Rendering of Free Market Playa Vista.

Runway Playa Vista, the residential, retail, restaurant and services property in West Los Angeles’ Silicon Beach tech epicenter, has revealed a new anchor tenant.

Fred Segal is no longer moving in; instead, property manager DJM’s chief retail officer Stenn Parton is keeping it in the family by tapping Free Market for the 20,000-square-foot space.

Opening in September, Free Market Playa Vista will be a next-gen marketplace combining indie pop-up and permanent shops curated by Stenn’s brother Raan Parton and his wife, Lindsay Parton, alongside real estate investor Paolo Carini.

The first Free Market opened in downtown Denver in May 2019.

Free Market Playa Vista will feature the Parton’s own multibrand retail store Alchemy Works, which stocks clothing and accessories brands Janessa Leoné, I Stole My Boyfriend’s Shirt, Freda Salvador, Lizzie Fortunato and others; County Line Florals, a debut flower shop and subscription service from actress Abigail Spencer; Urbanic Paper Boutique; the Joliet bar from Ben Adams, who launched the popular Know Where Bar in Hollywood; Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and local L.A. Mexican eatery Loqui.

“This part of West L.A. hasn’t traditionally had a strong retail presence, but retailers trust the Free Market team as merchants, and Free Market has the same opportunity to be a catalyst for retail in West L.A. as it did in downtown Denver,” said Stenn Parton of the vision DJM has brought to Runway in its two years as a development partner, during which it’s re-branded the project with an acre of outdoor public space; more elevated, localized tenants, and flexible leasing options.

Free Market Playa Vista is offering leases for five 1,000-square-foot spaces and four pop-ups, with one still left to rent in each category.

“People will be looking to get stores open and see an increase in revenue any way they can for the balance of the year,” he added. “Free Market is going to set up really well for that, for retailers to identify a space, get their doors open within 30 days and be selling product — and be next to great adjacencies with a great customer base.”

“We have had to reimagine it two to three times,” Raan Parton acknowledged, pointing to the pandemic’s effect on brand viability, both for the new Free Market and the one in Denver, where the mix of digitally native and regional brands has shifted in recent months (Beautycounter is still a top performer; Jenni Kayne and AYR have moved out; Base Coat and The Refillery are moving in). “Retail was fragile prior to COVID-19.…Department stores have held our industry hostage. But our mentality is trying to create a Chamber of Commerce with a gallery-neutral identity that shows up regionally, and finding how it can best service and accommodate a community.”

Raan was a retail pioneer in downtown L.A.’s Arts District, where he operated the flagship for the now-defunct Apolis men’s wear label and a now-shuttered outpost of Alchemy Works. Although he hopes to return to the Arts District at some point, he’s welcoming the chance to enter a more proven market: “We have spent enough time in retail where we have a different perspective..I [know] how difficult it is to place-make in L.A., to find that traffic and customer. It takes a long time.…Design and culture is easier to fix than traffic and comps.”

He praised Playa Vista for its proximity to tech companies with corporate housing, and pointed to the high performance of Whole Foods and other food and beverage outlets as indicators of Free Market’s potential. “There is a hungry audience that lives there, that prefers not to jump in a car, and there’s an on-demand daycare called Brella across from our front door, which has a really cool new model that’s a great anchor for us,” added Lindsay Parton.

While much of L.A. retail is still boarded up, and feels “very on pause,” she is optimistic for recovery of controlled shopping environments, mentioning the positive retail sales Alchemy Works saw for June at its Newport Beach Lido Village location. “People like a place that’s clean, safe and open with a small village feel. Those will pop back sooner than shopping in downtown L.A. or someplace that feels more busy and commercial.”

Rendering of Free Market Playa Vista  Courtesy

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