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L.A.'s Famous Langer's Deli Building May Feed Downtown Development Demand

Award-Winning Pastrami Shop Located in Redevelopment Area
September 10, 2018
The building where Langer's Deli has operated since the 1940s just west of downtown Los Angeles is up for sale, another sign of post-recession development changing the nation's second-largest city.

The building where Los Angeles' famous Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant has operated for decades is up for sale – and it may signal an eventual end for the beloved award-winning restaurant, at least in this location, as developers' appetite for aging sites means the property could be transformed.

The deli, most well-known for its No. 19 pastrami sandwich hailed by locals and celebrities, has operated in the 12,000-square-foot building at Alvarado and Seventh Streets at the corner of MacArthur Park near downtown Los Angeles since 1947. It marks the further transformation of the second-largest U.S. city amid post-recession development.

The aging building where Langer's operates is one of a longer stretch of properties along Seventh Street owned by the Alle family and put up for sale in the past month, according to John Alle, the agent listing the property and a representative of the family trust. The Los Angeles Times first reported the listing.

Alle said all the buildings are aging and will require “significant capital [...] over the coming years to upgrade the structures.”

He added in an email that, “My clients are not developers, and their preference is to exchange the property into a net-leased investment.”

Langer's Deli was founded by Al Langer, a New Jersey native who spent his formative years working at New York delis, perfecting his hand-slicing pastrami skills. His family relocated to Los Angeles in the 1930s.

In 1947, he opened the deli with only 12 seats. A few years later, he expanded the deli to its current size of 135 seats. Today, it is among the most popular spots to get a pastrami sandwich in the city. Al passed away in 2007. His son, Norm, operates the restaurant today.

Langer's received a James Beard Foundation award in 2001 for its quality food and role in Los Angeles history. The late writer Nora Ephron once wrote Langer's has "the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world."

Just west of downtown Los Angeles, the Westlake neighborhood was a largely thriving Jewish neighborhood when Langer's moved in. As years went by, long-time residents and businesses moved out and the neighborhood fell into disrepair.

Now, the area is a target for gentrification and redevelopment. Multifamily developments and renovations are replacing older properties and hip bars and restaurants are popping up on neighborhood streets as spillover demand from downtown Los Angeles and hipster enclaves such as Silverlake and Echo Park pours in.

Alle notes that his properties are being marketed as a site that could be redeveloped into apartments with shops on the ground floor. They would benefit from their proximity to the popular Wilshire-Alvarado Metro subway stop a block away, he notes.

Even while they explore the options for their real estate, Alle said his clients consider themselves friends of Langer’s.

We "are and always have been 'on the same team,’” he wrote. “Together our two families have seen Langer's and the MacArthur Park and Westlake areas pull through during good and bad economic times.”

Norm Langer echoed that sentiment, calling the Alle family "great friends" and the "epitome of class."

But he said he doesn’t plan on closing his restaurant any time soon.

“I’m not planning on going anywhere," he said. "If the building is sold – and I said if – I will negotiate with the new owners. Anybody who is going to purchase it is going to want income, and they are going to want me to pay rent."

Even if a new owner plans to redevelop the property, it could take years to receive proper city approvals and get underway on construction, giving Langer's an extended timeline to operate in its current digs, he added.

But he's not so committed to the location he wouldn't move under certain circumstances.

"If they want to double my rent, it's bye bye," said Langer.

Whatever happens, Langer said he has been sleeping fine at night after learning the news of the building's listing, confident it's not the end of his family's restaurant.

"Maybe it's the beginning, who knows?" he said. "One never knows what tomorrow brings."

Jacquelyn Ryan, Los Angeles Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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