Calle Caruso: A Developers Dream

mexicana on chavez

While browsing today’s LA Times, I came across Patt Morrison’s OP-ED interview with developer/mogul and aspiring civic leader; RICK J. CARUSO. That same city-within-a-city retail & housing developer who has brought our region his vision of artificial environments with projects such as THE GROVE, and THE AMERICANA AT BRAND among others. So, now it seems he has his developer sights pointed Eastward,…here is a quote from the Señor Caruso’s interview from today’s LA Times……

“Would you ever build something like the Grove in South L.A.?

I would love to. I would love to build something in East L.A. You’ve got to build something successful or you’re not doing a favor to that community. We’ve looked; we haven’t found the right opportunity, but I would love to do it, absolutely.

What’s necessary to make that a success?

You’ve got to buy the land at the right price. You’ve got to get the right entitlements. The right retailers to serve that community. You’ve got to get enough customers to use it, spend money, support the rents, A lot of very low to moderate income areas really thrive. I think if conceived right it can be done. East L.A., Boyle Heights, I just haven’t found the right areas. ”

Wow…so are we looking forward to, as Dorit suggested,  “THE MEXICANA ON CHAVEZ”?,

This entry was posted in Analysis, architecture, East Los, gentrification, Greater Los Angeles, Pendejadas, Politica, Rant, Uncategorized by AlDesmadre. Bookmark the permalink.

About AlDesmadre

Al Guerrero, Artist/Humorist. Los Angeles, CA. Born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico and raised in East Los Angeles from the age of two, Al Guerrero grew up just steps from the famous Chicano strip, Whittier Boulevard. His youth experiences include witnessing and participating in the 1970 Chicano Power demonstrations, cruising cars on Whittier Boulevard, and graduating from Garfield High School. After dropping out of UCLA (with honors), he drew upon his lifelong passion for art and cartooning and pursued a career in graphic arts. During this period, he traveled overseas and found artistic inspiration from the masterworks he discovered within the European Art Museums. His career blossomed when he was eventually hired by the Walt Disney Company in 1995, where he worked as a creative artist for a number of years. Although the artistic work was rewarding, he eventually grew weary & disillusioned with the bureaucracy of the entertainment business, and left to work briefly in the educational field. His credits include producing a feature film with actor, Conrad Brooks of Ed Wood fame, founding and performing with the Punk Rock group “The Psychocats” at numerous L.A. & Hollywood venues during the 1990’s, and in 1999 he founded and created a hell-bent puppet cabaret show aptly named: “The Puppets from Hell”. As a long time active member of the Los Angeles Cacophony Society, Al “Quaeda”, as he was known, was involved in countless Cacophony Society pranks and events throughout the city. He also produced the “Incredibly Strange Cinema” cult film series as well as themed events such as the now infamous “Pornothon Movie Nights” and the satirical “Mexican Night: Noche De Tequila & Putas” shows at local nightclub venues. Throughout his art career, he has exhibited his canvas paintings at various local galleries, and has also written & illustrated numerous comic strips and Graphic Novel stories. Today, he lives in Silver Lake, California and works as a freelance artist and writer with numerous multi-media projects under his belt and in the works. His personal hobbies include collecting vintage toys and comic books, cinema history and Los Angeles City history. Contact: Al Guerrero P.O. Box 29697 Los Angeles, CA 90029-0697

15 thoughts on “Calle Caruso: A Developers Dream

  1. Hmmm.. well for years theirs been talk about converting the old abandoned hospital by Hollenbeck Park into Lofts, and also the sears building.

  2. just what east l.a. needs — an overpriced outdoor mall chock fulla overpriced restaurants and stores with tons of overpriced shit to buy. my credit card is at the ready…..

  3. If Caruso thinks a community can “thrive” without living wage jobs, he’s either full of shit, or crazy. I mean, he even uses the phrase “low income” himself to describe the East Side. Is he so used to saying those words to describe regions that he forgot the actual definition of them?

    Low: the opposite of high. Closest to the ground. Short of what’s expected, substantial, or adequate.

    Income: The amount of money one makes.

    So, Caruso, you’d have to think that in order for a low income community to thrive, we’d have to turn that “low” into a “high”, or even a “middle”, wouldn’t we? How about using union labor to build the place, for starters? Didn’t think so.

