After two years of construction, the retail and dining district to replace the Sportsmen’s Lodge event center is set to open later this month. The $100 million project, called the Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge, brings 94,000 square feet of walkable retail, dining, fitness and communal space to the grounds at the corner of Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.
“The first tenancies will open their doors late September, early October, and then there’ll be waves of openings as we move through the remainder of the year and into the first quarter of 2022,” Ron Bondy, executive vice president of Midwood Investment & Development, the New York company which owns the property, said. “Erehwon is going to be the major anchor and traffic driver into the project and we’re very excited about their opening. We’ve really focused on dining, health and wellness, and soft goods as our three pillars for leases.”
In addition to the luxury grocer, tenants in the pedestrian-accessible center will include a gym from Equinox Group, a Mydetox physical therapy office, Salt Optics eyeglass store and a Next Health wellness center offering services such as cryotherapy and vitamin drip IVs. Dining options will feature upscale concepts, such as Tocaya Modern Mexican as well as Uovo, Hi-Ho Cheeseburger and Sugarfish restaurants, created by partners Jerry Greenberg and Carlo and Lele Massimini.
Individual shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge will hold formal grand-opening events with dates to be announced later this year.
Bondy said that “91 percent of the project has signed leases. And then we have another 6 percent of the project that has leases that are in process that we expect to get signed very shortly. … So really, over 97 percent of the project is committed. We have one space that is currently uncommitted in the project.”
Sportsmen’s Lodge was founded in the late 1930s as a roadside trout fishing attraction and evolved over time into a social event center popular for weddings, bar mitzvahs and business functions. The redevelopment of the property has been in process, in some form, for years. Developer Weintraub Real Estate Group, which owned the events center until 2017, initially planned to turn the property into a shopping center called Sportsmen’s Landing. Plans were approved by the South Valley Area Planning Commission in 2015, though they never moved forward due to legal disputes between Weintraub and Midwood, which owned land under the hotel. The issue was resolved two years later when Midwood purchased the entire property. Weintraub remained as a partner as Midwood proceeded with its plans for The Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge.
“This has been a project that we’ve been working with the property owner on, in one respect or another, for the entire 11 years that I’ve been with the council,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian said. “And the current iteration that includes almost 100,000 square feet of retail development, including the gym, restaurants, other community serving retailers, has been in the works for about five years or so now. And we’re really pleased that it’s now coming to fruition, with extraordinary tenants that are really going to make a difference for the surrounding community.”
The retail development’s landscaping designs were approved by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission in November 2018 after several years of roadblocks. Given stipulations that the developers must retain the rustic, natural look and feel of the old Sportsmen’s Lodge campus, the new design features redwood trees, ponds and a path to the Los Angeles River.
“The redevelopment is not only about the retail space, it’s about the history of the location. It originally began as a fishing village in the 1880s, then it evolved into a gathering place. So the property really became integral to the social fabric of the Valley,” John Usdan, chief executive of Midwood, said. “Our goal was to re-invent that space, because the property was old, and really at the end of its useful life. Now if you walk the space, you’ll immediately understand the sense of place that we’ve created and that it’s a new old gathering place for the Valley. It has far more resources than what predated that, in terms of the types of tenants and activities that will go on there. So that was really our goal, and we hope that the community will first understand it, then embrace it and utilize it.”
Usdan said this project is just the first phase of two major projects he plans to complete on the Sportsmen’s Lodge property. Midwood has submitted plans to begin redevelopment on the hotel side of the property, which includes plans to create a new event center to replace the one that was leveled by the retail project, though the plans have not yet been approved
“The phase two program is to include approximately 520 apartments, of which 15 percent will be affordable, and additional parking to serve the residential and existing retail space,” Usdan explained. “It will also consist of approximately 37,000 square feet of additional retail space, which includes an event center that will be situated at the northern end, closer to the river, and will also create significant river access to the property by the community.”
According to Krekorian, while there is a need for more housing, it’s too soon to indicate whether the plans for further development of the property would lead to apartments or condos, or anything other than a refurbished hotel.
“It’s way premature to start passing any judgment on what might be proposed for the hotel site. This part of the property that was the banquet center clearly was not sustainable and wasn’t maintaining a level of activity that really justified continuing as it was,” Krekorian said. “It became clear to the whole community that this kind of an investment in redeveloping that part of the property would be kind of a resurgence of the property.”