Going up: Lithia Motors plans five-story Porsche dealership near DTLA

Urban car sellers seek vertical development

Lithia Motors' Mark DeBoer and rendering of new Porsche dealership (City of Los Angeles, Getty, LinikedIn)
Lithia Motors' Mark DeBoer and rendering of new Porsche dealership (City of Los Angeles, Getty, LinikedIn)

In a sign of an emerging commercial development trend, Lithia Motors, an Oregon-based auto dealership group, has filed plans to build a five-story Porsche dealership near Downtown L.A.

Lithia Real Estate, the company’s commercial development arm, filed its project application early this year, and the case was registered with the city planning department last week. Mark DeBoer, the company’s vice president of real estate and the named project applicant, did not respond to an interview request.

Lithia’s new Porsche dealership would go up in the 1900 block of South Figueroa Street, an industrial swath south of Downtown L.A. that’s replete with car dealerships. The immediate vicinity is home to at least a half dozen lots, including Ford, Kia and Mercedes franchises.

The 1.3-acre site targeted by Lithia already has a 52,000-square-foot Nissan and Toyota service center, according to planning documents. A Porsche dealership already exists directly across the street, but that site is too small for demand, Lithia says in the documents. So it intends to demolish the service center structure and move the Porsche dealership into the new five-story facility.

The proposed dealership would be 81,000 square feet, including a 20,000-square-foot showroom and 10,000 square feet of offices. It would have 221 total parking spaces, spread among the second, fourth and fifth floors and on the roof. The total area of the structure would be nearly 260,000 square feet.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

The upsizing is part of a larger trend impacting both U.S. auto retailing and commercial real estate: For years the number of cars Americans are buying has been increasing, yet the number of car dealerships — which were typically flat and clustered together in a pattern that made little consumer sense — has been declining.

Thus, dealerships have been growing larger to deal with demand, sometimes leading to development-related friction. In Pasadena, the city’s planning commission recently requested changes to a proposed two-story, 60,000-square-foot Porsche dealership by Rusnak Auto Group after residents complained about its size.

“It’s the size of a small Walmart,” one Pasadena commissioner said at a meeting. “They need 60,000 square feet to sell luxury cars?”

In some cases they’ve also been growing taller: In 2019, Carvana, the online used car dealer, opened its first “Car Vending Machine” in California with an eight-story glass elevator-style building off the 405 Freeway in northern Orange County. Carvana, which has nearly three dozen similar facilities around the country, has since also opened locations in Ontario and San Diego.

Lithia’s Downtown L.A. project would rise 85 feet, more than three times taller than the existing Porsche dealership across the street. But it likely won’t even be the tallest dealership in the neighborhood. Another dealership is already underway in the vicinity that will rise 117 feet, according to planning documents.

Read more