The Pico/Rimpau area of Mid-City, Los Angeles, at the junction of Pico Boulevard, Rimpau Street, West Boulevard, San Vicente Boulevard and Venice Boulevard is location of key former and current transportation and retail hubs. Retails hubs included the innovative landmark Sears Pico store, and today's Midtown Crossing and Midtown Shopping Center. In public transit, Pico/Rimpau is a major bus station, while Rimpau Loop and Vineyard Junction are landmarks from the city's electric railway history.
Sears Pico site
Sears Pico (1939)
Sears-Pico was a Sears branch that opened here on October 19, 1939. The designer was John Raben, who assisted Jock Peters in the design of Bullocks Wilshire. It was 202,640 square feet (18,826 m2) of retail space over two floors plus a basement, the largest Sears store on the West Coast at the time. Pico and Rimpau was not a major shopping district, but Sears had been having success since 1925 doing things differently from other retail chains, which placed their stores in downtown shopping districts, by instead opening freestanding stores in working-to-middle-class suburban areas of major U.S. cities, designed for access primarily by car, although in the case of the Pico store, there was easy access by transit.
Sears-Pico claimed one of the largest street display windows in the city at the time, at 18 by 40 feet. It had parking for 360 cars, including an 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) rooftop parking deck, from which customers parking there would descend via escalator into the store. From the roof parking lot, the store entrance was not utilitarian but in the style of a main entrance. All of this was novel and futuristic at the time. The Los Angeles Times noted that at the time, "people would come from miles around to see the rooftop parking deck".
Other features considered progressive at the time were streamlined escalators, "windowless construction" (no windows to the outside from the selling floor), and air conditioning. Moreover, the floor plan was open instead of divided into sections, and the entire syncretic architectural design of the store was based around the needs of the selling floor. Sears boasted that "a rival merchandising executive offered tribute: 'in my long experience in the retail field, I have yet to witness a unit which equals Sears' Pico store in practical efficiency, merchandise engineering, operation, layout and presentation of merchandise'".
By the 1990s, the Pico/Rimpau area was surrounded by mostly working-class residents: Central American and Korean immigrants, and African Americans. The lack of middle-class shoppers who patronized the Miracle Mile shopping district (earlier on), and nearby malls such as Crenshaw Center (1947), Fox Hills Mall (1975), and Beverly Center (1982), led to decades of declining sales. The area suffered damage from the 1965 Watts riots and further with the 1992 Rodney King riots. In 1988, Sears built a store in the newly renovated and expanded Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, formerly Crenshaw Center. By the mid-1990s, Sears had sold the store. The first floor was occupied by a discount hardware store and the second by a bazaar of independent vendors, in California known as an indoor swap meet. The building was demolished around 2003 and Midtown Crossing was built on the site.
Midtown Crossing today
Midtown Crossing has 330,000 square feet (31,000 m2) of retail space on 11 acres (4.5 ha) and opened in 2012 on the former Sears/Builder's Emporium site and part of the Rimpau Loop site. Lowe's, Smart & Final Extra!, Petsmart and Ross Dress for Less are the main big-box anchors. The center was the result of a 2010 plan in which the city provided $34 million worth of loans and subsidies for its construction.
Midtown Shopping Center
Midtown Shopping Center was a neighborhood shopping center adjacent to the large Sears store to its east.
It opened in 1960 with 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) of retail space, originally anchored by Thrifty Drug Stores, J. J. Newberry five and dime, and a Safeway supermarket. Much of it was destroyed in the 1992 riots. A Zodys discount store opened in 1980.
Streetcar and bus hubs
The Rimpau Loop, opened in 1935, was a bus-to-streetcar transfer station and terminal of the Los Angeles Railway ("Yellow Cars") "P" Pico Blvd. streetcar line, which terminated and turned around here. From here, Santa Monica city buses ran to Downtown Santa Monica, and to this day, Pico and Rimpau is the terminus for several Santa Monica Transit lines.
Vineyard Junction: Pacific Electric "Red Car" lines converged here. The lines ran from Downtown Los Angeles south to Venice Boulevard, then West along Venice to Vineyard Junction. From here they went along Venice Blvd. to Venice and Redondo Beach; while others went along San Vicente Blvd. northwest toward what is now West Hollywood as well as via Beverly Hills to Santa Monica. It was the site of an accident on July 13, 1913, in which two wooden streetcars crashed into each other, with 14 people dead and 200 people injured. As a result, the Pacific Electric ordered its future cars to be made of steel, and it was recommended that signaling be introduced on the PE's lines.
- "Advertisement for Sears-Pico". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1939.
- "Sears' Own Designers Created New Pico Store". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1939.
- Bloomekatz, Ari (September 12, 2007). "Mid-City getting a boost". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
- Longstreth, Richard. Sears, Roebuck and the Remaking of the American Department Store. George Washington University.
- Kaatz, Donald (September 27, 1987). "Sears Strikes Back: Inside the Retail Giant's Struggle to Regain Its Position--and Profits--in the Los Angeles Market It Once Dominated Completely".
- "Sears-Pico Store to Open Today". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1939.
- Caldwell, John T. (2003). New Media Theories and Practices of Digitextuality. p. 65.
- "Sears History - 1940s to 1970s", Sears Archives
- "Mid-City L.A. Shopping Center Completes Construction: Developer CIM Group has completed construction of the 330,000-square-foot Midtown Crossing retail center in Mid-City Los Angeles, which targets the more than 1.3 million residents within a five-mile radius". Commercial Property. March 6, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
- "Advertisement for Midtown Shopping Center". Los Angeles Times. July 14, 1960. p. 90.
- Vincent, Roger (May 2, 2013). "Midtown Shopping Center to see improvements after land sale". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
- "Zodys set to open". Los Angeles Times. October 12, 1980.
- "Beach Trip To Be Safer: Construction of Pico-Rimpau Bus-Car Transfer Depot Will Start Today". Los Angeles. March 20, 1935.
- "LARY: Rimpau Look / PE: Vineyard Junction, 1938", PERYHS site
- "Metro Opens Sleek New Bus Terminal Today at Pico/Rimpau". Los Angeles Metro. January 11, 2006. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
- "100 Years Ago Today: The Tragic Accident That Changed Los Angeles Streetcars Forever". Metro Digital Resources Librarian, Los Angeles Metro. July 13, 2003. Retrieved June 18, 2020.