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1970s Gay WeHo Hangout Could Be Razed For New Development
We had to bid adieu to West Hollywood's long-standing French Market Place over the summer, and now saying goodbye is getting more real because there are plans to bulldoze the property and replace it with a hip, mixed-use development.
WEHOville reports that Faring Capital, which bought the French Market Place property at 7965 Santa Monica Blvd. as well as the adjacent building that housed the now-shuttered Voyeur and DBA nightclubs, will be announcing its plans for the land use in a West Hollywood public meeting on Jan. 13. And those plans include razing the French Market Place, which has been around since 1974, but keeping the building that housed the nightclubs. According to WEHOville:
The building and the parking lot on its east side will be replaced by a four-story building with three levels of subterranean parking. That building will include 50,000 square feet of office space, 8,600 square feet of restaurant space, 4,400 square feet devoted to shops and a 3,200 square foot space for a bar or nightclub.
Developer Jason Illoulian told WEHOville he wants the design to be similar to the hip restaurants and bars of the Eastside.
The French Market Place, with its unique mix of Art Deco-style and purple-and-white-striped awnings outside, was a fixture in West Hollywood history and in the gay community. The space was occupied by different shops, but the one that stood out the most was the New Orleans-style French Quarter restaurant where you could grab brunch or dinner with some buddies. In the spring, the shops moved out with talks of a temporary move for renovations. However, at that time Eater LA heard that shop owners had been telling customers that the "renovation ruse was little more than a bit of shade to cover the move towards new permitting that will transform the site into a series of upscale condos, or even a hotel." In July, the French Quarter restaurant closed.
Rick Castro of Antebellum Gallery, a fetish art gallery, wrote in a blog post in March the closing of the French Market Place was "the end of gay." He added, "i have been coming to french market since 1976! it was always the gayest place on earth. BABY JAYNE OF HOLLYWOOD within the french market place is also closing as are all the shops in this cutie/kitshy little mall.. "she" will be missed. [sic]"
Back in the '70s, the French Market Place was the meeting place for the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), which according to the L.A. Times, was the "first political action committee financed by gays and lesbians." Diana Abbitt told Frontiers Media that she remembered MECLA had an office upstairs in the space. Gay media outlets and LGBT organizations had offices there as well.
According to Frontiers:
The French Market was also the jumping off or come-back point for lots of LGBT political events and a refuge for those needing a break from AIDS protests. And when Rob Roberts went on his hunger strike on the grassy triangle nearby to urge Gov. Pete Wilson to sign the gay civil rights bill, AB 101—those of us who joined him in a fast-for-the-day went to the French Market where we broke bread with a sense of significance.