Wednesday, January 22

Editorial: Westwood’s lackluster businesses fail to address local needs

Since the 1980s, Westwood Village has been known for its vacancies and lackluster businesses. That fact doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon, and property owners on Glendon Avenue are a big part of the problem.

Glendon Avenue has had little foot traffic compared to some of its sister streets in Westwood. The avenue has six empty storefronts and the Extreme Pizza pizzeria is the most recent business to have vacated the area.

Vacancies are nothing new to Westwood, and the neighborhood’s repetitive business concepts, such as pizza parlors and beauty salons, have a big role to play in that. Revitalizing the Village has been the talk of the town for several years now, but it is imperative that landlords seeking to fill vacancies on their properties – especially those on ailing streets such as Glendon Avenue – focus on bringing businesses that will be successful in Westwood, not just filling empty storefronts.

For several years, Glendon Avenue has been dominated by fast-casual offerings and very few retail options. The Glendon Apartments is one of the only mixed-use developments in the area, but the street offers little beyond that. There’s a beauty salon and some sandwich shops, but there’s plenty of those kinds of stores in the Village. Since last summer, two other fast-casual restaurants have closed on the street, including the Glendon Bar and Kitchen.

And Glendon Avenue isn’t the only victim in the Westwood business sob story.

For instance, the storefront that once housed Jerry’s Famous Deli will soon welcome a Wescom Credit Union and, a couple stores down, a 7-Eleven will occupy the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Weyburn Avenue – a waste of an extremely valuable location.

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It’s evident through these leasing decisions that some property owners aren’t taking into account the better interests of the neighborhood when bringing in vendors. The irony is that the fast-casual, uninteresting businesses that are brought in only perpetuate the vacancies in the Village, thereby hurting property owners and residents alike.

Westwood’s property owners must take the interests, needs and wants of the community into account – and that includes both students and permanent residents who live nearby.

Determining what kinds of businesses are successful in the Village is certainly a non-trivial task, but the Westwood Village Improvement Association already commissioned two recent studies to do just that. A report by a consulting firm recommended property owners add more sit-down restaurants, such as cafes and bars. And a UCLA report found 61 percent of businesses in Westwood Village are fast-food or fast-casual restaurants – nearly 20 percent higher than in nearby Santa Monica.

And there are already several success stories in the Village. Property managers such as Topa Management have proven that there are simple strategies for finding attractive and sustainable businesses, as shown through the introduction of KazuNori and Sweetfin Poke – brands with healthy followings and no nearby locations. These are the kind of businesses that elevate Westwood’s profile and attract customers outside the usual student and office worker demographics.

Revitalizing Westwood is by no means a simple task. However, by curating sustainable and unique businesses, landlords can breathe life into the sleepy neighborhood – not just for Village’s sake, but also for their own.

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