The Roof Comes Off At The Bloc

Construction workers last week began removing a Macy’s sign and a portion of the roof as part of a $180 million overhaul of the former Macy’s Plaza.

Traditionally, progress on a construction site means a building growing taller. At the former Macy’s Plaza last week, moving forward involved ripping off a roof.

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On Tuesday, May 26, the Ratkovich Company entered a new phase in its $180 million transformation of the 42-year-old shopping, office and hotel complex: Work crews began dismantling the roof over a portion of the development that will hold an open-air food court and shopping area.

The entire roof removal is expected to be complete in mid-June. The transformation of the project, renamed The Bloc, is expected to be finished by Nov. 1.

It’s not an easy task to remove a roof while keeping the rest of the complex intact, said Lee Sehon, project director at Webcor, the general contractor on the project. The fact that The Bloc’s Sheraton hotel (which is also undergoing a $40 million renovation), post office and Macy’s department store continue to operate made the process particularly challenging, he said.

“We have to protect the public, which gives us a heightened level of care,” Sehon said. “This isn’t a typical demolition job where you can knock a building down and just clean up the rubble. Keeping people inside the building and on the street safe is our biggest priority.”

The removal is a carefully orchestrated process, and crews spent several weeks stripping off various layers of the roof. They studied how it had been originally put together, which Sehon said allowed them to know exactly how to tear it apart.

Clare De Briere, executive vice president and COO of the Ratkovich Company, which acquired the complex for $241 million in June 2013, said removing the roof will help transform the dated mall into a modern, inviting destination.

“The roof removal marks the last major phase of the project,” said De Briere.

Movies and Steak

As construction crews do the heavy lifting, the effort to fill the 442,000-square-foot shopping center continues. The anchor tenant will remain Macy’s, which is adding a furniture department to its 250,000-square-foot space in an effort to meet the needs of Downtown’s expanding residential community. Macy’s is also refreshing its decor and expanding its cosmetics and housewares offerings.

Another highlight is the previously announced nine-screen Alamo Drafthouse. The Texas-based theater chain known for unique programming and letting customers eat and drink in their seats will open in the fall. 

On Tuesday, the Ratkovich Company announced some smaller retail and restaurant additions, among them Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, which will occupy a 10,000-square-foot space and serve pasta, seafood and steaks. Also coming are TLT Food, a fast casual restaurant that started as a food truck before opening a (now shuttered) space on Seventh Street, Popbar, which will serve gelato on a stick, and another frozen treats destination, N’ice Cream

“We’ve searched the country to find the most interesting, unique tenants we can find,” De Briere said. “These aren’t your typical mall tenants and you won’t be able to find them anywhere else in L.A.”

The Ratkovich Company also announced 12 businesses that will fill 127,000 square feet of space in the project’s 33-story office building. The biggest addition will be Nordstromrack.com and its subsidiary online retailer HauteLook, which occupy 44,000 square feet and two floors of the building. About 300 employees will work there.

Additionally, advertising agency Golin will take up an entire floor, filling 24,000 square feet. The new deals will bring the building to approximately 60% occupied.

The goal with the entire project, said Marcus Luciani, a senior associate and project director from architecture firm Studio One Eleven, which is working on The Bloc, is to open the complex up to foot traffic by creating an inviting atmosphere with multiple points of entry. For decades the complex bounded by Seventh, Eighth, Hope and Flower streets had been criticized for its fortress-like look, especially in the rear of the project.

“We’re creating more storefronts on Flower and Hope and making it as accessible as possible to Downtowners and visitors,” Luciani said. “It wasn’t very welcoming before, so we’re trying to change that by turning it inside out.”

Brian Cornelius, vice president and senior development manager at the Ratkovich Company, noted that the project comes as the nearby $1 billion Wilshire Grand replacement takes shape. He said the two projects together will help solidify Downtown’s commercial core.

According to Cornelius, The Bloc is taking cues from another Los Angeles mixed-use destination: The Grove.

“We want to do what The Grove did for Fairfax but to the Downtown community,” Cornelius said. “We are looking to embrace the surrounding community and culture in an authentic way.”

The project will also link The Bloc to the Seventh Street/Metro Center Station through an underground pedestrian passageway, providing rail riders easy access to the shops, restaurants and more, Luciani added.

heidi@downtownnews.com