Eastside Property: Buyer focuses on Frank’s Highland Park Camera building

Frank’s Highland Park Camera was once the Kress Department Store

HIGHLAND PARK —  It has been known for decades as the home of Frank’s Highland Park Camera shop. But three-story brick building in the 5700 block of Figueroa Street  was once served as the Highland Park outlet for the discount Kress Department Store. The 1928 building has been on and off the market several times in recent years, but now it looks like it’s poised to finally change hands.

The 15,000-square-foot building recently went into contract after being put up for sale for $3.5 million, according to LoopNet.  Frank’s Highland Park Camera sits in the middle of a hot spot of recent real estate and retail activity, with several new restaurants and shops opening nearby, that has been attracting investors. “The building has kept its original style and architecture and boasts high ceilings throughout the first and second stories,” according to listing.  That original style – at least on the outside- is protected by the neighborhood’s historic district.

The deal could fall through, of course.  But located only a few hundred feet from the Metro Gold Line, Frank’s Highland Park Camera is likely to attract other potential buyers.


  1. If you were ever curious what Samy’s would look like if the apocalypse had happened in 1992, stop by Frank’s before ownership changes. Those high ceilings are the home to a flock of pigeons who enjoy defecating on late 80’s polaroid brochures. These guys would be the perfect candidate for “Hoarders: The Retail Edition”.

  2. I imagine something very chic will go into that space. I’ve heard rumors that Maison Martin Margiela is looking for an eastside location and have turned their nose up at a Silver Lake location no thanks to the pending mega Sunset Junction developments………

  3. I use 2. Live in that area about 3 years ago? I dont know what people see in this place?? Ohh highland park… its so ghetto i guess it cheap for a reason… unless ur an up an coming cholo trying 2 throw ur life away i dont get it…

  4. G-E-N-T-R-I-F-I-C-A-T-I-O-N

    What’s that spell?


    • I agree. $3.5 million? WTF could be installed here worth the loan used to purchase this albatross?

      A boutique hotel with no bar, no live music permits, etc.?

      Condos with no parking?

      Certainly NOT retail. At least not until this street has about 3x the foot traffic.

      At 1/2 the price I could see something reasonable happening in this space. The rents a building owner would have to charge means only one thing: stupid levels of gentrification.

      • Stupid levels of gentrification is what we have in HP right now and it’s great! I would argue that this part of Fig already has plenty of foot traffic, but that doesn’t even matter. If an Intelligentsia moves into this space, or a hot restaurant, it will generate its own traffic. If you build it, they will come. You may not see it, but the people with the money do. In a few years, 3.5 million for this building will seem ridiculously cheap.

        • Yep. Seems pretty busy at the Greyhound and the movie theater!

        • I guess by “stupid levels of gentrification” I mean rents for a building that can only be paid by someone with oodles of money to burn or a chain store. I guess “money to burn” types aren’t all bad, but they skew the entire market for anyone else renting a business and actually needing to make enough on foot traffic to make rent and having huge stockpile of wealth to draw on when a dumb business idea fails miserably to make ends meet.

          The chain stores represent the worst of our modern mercantile system – whereby we are a wealth pump feeding some far-off interest. We get plastic crap, for example, and Wall Street gets pizz-aid.

          The Greyhound and the Highland Theater have put in a lot of thought and work to make their businesses reflect this community. Greyhound is pretty pricey, but they have options that are pretty decent if you’re not in the millionaire class either. I’ve seen a guy who used to live above my shop, and got convicted for felony bike theft (God, I was glad the day they came and got him!) all cleaned up and on a date with a young girl at the Greyhound a few months ago. He looked just as at home as the group of asian college students who were in there and the 50-something white dudes at the bar, and the rest of the mixed bag enjoying themselves.

          Highland Theater packs ’em deep and sells ’em cheap. No complaints here.

          But what would work in Franks Camera besides some overblown vanity business? I am reminded of the (recently opened?) Yoga spot beside the Highland Theater which has been under construction for over a year and is being rented (!!!) during massive renovations taking place. I can’t see how all that wealth being flung into above market rate rents will ever pan out for the proprietor. Every property owner along Fig that is awake is going to see that type of profligate money-making and demand the same out of their tenants. This all but forces people out of business and opens up the market to those with more money than sense or with some nasty capital expropriating habits.

