Real Estate Expert Robert Cohen: Beverly Hills is Back

Over a pot of chamomile tea at The Little Door in West Hollywood, real estate broker Robert Cohen—the man responsible for bringing Topshop to the Grove—convinced us Beverly Hills is back in fashion

What’s the hottest area of L.A. for a brand or business to get into right now?
Beverly Hills.

Sorry, could you repeat that? It sounded like you said Beverly Hills.
Yes. Beverly Hills. If you live anywhere—in the U.S., Europe, Asia—everybody knows Rodeo Drive. It’s one of the great streets of the world. It’s got the celebrity factor, it’s got the luxury factor—it’s quintessential L.A.

Beverly Hills has always been an important market for Los Angeles, but isn’t it more of a tourist shopping destination than hot neighborhood right now?
That’s what people think. But look at Beverly Hills. Yes, you’ve got hotels and you’ve got restaurants, but you’ve also got a local daytime population and a great residential population. Those streets are full of people, wealthy people. And everything is cyclical; it doesn’t matter what city you are in. Beverly Hills cycled out as Robertson became en vogue and then Melrose Place became popular over the last ten years. Now it’s cycling back in.

Doesn’t the demographic of Beverly Hills skew too, well, old to be hip?
Not at all, because that older customer has kids. There is arguably a younger customer in West Hollywood who is getting married and staying in the area, and Beverly Hills is a more sophisticated place to shop. It’s accessible, it’s pedestrian friendly, it’s a safe, controlled environment… All those factors come into play.

How can Beverly Hills beat its stuffy reputation?
Rodeo Drive will always maintain it’s reputation for luxury, but the bigger story is what’s happening on Beverly Drive right now. Historically it has filled with your hum-drum moderately priced national chains, businesses that have been there forever—your Gaps, your Pottery Barns, your William Sonomas. Those brands felt they had to be in Beverly Hills because there’s a void between Century City and the Grove or the Beverly Center, and it’s too big a market not to be in. But Beverly Hills has never performed to expectations for them. Now a younger contemporary business model is coming in. Intermix is a great example. They were on Robertson Blvd. and they just opened on Beverly. Scoop’s second store is on Beverly. Alice and Olivia is opening. All Saints is opening. Other brands from Robertson Blvd. are either leaving Robertson or expanding to explore the new market.

Forbes just named Silver Lake America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhood. Are you saying the cool factor is already headed back west?
Silver Lake is very cool. We just sold a building near the triangle that we’re really excited about. But the issue with Silver Lake—and this isn’t a knock on it, because it’s super cool—is there’s a collusion that takes place with the landlords. They purposely want to keep the national chains and even contemporary brands out. We saw that with Abbot Kinney until a few busted through and now it’s like the flood gates have opened. We’re also starting to see that in Malibu, where they want to have a new law to keep chains out. Silver Lake has never embraced retail. it’s always been very mom-and-pop, and that’s what going to keep Silver Lake cool. Beverly Hills isn’t cool like that, but it’s a different animal. A brand interested in one of those markets should never be in the other.