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New renderings unveiled for massive redevelopment of Boyle Heights Sears complex

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The mixed-user will have it all, from a food hall to offices to 1,030 live-work units

The exterior of the Boyle Heights Sears. The facade is tan and the word: Sears is on two different signs on top of the building.
The upper part of the historic Sears tower would be converted to penthouses under developer Izek Shomof’s plan.
Renderings courtesy of The Shomof Group

The iconic Sears building in Boyle Heights is poised for an ambitious overhaul, and the developer and architect are unloading a new batch of renderings to show what’s in store for the 13-acre site.

Developer Izek Shomof wants to transform the historic Art Deco tower and the vacant 10-story distribution center that’s attached to it into a lively mixed-use campus with a food hall, offices, event space, rooftop restaurant, and more than 1,000 live-work units.

The sprawling Sears structure encompasses an entire city block on Olympic Boulevard, and the new renderings show that architecture firm Omgivning plans to carve nine “light courts” into the former distribution center to flood the spaces with air and sunshine. Throughout, there will be an abundance of windows, plus concrete and exposed ducting for a distinctly industrial vibe (it matches the designs of what’s being built in the nearby Arts District.)

Shomof is dubbing the project the Mail Order District in honor of the building’s history. It was one of nine distribution centers that Sears erected from 1910 to 1929 to fulfill catalog orders, and it once employed more than 1,000 workers.

An aerial view of the 13-acre site, showing the LA River and the Downtown skyline in the background.

The Los Angeles Times says employees used to roller skate around the “200,000-square-foot floors picking up items and dropping them onto corkscrew slides for distribution by truck or rail.”

A “light court.”

The mail order operation shut down in 1992, but the Sears retail store is still running on the tower’s ground-floor. Post-redevelopment, the story will remain in business on the first-floor but be joined by the food market, exhibition spaces, and restaurants and bars.

Penthouses will be added to the top of the tower, and the 12th floor rooftop of the former distribution center will become a restaurant with a pool and outdoor patio. The 11th floor rooftop will be devoted to amenities for residents, including a separate pool and spa, plus basketball and volleyball courts and a gym.

Surrounding the building will be outdoor dining, a park, and old rail cars that will house boutiques and an “artisanal” cafe.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the complex is located next to the LA River, Metrolink lines, freeways, and residential neighborhoods, and the Urban Land Institute has called it an “an incredible opportunity for ‘place making’—a potential hub of vibrant community activity needed and desired in East Los Angeles.”

Top left: Outdoor dining. Top right: The food hall. Bottom: Repurposed rail cars.

Top left: An office. Top right: A residential unit. Bottom: A rooftop pool.

According to the project website, Shomof also plans to build a new mixed-user on Soto Street with 62,120 square feet for ground-level retail, “extensive parking,” and 540 housing units. He plans to build even more in a second phase of development, including, possibly a 120-room hotel.

The front of the Sears building with its iconic illuminated sign.