After 95 years in business, Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles is about to get a facelift. Its owner is leading a project that will include re-painting, adding artisan food vendors to 15 empty stalls, and installing new seating and WiFi spots.
Along three aisles, 45 vendors’ stalls sell seafood, nuts and spices, dried beans and fresh produce. Regulars gather to eat breakfast or walk over from their offices for lunch at inexpensive Chinese and Mexican food stands.
Ben Hensley comes downstairs from the Grand Central Square Apartments every morning for a cup of coffee. He says his proximity to the market got him cooking. He’s skeptical of the business-friendly push to “Bring Back Broadway.”
“I’m like, ‘bring it back from where?’ 'Cause it was always there and there’s always been money being exchanged on Broadway,” he says. “The subtext of that is, bring back Broadway, get rid of the Mexicans and put a Banana Republic in and I think it’s kind of erasing the authentic self that’s already here, that already exists."
But Amy Supinger, who visited the market from Sacramento while in town for the Rose Bowl game, says she’d welcome a makeover for Grand Central Market. Right now, she says, the downtown LA landmark lacks the appeal of San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace, a foodie magnet on that city’s waterfront.
“I have to say we were kind of disappointed," she says. "It looks like there a lot of empty stalls and it’s missing a lot of vendors, so I think with some renovations it could be much more Ferry Building but I associate the Ferry Building with much more upscale, perhaps hoity-toity vendors.”
BCV, the same architecture firm behind the Ferry Building’s restoration, expects to turn Grand Central Market into “downtown’s living room” for the people who live there now and those yet to discover the historic core of LA.