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California Market Center Primed for Renovations

The California Market Center is getting a touch-up. A series of renovations will sweep through the 13-floor, three-building apparel showroom complex this year as part of an initiative to better showcase vendors and stay abreast of industry trends.

LOS ANGELES — The California Market Center is getting a touch-up.

A series of renovations will sweep through the 13-floor, three-building apparel showroom complex this year as part of an initiative to better showcase vendors and stay abreast of industry trends.

The changes mark efforts by CMC’s owner, the real estate investment firm Jamison Properties, to ensure its three million square feet are appealing amid competition from three challengers in downtown Los Angeles: the Cooper Building, the New Mart and the Gerry Building.

“The main thing is keeping the product fresh and getting the hot lines in the building,” said Joanne Lee, CMC’s senior vice president of services.

The CMC declined to disclose the cost of the improvements.

After Jamison Properties bought the CMC for $135 million in 2005 from Hertz Investment Group, the vacancy rate swelled and many tenants were concerned that the new owner would quickly sell the building. Three years later, Jamison is still at the helm and has filled 100 percent of its available contemporary and kids’ apparel showrooms.

With crowding on the contemporary and kids’ floors, another 80,000 square feet is being created to handle the spillover. A juvenile, kids and maternity section will be introduced to a wing near the existing space for those categories on the sixth floor.

“We are seeing kid and contemporary clothing grow,” Lee said. “We are listening to demand.”

The additional contemporary section, expected to be completed in June, will be called Area 4. The plan is to create a modern environment with wood, stone and glass, and high ceilings. Amenities include a concierge service, Zen lounge, VIP retailer check-in and restroom attendants.

“Our goal was to give manufacturers a new, inspiring space that would have its own identity,” Sue Bhanubandh, CMC’s director of leasing, said in a statement. “We spared no expense with this project.”

More than the interior of the CMC will get attention.

The exterior patio is high on CMC’s to-do list. A spot for lunching and events, the cement-floored terrace has been in need of a facelift for several years. Bulky planters are going to be removed, and new lighting and furniture will be installed. Designer Eva Sobesky of EIS Studio and architecture firm Gruen Associates are guiding the project, scheduled for completion by mid-year.

“We definitely want to clear it out and make it an open space,” Lee said.

The airy patio will house fashion shows to highlight vendors’ seasonal collections. Last year, the CMC staged about four fashion shows during each market, a number that is expected to increase significantly this year.

Although the falling dollar has meant struggles for some domestic companies, it has lured more buyers from abroad who are searching for bargains at CMC’s five major fashion markets.

The number of attendees from Europe last year increased 32 percent compared with 2006, Lee said. Overall, she said there was a 5 percent increase in traffic during the October market and a 15 percent hike in the number of new retailers participating.

But the CMC is not forgetting about buyers closer to home. CMC representatives are soon scheduled to visit cities such as San Francisco and Seattle to guarantee that Los Angeles is on the radar of key retailers.

“We ask our tenants about who they would like to see that they haven’t seen,” Lee said.

To maintain Los Angeles’ reputation as key to the apparel market scene, a decision was also made to move up dates because of changes in the international trade show schedule. Los Angeles markets that are affected are now slated for March 14 to 18 and Oct. 5 to 7. The unaffected summer fashion market is from Jan. 11 to 15.

“L.A. is…a destination,” Lee concluded. “It should be the leader of the markets.”

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