Melrose Hill neighborhood, LA's new hotspot for food and art, sees flurry of development

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
Melrose Hill neighborhood is LA's new hotspot for food, art
There's a flurry of activity at the intersection of Western and Melrose avenues in a micro-neighborhood called Melrose Hill, centrally located between Hollywood and Hancock Park.

MELROSE HILLS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There's a flurry of activity at the intersection of Western and Melrose avenues in a micro-neighborhood called Melrose Hill, centrally located between Hollywood and Hancock Park.

You've likely driven through, but may not know it's becoming a hotspot for food and art thanks to commercial development. Eater LA called the neighborhood "L.A.'s hottest culinary boomtown."

"We're just looking around us saying look, there isn't a coffee shop. There isn't a grocery store accessible to the broader neighborhood. There's not a lot of offices. There isn't even parking. What are the things we can actually do that will be contributory to what already exist? We haven't pushed anyone out. We just looked at a handful of empty buildings and said what can we do to these buildings to bring them back to life," said Tyler Stonebreaker with Creative Space, who is helping develop the project.

Buildings that date back to the 1920s. Since 2019, 18 of them in a three-block radius have been purchased by developer Zach Lasry and his billionaire father Marc Lasry, co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

They're putting in an additional $75 million dollars to renovate the old warehouses which last served as imported furniture stores, a laundromat, and a martial arts supply, all closing around the same time. They've brought on Stonebreaker with Creative Space, who developed much of the arts district to tastefully restore the buildings, bringing in small businesses. The LAPD once described the neighborhood to Stonebreaker as "troubled."

"They told us these buildings were some of the most dangerous blocks in the city, mainly because there were different types of gangs doing gambling halls and gun dealing and prostitution out of these buildings," said Stonebreaker. "Some of the owners knew about it and allowed it, some of them didn't. Really, a lot of vacant buildings stringed together usually attracts criminal activity."

Because of how old the area is, almost all the apartments are rent controlled. The new restaurants include Cafe Telegrama, Etra, Kuya Lord, and Ggiata. Emma Fernberger moved from New York to open her art gallery.

"This is a neighborhood that was a thoroughfare and now it's become a real destination," said Fernberger. "I think the more that happens, the more it's going to bring economic growth to the people who live here too. There's always a worry about gentrification, but a lot of this has been done in a respectful way. There's been a lot of attention towards maintaining the architectural integrity of the neighborhood, which is not something you see in a lot of development projects."

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So why is the neighborhood called Melrose Hill? There's an actual hill located one block off Western Avenue, with 50 historic bungalows. In 1988, the city designated it a historic preservation overlay zone.

Paul Meserve has lived here for almost 30 years and says the new businesses have improved his quality of life. He's now able to walk to restaurants rather than having to drive to another neighborhood.

"People are taking interest in the neighborhood that wasn't 10 years ago there," said Meserve. "I think gentrification is the wrong word. It's just how it's evolving. A lot of the same houses are still here. I see a lot of the same people."