  4. Good one Rob Thomas “How about using union labor to build the place, for starters? Didn’t think so.”

  5. es East LA needs an American Girl store Cheese Cake Factory.
    Although I would rather see manufacturing move into communities.I am not agenst development IF it is done were their are currently nothing and will not cause problems with residents and business alrady there. Retail job are good for young folks/anyone new to the workforce. And development can mean money for parks (quimpy funds) and I have read that cities like retail for tax reasons.

  6. There was a restaurant/motel in TJ that had a sombrero roof–just like this one, Al. Huge sombrero! I think it was left over from the 30’s/40’s Hollywood retreat era. I loved looking at it when my family made the TJ pilgrimage every mf’n weekend to lunch with my abuelitos. Although the trek cut into my non-social life as an elementary school kid–now, I remember it with fondness. That place was mowed down to make way for the rio Tijuana mall.

  7. He’s not talking about a “Grove” or “Americana”. He’s probably talking about something less expensive.

    As expensive as his projects are, and as sterile as they are, and as bland as the food is, it’s not worse than any other mall. It’s just more visually assaulting. To top it off, the Grove is usually cheaper than the Farmer’s Market. I enjoy going to the FM once a year or so, and enjoy it, but, always feel ripped off.

    So, is he horrible – or just another mall developer, but one with a big head?

    He is correct about low-to-moderate incomes doing okay with retail. People already spend money away from the community, so, having the retail developed in the community keeps the money more local. It’s just that developers and landlords don’t always see the potential there.

    You also have a lot of small parcels being divided among many landlords. So big-money developers don’t see so much potential to create large-scale retail.

    The kind of retail that does well in East LA is that mall in Commerce. That place is packed on weekends, even more than similar malls in the suburbs. And that’s a good thing – especially for the grocery store there (El Super), because the rapid turnover in vegetables is good for everyone. (I go to the South Central LA El Super, and the vegetables there aren’t in good shape some days.)

    Whitter Blvd is also pretty busy. Maybe not like the old days, but, compared to similar “walking streets” around LA, it’s doing a lot of business. These “new urbanist” types always fantasize about walkable streets, and in L.A., there are many such streets… it’s just mostly Mexican immigrants walking on them. So you rarely ever see reports about business along Pacific, or Whittier, or Koreatown or Chinatown, or the garment district. (Or the secret area near Downtown which shall remain nameless, but reminds me of Monterey Park in the late 80s, when stores started selling stuff on the sidewalk.)

    Having the right retail anchors and mix can really help. Look at a great location like Leimert Park Village. It could benefit from an anchor store that would pull in shoppers. It’s a small space with some middle class atmosphere, so, maybe a Trader Joe’s market. A little expensive, but not too, and lots of vegetables.

    The Mercadito is also a great retail spot. If developers want to invest, maybe they can work in that direction. Something like Grand Central Market, or any place with a LOT of vegetables that are fresh, and a lot of food stalls selling stuff bought from these vegetable vendors. You could make an effort to include all the Latin American communities, and maybe even other much smaller communities. With enough turnover, you could mix in gourmet food and organics.

    If enough people are cooking at home, an area can support a lot of grocery stores, even if incomes are low. I used to go shop in Oakland Chinatown for food, and that community probably had more welfare cases than Boyle Heights, but they had all kinds of vegetable vendors doing pretty good business, with what seemed like most people coming in by bus or food.

    What about that corner with the Super A? What a great area. There’s a Smart and Final there, a good bakery, donuts, some restaurant. If you could jam those things a little closer together, get more stores in to compete with each other and lower prices, and run shuttles it would be a nice place to visit for a half-day of shopping. You know – shop, eat, shop eat, go home.

  8. Why not the next The Mexicano in the Eastside? We need more affordable housing in the area. Maybe CARUSO should get into the Affordable Housing Developments. I am tired of traveling to Montebello and spending money in another city. It would all work out!!!

  9. the amusing thing is that Caruso’s developments are designed to be faux neighborhood centers. a quote from the LA weekly article on him

    “For a man renowned for reimagining the mall as Main Street meets Vegas — complete with fake snow and trolleys to nowhere — Caruso imagines a Los Angeles that, to hear him describe it, wouldn’t look a whole lot different from how it does now. His vision seems less about sweeping transformation than it does about eliminating the inconveniences that plague livability in this city — traffic, crime and, yes, a lack of cleanliness.”

    His development seek to create the environment that city planners and other developers haven’t been able to. He’s giving people what they want.
    Its not hard to see why Boyle Heights and the rest of the Eastside has developers drooling at the potential of the community. A dense community with an extensive transportation system(mass and public) with low to moderate income. I’ve heard of numerous proposed developments for the area. Everything from the Sears building, Wyvernwood, 1st corridor. Paired with a revised community plan ( the eastside is a developers wet dream.