          Incremental rent increases that rationally pair with the markets make sense and are unavoidable – but foot traffic on Figueroa can barely support what we have now. Hooray for new investment, but not stupid overpriced real estate.

  5. Hoping for a Gucci or Fendi to open

  6. It’s a nice-looking property, but I can’t imagine ever purchasing a brick building here in Southern California. Maybe it has already been reinforced, though my non-engineering brain has a hard time understanding how a brick structure can be made earthquake-resistant.

    • The building was built in 1928 and is still standing after 86 years.

    • Agreed. I love old buildings but would never buy or live in brick.

    • Most masonry buildings have been reinforced at this point… this was done largely after the Northridge earthquake. Steel beams are used, and you can tell that it’s been done by looking for those square metal brackets on the brick (usually visible on the upper portion of the front of the building).

      • Those reinforcing plates visible on the exteriors of brick buildings aren’t going to hold it up in a major earthquake. They simply tie the ceiling joists to the exterior (unreinforced) walls. Prior to this type of retrofit, floor joists simply rested, via gravity, in pockets created when the wall is put together.

        These plates will help slow the walls down as they shimmy and peel away, buying their occupants time to get out. But they don’t mean that the building is “safe”.

        As I’ve said, I love old buildings and find brick buildings very evocative. But after the Big One, there will be many fewer brick buildings than there are now. Same is true, by the way, for old concrete buildings and ’50s dingbats.

  7. Maybe Cedillo is purchasing it for “Gil Cedillo’s Cumbia Nightclub & Hall of So Many Amazing Achievements”

  8. Bobby Brown . . . I am so glad you left, hope you are happy where ever you are happy to find your a#@ ! We really don’t need your comments.

  9. Restoration of the historic facade and repurposing of the building would help vitalize a lackluster business district.

    This is how the building looked as a Kress 5-10-15 cent store.

  10. I love this building and look forward to seeing it brought back to life. it is right near the Gold Line which many of us take. Having places to walk to near the Gold Line is very important. Young folks are riding their bikes and walking and having places near the train stops in vital. Read ‘A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” if you want to read a story about a neighborhood’s transition. I was born and raised in LA and have witnessed many changes, both good and bad. it’s called a CITY and it is a living, breathing, ever changing urban place.. I can’t wait to see the transformation to Franks. It will be a success I am sure.

  11. Anything Organic , a 4 dollar cup of coffee , a 12 dollar cocktail , a $1,500 a month 200sq ft single apartment anything of that nature please .
    Anything to make this more like The Westside so i can feel at home.

  12. Neighborhoods change over time, and clearly ‘Gentrification’ will be part of the equation, however we might choose to define it and whether we all like it or not… I would argue that the critical question is, what do we want the current and forthcoming neighborhood evolution to look like, and how can we play a constructive role in influencing the direction of new businesses and development in a way that articulates the best of our neighborhood’s values? Not an easy thing to do.

    The reality is that the Frank’s Camera building has been an icon for years of the decline and lost potential of downtown Highland Park on Figueroa. It’s been sitting there as a massive shuttered storefront with a crumbling exterior. It was inevitable that it’s time would come to be reborn… let’s just hope that it’s next chapter can contribute to the neighborhood in a positive way rather than driving a culture of cheesy trendy commercialism that caters 100% to a new demographic while alienating existing community stakeholders; in other words, avoiding a commodification of Highland Park that cashes in on “what’s cool about Highland Park” while actually degrading what made the area truly cool in the first place.

    Corporate ownership (particularly non-local) is a huge problem right now, as deep pocketed vultures with no meaningful ties to the community throw down lots of cash to acquire places like this based on ‘upside potential’ (i.e. the ability to dramatically increase rents, particularly for commercial spaces which have no rent control). When this happens it ALWAYS means that small local businesses get squeezed out, even the successful ones. This kind of speculative investment destroys DIY spaces and mom and pop style businesses, literally by definition, because the entire model is based on increasing rents to amounts that only larger or more well-financed operations can afford. In my mind, this is the single worst and most damaging potential outcome of the ‘Gentrification’ process.

    SO here’s hoping that the new owner will have some kind of local presence at least, and give somewhat of a crap about neighborhood dynamics… it IS possible to create a successful business that actually serves new and long time residents alike. That’s a huge building (15k square feet plus a 7,500 basement space) in a prominent location, so there’s amazing potential there for the right kind of creative use.

