There is not much left of the Silver Lake Launderland in Sunset Junction. The rows of washers and dryers have been ripped out, leaving a vast and empty room looking out on Sunset Boulevard. Launderland closed after it became clear that a self-serve laundry could not afford the higher rents – $3 -$5 a-square-foot – now being demanded for a storefront with parking in the middle of a gentrified neighborhood, said landlord David Cohen. So, what’s going to go in the space?
Cohen said he has turned down offers from strip club operators, 7-Eleven and other corporate chains to lease the former laundry space. One person proposed a high-end pet center. The other half of the Art Deco-style building remains occupied by a gay bar, Le Barcito, painted a hard-to-miss shade of purple. The entire building, built in 1939 to house a Safeway market, was declared a city landmark last year because it was the scene of one of the nation’s first major gay rights demonstrations, a 1967 protest against police harassment of patrons at the Black Cat, a gay bar that preceded Le Barcito. A laundry has operated in the other half of the building since about the 1960s, according to the research conducted for the landmark nomination.
Cohen said that many of the nearby apartments, homes and new condos have been renovated to include their own washer/dryers. As a result, there are far fewer customers who need to drag bags of dirty laundry past a noisy bus stop or smokers hanging outside Le Barcito. Cohen said it will be next year before he is ready to select a tenant and lease the building. He thinks the space would be ideal for a high-end grocery.
“The economics have changed,” said Cohen, who has owned the building for about five years. “Silver Lake has changed.”