  10. Should be interesting to see how his next project over in Arcadia comes out.
    I live in Montebello- come shop here- we need the sales tax revenue.
    The “poor/working/middle class(more so if they have children) tend to make more shopping trips to buy stuff and then spend more money on that stuff- simple example -groceries.
    And did u know that smarter and wealthier people tend to buy less snacks like potato chips compared to someone that is not- and yes in the mid west and east coast the pretzel still beats potato chips as favorite snack.

    I hate Superior Grocers- they do provide low prices but lack the selection and variety. That’s why i always end up at Albertsons or Vons when i want mushrooms.

    You all probably already know that the Montebello Town Center was renamed “The Shops in Montebello”<—trying to be like Palos
    I think this was done to upgrade its image after it was being referred to as the "Monte-ghetto Mall".
    I am sort of glad that we got a Best Buy to replace the Circuit City.
    Im looking forward to the Atlantic Times Square opening up later this year over on Atlantic next to the 10 fwy in Monterey Park.

    I know there was also a development company working on some possible new shopping center in South Gate with a Target and movie theaters <–yes i know they got one of each over at Garfield/Firestone.
    Found it- its El Portal –

    – so maybe we don't need Caruso after all 🙂

  11. lets see how his project in Arcadia turns out.

    Shop in Montebello we need the sales tax revenue.
    The Montebello Town Cemter changed its name to “the shops at Montebello” i guess they want to upgrade their image from “Monte-ghetto Mall”.
    Im glad we got a Best Buy in less than 9 months to replace the Circuit City.
    Im excited for the Atlantic Times Square in Monterey Park later this year.

    And South Gate has the El Portal shopping center still under development-

    so maybe we don’t need Caruso after all 🙂

    unless he wants to open a grocery store in south Montebello cause they seriously need one over there.

  12. I think Rick Caruso is the wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong person to look to for development of the Eastside.

    This side of town has enough hustlers, street vendors, entrepreneurs, dreamers, schemers, and plain old rip-off artists as it is.

    What we need, what this area really needs, is to be de-auto’d. That is, our commercial thoroughfares, which used to have slower cars and street car trains (and the housing and retail to support a merchant class) need to have traffic calmed, streets narrowed in shopping and residential areas, and have the city focus money on paving sidewalks, making parks, and actually improving the community instead of jsut more re-paving of streets for high traffic car speeds.

    No offense to those who have jobs out of the area and are forced to drive, but there is a freeway a 1/2 mile from every house on the eastside (it would seem). If you want to drive fast – that is the place to do it. If you are on surface streets, amongst the people in this jewel of an area you ought to be going 20 mph (at most) or slower where people and retail is present.

    Then we wouldn’t need pinche Caruso or any other big-money outsiders. We’d develop our own, and it would not require a bunch of handouts and lobbying of the government like these big time d-bag developers get!

  13. loveandhatela,
    It looks like El Portal is in danger. The developer defaulted on loans and Target might become the developer. Read this recently published article:

    I’d love to see it done because I think it’s in a much better location than the El Paseo (Garfield/Firestone). El Portal is definitely poised to get a lot of visits from people coming down the Atlantic Blvd. buses.

    Here’s a question for everyone: What if a development in the style of Lynwood’s Plaza México was constructed somewhere in the Eastside? Sure, El Mercadito already has a lot of that market, but what about the outdoor plaza that is the center of Plaza México? I’ve gone to Plaza México at different hours of the day and always see a lot of people congregating in the open air. Maybe if a development offered something like that it would be a success.

  14. I don’t think most people living in the Eastside realize that we live on prime rel estate. I know things seem ghetto but the reason I say this is because of how close we are to downtown LA. For anyone working in downtown LA or in the area this would be a great location for them to live. If you look at whats going on, on the other side of the river its only obvious that its going to spread towards us. What I’m talking about is gentrification, so this developer story is no suprise.
    Just look at all the old buildings in the Old Bank District in Downtown LA, whole city blocks of building have been converted into lofts, and apartments… and it doesn’t seem to be a small project it looks like its part of a big long term developement plan.

    So gentrification is coming our way. The only question is when? And when it comes, good or bad, what will East LA do about it? And just remember The Gold Line connected East LA with the rest of LA so we are no longer isolated by the river.

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