    • Excellent post!

    • Please ignore all my previous posts. Jonathan nailed it.

    • @Jonathan Please give me an example of a business that would cater to the new and old residences, Jonathan. (not being facetious) I am an investor within Echo Park and looking for opportunities in HP.

      • I think Jonathan’s point is that this has less to do with the business type, than it does with the business model or property owner’s interest. So really, it is up to you.

      • The Greyhound
        Elsa’s Bakery
        Donut Friend

        I’ve seen every type of HP resident at these establishments. Granted, they’re all food related, but everyone loves good food that’s affordable. Even Maxiliano’s, which isn’t necessarily cheap, attracts working class people looking for a nice night out. I’ve also seen working class residents perusing the “hipster” art galleries on Second Saturday. Sure, they probably don’t buy, but neither do most of the hipsters. The other kinds of stores we’re seeing a lot of — the high end furniture and design shops — probably don’t cater to all segments, but who said every store has to be for everyone? I think if you open a great food concept in HP that is inventive, delicious, has a cool, authentic vibe and isn’t too expensive (i.e. Donut Friend), you have a good shot of attracting all types of people, from Oxy students, to music producers to working class people.

      • Probably my favorite recent business in Highland Park is Scoops on York; amazing quality ice cream (including non-dairy options), made fresh daily, served by exceptionally nice employees, at very reasonable prices (less than Baskin Robbins). People of all economic and demographic backgrounds go there. They sell out of most flavors most nights, and the owner recently opened a branch in Chinatown, so it appears that he’s making money doing it.

        One newcomer that seems to be succeeding is a couple of doors down on York, Town Pizza. Perfect example of a creative approach to fill a need. They actually took over what was Italiano’s, another pizza place, but brought pizza by the slice and a different aesthetic, and they appear to be doing really well thus far. The pizza is exceptionally good and very reasonably priced, and the clientele has been diverse. They’ll be opening the other side of the space with a full bar and dining room in the next month or so.

        I’m actually optimistic about the new yoga place on Figueroa. The proprietor is a really interesting guy who definitely has an inclusive vision for the place. My impression is that he wants to make it a place that’s friendly to adults and kids of all backgrounds, and makes taking classes accessible by offering low cost or free membership options to those willing to volunteer some time helping out. You’d have to talk to him about those specifics, but I like the sound of that. It’s a large enough space that if he gets enough people coming in he should be able to make good money off of a pro-community model.

        These are all capitalist ventures, in business to make money… But each of these examples involves people taking a creative artisanal approach to their product in a way that favors accessibility over exclusivity, and isn’t limited to those of privilege or selling potential customers on the fad of a ‘hot’ new Highland Park that’s ‘the next Silver Lake or Echo Park..’

  13. Extremely well put, Jonathan. We all hope for community involved businesses that truly are involved and care about the actual community they live in. Rana at La Tropicana at the corner of Monte Vista and Avenue 52 is the poster child for this. She cares deeply about ALL her customers from those on welfare (actually is enrolled in a community based org. that hires welfare recipients) to those who are more affluent. We need more business owners like Rana Redfield.

  14. With the new developments in the news at Maison Martin Margiela (John Galliano being named head designer; WOW!) I can’t decide if it means the rumor of Margiela moving into Frank’s is more likely or less likely to be true.

  15. Hey, whats alll the negative crap about Franks? Yeah, so the store, even in its heyday, was in disarray, but it was a celestial disarray. Wonders would meet your eyes around every corner. I really bemoan the reality that these places are nearly extinct in California as we try for a never attainable modular formica asthetic nirvana, but it is what it is. And whats with the cholo commentary? You lot only persecuted me and my kind as we went on our journey to make the world a better place. And whats with snide and smarmy yipster remarks? May I remind you millennials that you STILL have not produced one writer, filmmaker, artist, intellectual, chef, or poet of note, and are still basically a culture of shopping and dining and wearing ever skinnier pants.
    I hope that whoever bought the building can get their liquor license. I really want this place to succeed.

  16. And lets give a BIG HAND to Marc Maron, who makes his sitcom from this area, although a bit further west in the Yorktown area of HLP. He has done alot to bring more good folks into this unique area.

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