For more than 20 years, Grant Woods has run a classic car dealership on Wilshire Boulevard near 11th Street. And he’s enjoyed deepening a decades-long tradition in the space, which has been home to automotive businesses since the 1930s.
But there’s a red light ahead.
The recent sale of the property at Wilshire and 11th means forthcoming changes for the complex, including the likely departure of Cars With Class.
“It’s disappointing,” Woods said. “We don’t want to be closing down or leaving, but we won’t be able to afford the rents they’re going to want to demand.”
Woods was addressing the news that 11th and Wilshire LLC had purchased the approximately 23,500-square-foot retail and residential complex from Paragon Properties for $16 million. Cars With Class is one of several current business tenants.
The transaction, announced earlier this month, was handled by Beverly Hills-based firm Kennedy Wilson. The sale underscores the heightened demand for land in Santa Monica, which has seen ample construction in recent years as developers bank on the desirability of the Westside to locals and tourists alike.
“Given the uptick in the investment market, Santa Monica remains a prime investment area of choice,” Ed Sachse, the executive managing director of brokerage for Kennedy Wilson, said in a press release.
The complex at Wilshire and 11th was built in the 1920s and consists of two lots, including one-story commercial buildings and an adjacent two-story, five-unit apartment structure. All of the business and residential units are currently filled, according to Kennedy Wilson.
“This property is a high-profile corner in one of the most desirable locations in greater Los Angeles, as evidenced by the number of offers that we received,” Sachse said. “This property offers an excellent value-add opportunity which will contribute to the community by bringing this older neighborhood building back to its full potential.”
It’s a potential that will likely be realized without Cars With Class, which Woods has owned for several decades. A former racer who has been in the automotive industry since the early 1970s, Woods originally ran the business in Van Nuys. But he kept his eye on the Wilshire Boulevard location, which became more suitable after a remodel following the Northridge earthquake.
Woods said he is trying to find another property for his business, which currently sits in an approximately 10,000-square-foot space. But he said it probably won’t be in Santa Monica, highlighting the impact of a city zoning code that limits where car dealerships are allowed to operate.
“We will have to vacate,” said Woods, who plans to sell some memorabilia so he has fewer things to move. “But to duplicate what we have is near-impossible. … It’s a shame.”
It’s a sign of the times for Cars With Class and other area businesses. Woods noted the recent closure of nearby J & T European Gourmet Food, a Wilshire Boulevard outpost for polish sausages.
“They’ve been there longer than I have,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of people who miss it. That’s the changing demographic we face.”