Ecommerce startup eyes 1.1M sf for tech hub in DTLA

Emcee says it plans to buy Broadway Trade Center, fill one-time department store with “tens of thousands” workers

Los Angeles /
Feb.February 17, 2022 10:03 AM
Rendering of redeveloped Broadway Trade Center at 801 S. Broadway (Omgivning Architects)

Silicon Beach, say hello to Downtown Los Angeles.

Emcee, a tech startup based in New York, said it has plans to buy the historic Broadway Trade Center at 801 S. Broadway and turn it into a tech hub, hotel and shopping center, dot.LA reported. A purchase price was not disclosed, and the current owner of the building is an investor in Emcee.

John Aghayan, CEO of the ecommerce platform he founded last year, said he expects to close a deal with Broadway owners Waterbridge Capital and Continental Equities by April. If successful, he would transform the 1.1 million square-foot building into an “Emcee Studio” and co-working space to serve its to-be-developed “metaverse platform.”

“We decided to buy real estate to bring under one roof tens of thousands of creators, innovators, private companies, startups and public companies,” Aghayan said.

Plans call for a creative work space for software developers, entrepreneurs and designers, in addition to a hotel, member-exclusive rooftop pool, restaurant and one floor of co-working offices. The ground floor would serve as a futuristic shopping mall – where brands would let shoppers browse and buy online.

Built in 1907, the 13-story Beaux Arts building at Broadway and 9th Street once stood as Hamburger’s Department Store, billed as “the largest department store in the West.”

The May Co. department store chain acquired Hamburger’s in 1923 and operated the steel reinforced-concrete building for more than half a century before moving out in 1986, when it was renamed the Broadway Trade Center. It’s been mostly vacant for a decade, with some ground-floor retail.

In 2014, New York-based Waterbridge Capital and Continental Equities bought the property for $122.3 million with plans to redevelop it into a 200-room hotel, offices, and luxury retail space, with rooftop bars and restaurants.

Waterbridge oversaw a basic restoration of the building, and hired Downtown-based Omgivning Architects for a redevelopment design.

Waterbridge stalled on its mixed-use project, and in 2020 sought to sell the building for $425 million. 

Joel Schreiber, Waterbridge’s founder and CEO, said the firm has been “looking for the right tech enterprise to help us execute on this vision.

“We had interest from very large tech companies—the largest tech companies in the world—to take the space,” Schreiber said. “But this is not what the vision was—just to buy a building and put in a tech tenant.”

Schreiber, an early WeWork investor, backed Emcee’s $6 million seed round in December.

If the deal goes through, Emcee plans to start work on redeveloping the Broadway building, though it declined to state a construction date.

The company was founded as an ecommerce platform that relies on internet influencers to promote and market brands. It plans to launch its own cryptocurrency, the $EMC token, which consumers can spend on its platform.

Aghayan said he hopes he can deliver on Schreiber’s vision.

“Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and Venice are attracting gaming, NFTs, crypto,” Aghayan told dot.LA. “This is making Downtown the center to track all this talent and community.”

[dot.LA] – Dana Bartholomew





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