The fate of a historic DTLA theater is in the hands of a yet-to-launch startup. Now what?

The lease has prompted concern from preservationists

Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles (Credit: Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation)
Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles (Credit: Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation)

Last week, news about the sale of Grand Central Market to a Beverly Hills private investor made headlines. Unbeknownst to most, however, was the fact that one of the properties included in the portfolio was already slated to undergo a major change of its own.

The once-renowned Million Dollar Theatre at 307 S. Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles was among the properties sold when Langdon Street Capital bought Yellin Co.’s historic holdings. But before the vacant theater traded hands, Yellin signed a five-year lease with CoBird, a social fashion startup based in Los Angeles that has yet to launch.

The fate of the theater now lies in the hands of startup – and that has some preservationists and neighborhood residents in a tizzy over whether its historical elements will be preserved.

CoBird will occupy the roughly 56,000 square feet of creative office space in the landmark property, CoStar reported. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, asking rates of $2.50 per square foot value the lease at around $8.5 million.

Jonathan and Chandler Larsen of Avison Young represented Yellin. Brokers at Cushman & Wakefield represented CoBird.

CushWake could not be reached for comment. CoBird did not respond to requests.

The social media fashion enterprise currently occupies a space at 202 W. First Street in Downtown. Details regarding the company itself, launch date or upcoming plans for the theater are scarce and the brokers involved either declined to discuss them or could not be reached.

“What makes me uncomfortable is that there is no information,” Escott Norton, director at Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation said. “They haven’t even come out with a business plan publicly so we don’t know what the intentions are. My hope is that they think the theater is a benefit to them.”

Norton wants to partner with CoBird on behalf of his foundation “to see what their intention is and to also help them and consult them in a way that they can actively use the theater in a positive way.” If their intention is to use the space sporadically – perhaps for photoshoots or pop-up events – then maybe the Foundation could work on securing film shoots over the weekend, he said.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

By signing up, you agree to TheRealDeal Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

The Million Dollar Theatre’s aesthetic could lower the chances of it remaining intact, said Gabe Kadosh of Colliers. When comparing it to the now-restored Ace Hotel Theatre or Orpheum Theatre, Kadosh said it falls short of the intricate details found in those theaters which were built roughly a decade after the Million Dollar Theatre.

“From a standpoint of the design element, the theater didn’t have all the unique characteristics that some of the others had,” Kadosh said. “[CoBird] might try to restore and bring some of those elements back, but in [terms] of keeping things as is, I’m not sure.”

The theater has remained largely unused for its original purpose since its heyday, when it was revered as one of the grandest theaters on Broadway and claimed one of the largest stages west of Chicago. Built in 1917 by Sid Grauman, the 2,345-seat, Spanish Colonial Revival-style theater was designed by renowned architect Albert C. Martin and William Lee Wollett and often played host to esteemed actors such as Charlie Chaplin. It underwent a renovation in 2008.

More recently, regular movie screenings, private events and film shoots keep the theater busy, Norton said.

Kadosh anticipates the startup’s move will create such a buzz it might even drive more established retailers to the struggling corridor.

“I think it’s very bold,” Kadosh said.

Chandler Larsen, a broker on the deal, said the lease will be a “huge reactivation for the area,” helping draw foot traffic to both the Market and Broadway.

The lease closed on Sept. 1, nearly two months before the Grand Central Market portfolio sold. Despite initial hesitations, Larsen said the Yellin Co. ultimately found the perfect fit with CoBird after meeting several times.

While the total dollar value remains unknown to the public, Larsen said the lease “definitely helped with the value when [Yellin] sold it.”