Business & Economy

Is Urban Outfitters headed for historic downtown Los Angeles?

Pedestrians pass in front of 'Urban Outfitters' on 6th Ave. and 14th street in Manhattan.
Pedestrians pass in front of 'Urban Outfitters' on 6th Ave. and 14th street in Manhattan.
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An economic development group said Urban Outfitters is considering opening a store inside an old theater in historic downtown Los Angeles.

If Urban Outfitters were to move into the Rialto Theater, it would be an economic boost to the worn section of Broadway, which is home to shuttered storefronts and vacant high-rises.

No deal has been signed yet, but economic development group Bringing Back Broadway said discussions are underway between the retail chain popular with young adults and the owner of the Rialto Theater, a venue built in 1917 that has not shown films for years.

The Rialto now leases space to small retail shops, selling items like suitcases.

Historic downtown Los Angeles was once a bustling center of activity in the 1920s and 30s when residents arrived by streetcar and watched vaudeville shows on Broadway.

They would shop at places like department store May Co. and Woolworth’s. But decades ago, the growth of freeway and suburban shopping malls lured retailers away.

The area has seen a few signs of promise recently. Discounter retail chain Ross Dress for Less will open in the old Woolworth’s store on Broadway in 2013.

But the prospect of Urban Outfitters coming to historic downtown could draw in shoppers – such as those who live in luxury lofts in the area – to visit a stretch of Broadway they now avoid.

Known for its hip clothes and kitschy gifts, Urban Outfitters has opened up in other run-down neighborhoods that are on the cusp of a revitalization.

Urban Outfitters was the first retail shop to open in the Gulch area in Nashville, Tenn.

The area once was an industrial zone on the edges of downtown, known for drug use and prostitution. It has since been transformed into a vibrant hub for restaurants marketed toward young professionals who live in nearby luxury condos.

Opening up a store inside an old theater is also old hat for Urban Outfitters.

The Philadelphia-based retailer has a store inside the old Garden Theatre in Charleston, S.C.

Urban Outfitters did not immediately return a call for comment about possible plans in downtown Los Angeles.