Struggling Main Street | KCET
Struggling Main Street
The rise of large indoor retail malls throughout the country had a drastic effect on shopping habits in Los Angeles. With their automobiles, residents could drive a few miles out of the city's center and buy everything they needed under one roof. A convenience compared to the hustle around multiple neighborhood shops.
The popularity of large shopping malls in Eagle Rock, Glendale, and Pasadena lured many Highland Park residents away from its declining shopping district. Many store owners, seemingly oblivious to the changing demographics of the neighborhood, began losing their business as they failed to adapt to the different needs of the newly arrived, mainly Hispanic residents. When Ivers Department Store on Figueroa Street, considered Highland Park's "Main Street," closed in 1984 after 71 years in business, it was inevitable. They carried higher-end items that depended on older customers with disposable income, notwithstanding the lower incomes of the majority of the residents. Media eager to report on the area as dangerous and gang-inflicted did not help matters.
Many small shops adjacent to Ivers depended on the foot traffic generated by the multi-level department store, and as a result of its closing, much of the Figueroa business district went into decline. Store owners, many of them elderly and from a previous generation, were simply trying to hold on to what they had, with no desire or vision for improvement. However, many never lost sight of the potential and the former glory of "The Avenue," which they called the area even after Pasadena Avenue had been changed to Figueroa Street. Before the closing of Ivers, plans for revitalization were in talks amongst city officials, such as naming the area Paseo Figueroa, but they never materialized. Local business owners formed the Highland Park Improvement Association with the help of federal funds, but resulted in no major improvements.
Some business owners anxiously waited the "rebirth" of the neighborhood. Stanley Ward of Good Housekeeping Furniture mused optimistically in a Los Angeles Times article, "This used to be the Beverly Hills of Los Angeles. It can come back with help." The new owners of the empty Ivers store bulldozed the iconic building and built a faceless strip mall in its place, replacing the street-facing storefront with a parking lot and cutting off the flow of pedestrians, killing the foot traffic of it's neighboring businesses.