The Real Deal Los Angeles

“Mayor of Melrose” buys WeHo storefront for a “ridiculous” $4,500 psf

Luxury rug designer Benjamin Soleimani paid $15M for a Melrose Ave retail space
By Cathaleen Chen | April 04, 2017 02:30PM

Benjamin Soleimani and his rugs, and the storefront at 8632 Melrose Avenue

Rug maker and part-time developer Benjamin Soleimani ponied up $15 million for a 3,328-square-foot retail space on Melrose Avenue, according to multiple sources.

That amounts to about $4,507 per square foot — “a ridiculous number for a sale like that,” according to a retail broker not involved in the deal.

But Cushman and Wakefield’s Carter Magnin said he isn’t surprised, considering the average asking rent of the surrounding retail properties, which house brands like Rag & Bone and APC.

“The price tag is only ridiculous at a surface level,” said Magnin, who was not part of the sale. “Average asking rent in [the West Melrose area] is about $240 per square foot right now, so when you extrapolate over 10, 20 years, the price isn’t far off. And most landlords here are long-term holders”

The space at 8632 Melrose Avenue was a showroom for Murphy’s Iron Works, a company that makes and sells iron furniture. Built in 1924, it was owned by the Steven Leisner Trust, according to property records. Soleimani made the purchase through the entity, Melrose Estates, LLC.

Soleimani, once dubbed by the Los Angeles Times as the “Mayor of Melrose,” owns more than a handful of similar storefronts nearby, on the five-block stretch of Melrose between La Cienega and San Vicente. His holdings include his upscale furniture store, Restoration Hardware, at 8564 Melrose Avenue.

Soleimani and his development firm, BMB Investments, ran into trouble with the proposed expansion of Restoration Hardware a couple years ago, when WeHo resident objected to potential noise and light disruptions because of the project called for a rooftop event venue. The city’s Planning Commission ultimately approved the project in 2013, however, and denied the subsequent appeal.

Soleimani could not be reached for comment.

“There’s no secret that there’s been uncertainty in retail national and globally,” Magnin said, “but there are only a handful of streets where these contemporary hip brands want to be. And Melrose is one of them.”