Council voted 3-2 to approve the project if the developer agrees to several modifications, including creating driveway access to the underground parking on both Westmount Drive and Westbourne Drive. D’Amico and Mayor Jeff Prang voted against it.