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LA Mart Sale Adds to Upheaval on West Coast

LOS ANGELES - The sale of the LA Mart to an investor group adds one more piece of change to the Southern California home and gift showroom scene.
     Over the past several months, the twice-yearly temporary gift and home show at the Los Angeles Convention Center was bought by Urban Expositions, which promptly cancelled plans to run a competing show in Anaheim and concentrate on the LA event.
     In the meantime, the California Market Center - primarily an apparel showroom building with some home tenants - has stepped up its efforts in home, bringing on industry leasing veteran Gerry Seibel and planning on a major expansion of its home floors.
     While gift and home showrooms are the focus of all these shows, each has a number of home textiles exhibitors.
     Earlier this month, MMPI, the Vornado unit that operated the LA Mart as well as other venues around the country including the 7W building in New York City, announced the sale of the Mart to a local investment group, PHR LA Mart LLC for a reported sum of $55 million, according to the Co-Star Group.
     The building, located at 1933 S. Broadway, is currently 60% occupied by a combination of whole gift, home and design showrooms, and office spaces, including a large amount of space leased by the County of Los Angeles for its Children and Family Services Department.
     The new owner, whose name has not been released yet, is committed to stabilizing and growing the showroom business and the gift and home industry at LA Mart within the year, according to Jim Nahin, vice president leasing at LA Mart. "After a year or more of uncertainty here at the LA Mart, we finally have a solid foundation," Nahin told HTT sister publication Gifts & Decorative Accessories. "We finally have solid ground. It's great news for the tenants, employees and the industry."
     Nahin added that the new owner wants to bring back any tenants who may have left LA Mart throughout the past year because of the uncertainty of new ownership and welcome them back. "He really wants me to pursue those people and let them know that they are welcome back and to join the family again."
     Once all plans are in motion, LA Mart is not going away anytime soon. "Moving forward, we really want to stabilize and grow the existing tenants that are here," said Nahin. "I will be attending markets wherever I can and make sure that people know that LA Mart is still in the game, and we'll be here to play."
     Vornado will reportedly use the proceeds from the sale of the LA Mart and some of its other properties, including the Washington and Boston Design Centers, to help fund its purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

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