Benjamin Soleimani, dubbed the “Mayor of Melrose” for his prodigious efforts to turn the part of Melrose Avenue west of La Cienega into a version of an English town’s “high street,” has paid what some brokers are calling a stunning price for 8632 Melrose Ave.
That price is $4,507 per square foot, 60% more than the then-amazing $2,815 per square foot that real estate investor Jerry Illoulian paid for the former Tommy Hilfiger store on the southwest corner of Robertson and Beverly boulevards in 2015. That now is the location of the Michael Aram store. It is expected that Illoulian eventually will raze the one-story building at that prime location and build a taller one.
That 8632 Melrose property is on the south side of Melrose between Huntley Drive and Norwich Drive. The building on the site formerly housed a showroom for Murray’s Iron Works, a company that makes and sells iron furniture.
The Soleimani purchase, which totaled $15 million, was first announced in the Real Deal, a trade publication. The Real Deal quoted a real estate broker not involved in the transaction as saying the per-square-foot price was “a ridiculous number for a sale like that.”
However Carter Magnin of Cushman and Wakefield said “the price tag is only ridiculous at a surface level.”
“Average asking rent in [the West Melrose area] is about $240 per square foot right now, so when you extrapolate over 10, 20 years, the price isn’t far off. And most landlords here are long-term holders.”
Magnin also noted that that area of Melrose has attracted a number of hip and stylish merchants such as Rag & Bone.
Soleimani owns a number of other properties on Melrose, including 8564 Melrose, the site of Restoration Hardware’s California flagship store. Soleimani’s BMB Investments fought a long battle to get the Restoration Hardware project approved over objections from residents of the adjacent West Hollywood West neighborhood.
The conflict was largely over whether Restoration Hardware was in fact a “wholesale” business, where products are not sold to the average customer and little traffic is generated. The city considered Restoration Hardware a wholesale business since designers who have items shipped are its primary customers; only 3% of Restoration’s sales are “cash and carry.” However, Meister, who served on the city’s Planning Commission from 2011-2012, points out that Restoration has a retail business license, charges sales tax and is listed on the stock exchange as a retail business. When questioned by the Planning Commission in August, DeMonty Price, Restoration’s vice president of retail stores, avoided the question by calling it a “hybrid” of retail and wholesale.
“It’s wholesale with incidental retail,” Councilmember John Heilman said.
But neighborhood activist Lauren Meister, who now is WeHo’s mayor, argued that Restoration was a 100% retail business, and thus an environmental review was needed to study traffic, noise and other potential impacts. The City Council denied an appeal of an earlier approval of the project in a 3 to 2 vote.