PASADENA, Calif.—A local investment group aligned with the Los Angeles-based upscale organic grocery store chain Erewhon has closed escrow on the former I. Magnin department store (then Borders Books); a historic retail building at 475 S. Lake Ave.
In February 2021, The New York Times ran a feature article on Erewhon, “How Erewhon Became L.A.’s Hottest Hangout,” detailing the chain’s successful rise the past decade to become a hub not only for health-food enthusiasts but also for celebrities and influencers, thanks to a highly-curated food offering that is a combination of organic, gluten-free, biodynamic, free-range and vegan, all in a beautiful setting and tailored to the local community.
Yuval Chiprut, chief development officer for Erewhon, lead the effort over many months to overcome many obstacles resulting from nearly a decade of vacancy. Chiprut was immediately struck by the classic lines of the original I. Magnin and Bullock’s buildings created over 70 years ago. Chiprut and Tony Antoci, Erewhon’s CEO, envisioned the ground floor refurbished and built out for Erewhon, including a makeover of the outdoor common area, landscaping, rooftop and patios surrounding the building for shoppers to eat and hang out. “Erewhon is honored by the prospect of occupying this iconic building rooted in Pasadena’s rich history. We are grateful for the support the City and community have provided,” Chiprut says. “We look forward to a successful rehabilitation of the building and joining Pasadena and the neighboring communities. I have always loved Pasadena and thrilled we found a viable location,” says Antoci.
The 41,760 square foot historic and iconic building is spread over a basement level and magnificent first and second floors. It was successfully marketed by CBRE beginning in the spring of 2020, following nine years of vacancy. Ultimately, through very targeted outreach, the team identified Erewhon as a great candidate and a 14-month process culminated in the sale of the building in October 2021.
Chiprut has brought in Erewhon’s retail architecture firm, Long Beach's RDC Inc., to assist in renovating and modernizing the 70-year-old building while maintaining much of its originality. Terry Todd and Elise Kunihiro of RDC stated that the unique building is “an exciting challenge, and we look forward to seeing it reactivated and serving the surrounding community once again."
The majority of second floor will be occupied by Brella, a new model of app-enabled child care center that offers full-time, flexible, and on-demand infant care and preschool, along with parent education classes and family events. Brella’s flexible model, innovative curriculum and beautifully designed environments are creating a new industry paradigm. Brella launched in Playa Vista in 2019 and, after closing a Series Seed fundraise this year, is expanding to multiple sites across Los Angeles.
Steve Nelson and Tim Genske have each been involved in Pasadena retail real estate for over 30 years and acknowledged this assignment was the ultimate test of their over 60 years of combined experience. "We were determined not to fail on this assignment, in spite of COVID, the long-term vacancy of the building, etc., and to bring a new generation of retail experience to South Lake Avenue that we would both be proud of to the community’s long-term benefit,” Nelson says.
The new ownership is engaged in negotiations with a specialty medical and wellness tenant, for the final portion of the second floor of the building and is also contemplating a built-out wine storage facility for residents in the basement space of the building.
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