NEW DIGS: Isabel Marant has a Los Angeles area address. The French designer, whose global expansion plans this year call for her retail network to grow from eight to 14 stores, is setting up shop in a 2,500-square-foot space at 8454 Melrose Place in West Hollywood, undoubtedly bringing more excitement to the sleepy street than it has experienced in a long time.

Pioneered by the likes of Marni, Carolina Herrera and Marc Jacobs, the leafy Melrose Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard connector became popular before the recession, but has been largely dormant due to downturn-induced retail real estate conservatism.

This story first appeared in the March 20, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Rents peaked in 2007, when Lambertson Truex opened a 2,000-square-foot corner store now occupied by Frédéric Fekkai paying $240 a square foot a year, according to Jay Luchs, an executive vice president at CB Richard Ellis. He said rents on the street have come down to $72 a square foot a year on average.

Melrose Place’s comparable affordability — Luchs estimated Robertson Boulevard runs about $180 a square foot, and Rodeo Drive $500 — hasn’t wooed many stores, with the exceptions of Zero + Maria Cornejo and Bookmarc, which both opened in 2010.