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Behind The Music: How Amoeba Music Found A New Home At Hollywood's El Centro

When stay-at-home orders shuttered nonessential businesses across Los Angeles in March 2020, Amoeba Music closed the doors of its Sunset Boulevard home of two decades. On April 1, the storied music business will reopen its doors in a new location on Hollywood Boulevard.

The new space, announced in February 2020, was the culmination of a year-and-a-half-long search for the music store to find a new home. The search took Amoeba all over the city but it ended in Hollywood, about four blocks from its former home, in 20K SF on the ground floor of DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners’ El Centro complex. It is slightly smaller than its previous 24K SF Sunset Boulevard location but ticked off the boxes of the music store's wish list.

Amoeba was such an essential part of the neighborhood and keeping it in the neighborhood seemed vital, according to Scott Blakeslee, DLJ Real Estate vice president, real estate operations Los Angeles.

“We couldn’t imagine a Hollywood without Amoeba,” Blakeslee said. "So it became a question of, 'What do we need to do to get Amoeba into El Centro?'”

Amoeba's corner space at El Centro, seen prior to installation of the store's signage.

Amoeba had been actively looking for space for a year and a half before it finalized the deal with El Centro, the music store chain's co-founder, Jim Henderson, told Bisnow in an email. Amoeba looked at spaces all over the city, from the Westside to Downtown, but “that was more out of due diligence,” Henderson wrote. “We always knew Hollywood is where we wanted to stay.”

At the top of the company’s new-space wish list was to remain in the same general neighborhood — ”the heart of Hollywood” — and in a location that made walking to the store attractive. The store’s new space at 6200 Hollywood Blvd. takes up a prominent corner spot at Argyle Avenue, just across the street from the entrance to the Hollywood/Vine Metro subway station, the Pantages Theatre, the Fonda Theater, and restaurants and bars.

“With the unique character of Amoeba, having a space that was a blank canvas and the ability to build it out to our needs ended up being a great advantage as well,” Henderson added.

Wherever it went in Hollywood, Amoeba would likely be the biggest name tenant, but at El Centro, Amoeba will get some priority signage. The lease agreement includes letting the store take over El Centro’s neon and blade sign. Amoeba is just waiting for the city to sign off on its signage.

Including Amoeba, the retail space at El Centro is roughly 50% leased to date, Blakeslee said. With Amoeba in place, DLJ is focusing on the complex’s other corner, at Hollywood and El Centro. It is looking at a bar or pub-type tenant to fill it and would like, ideally, to find another existing Hollywood business that wants to expand into the space. 

Amoeba has known for at least five years that it was eventually going to have to move. The music store sold its Sunset Boulevard building to GPI Cos. in 2015 for $34M, later saying that the sale was made to keep the company “from going in the direction of so many other physical retailers.” In 2016, GPI Cos. filed plans with the city to raze the record store building and replace it with a 26-story residential and retail tower. 

At El Centro, Amoeba has an eight-year lease with options to extend. The lease terms were possible because of the partnership that DLJ has with Amoeba, Blakeslee said. “With everything they put into the space, they’re in it for the long haul, just like we are.”