Mini-Mallism — Visiting 2829 Hyperion Avenue

Mini-Mallism

Strip malls (also called mini-malls, pod malls, power centers, retail parks, shopping centers, and shopping plazas) and malls in general are symbols of suburbia that although overabundant are rarely paid much attention. I find them interesting, however, mainly because I’m amused by their often pretentious names and ornamentation which I guess is designed to elevate their meager sense of place. More importantly, they’re also often home to the best restaurants in town. However, as poorly-designed vestiges of a vanishing car-dependent era, even the best strip malls are increasingly faced with either demolition or better yet, adaptation. As the great Ted “Theodore” Logan once said, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” I will investigate these strange things in the series, Mini-Mallism.

*****

At the western corner of the intersection of Hyperion and Rowena avenues in Los Feliz stands a small strip mall which apparently has no name but the address of which is 2829 Hyperion Avenue. It is not a particularly interesting shopping center but it is one of the closest to Pendersleigh, my home. 

In a corner in Los Feliz
In a corner in Los Feliz

2829 Hyperion Avenue was built in 1986 on a lot formerly occupied by a gas station — back then one of four on a two block stretch. On the surface, the demolition of a gas station seems like a move away from car-dependency but its replacement with a standard, parking-lot-in-the-front pod mall was really an anti-pedestrian lateral move and was thus protested at the time by pedestrian advocates.

oct2456griffithpkhyperion1
Detail of arial photo from 24 October 1956, depicting the gas station at the upper right (Source: Welcome to Silver Lake)
Unusual landscaping
Unusual design

A spokesperson for the Canoga Park-based developers attempted to placate the pod’s opponents and told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, “I agree that some centers are just thrown up, but we try not to put in anything distressful to the neighborhood.” They then pointed to the “peaked roof and [seafoam] green trim on exterior walls and railings,” flourishes which they described as “unsual.” As someone who remembers 1986, they were decidedly not unusual and there is no record of the architecture of 2829 Hyperion Avenue receiving either awards or compliments.

IMG_8379 IMG_8384

Directly across from the strip mall is Rowena Reservoir, which shortly after the construction of the strip mall emerged as another aesthetic battleground. The facility began life as the run-of-the-mill Ivanhoe Reservoir No. 2 and was later renamed Wilfred of Ivanhoe‘s wife, Lady Rowena. After algae blooms, midge fly infestations, and bromate contamination, all of Los Angeles’s reservoirs were ordered to be covered. Nearby homeowners again protested, some concerned not with the water’s cancer-causing chemicals (it’s piped, after all, to the neighborhoods west of Downtown and not to Los Feliz) but with a covered reservoir’s unpleasantness to behold. Compromise was achieved with the design and installation of an edenic, park-like garden — but one protected from the park-loving public not by cherubim or flaming swords but by a security fence.

When I moved to neighboring Silver Lake in 1999, convenience, poverty, and the existence of surprisingly few better options conspired to bring me to 2829 Hyperion Avenue’s then-present culinary anchor, Wok Avenue, a restaurant where metal troughs contained food purported to be Chinese in origin. If memory serves (and it might not — as memory-erasing substances also led be to Wok Avenue), other now-gone tenants included Vamp ShoesHigh-Q 30 Mins Photo & Video, and Silverlake Sun, the latter offering those deprived of their bromate a cancerous alternative or the option of actually being painted the desired shade of tangerine.

Some of the tenants from back then are still there: Bonsoir Nails (from whence I received my only professional pedicure) and Catts & Doggs, a pet store. The shopping center is currently also home to Bliss Massage, Cha Acupuncture & Herbs, Optical Solutions, The Village Vet, and a Pinkberry

Tiny strip-mall graveyard
Tiny strip-mall graveyard

The Pinkberry arrived on a tangy wave of hype during the great FroYo craze of the mid-2000s, replacing Wok Avenue, which joined Cams, Pulsar Communications Center, and Zitko Machine Services in the shopping center’s graveyard. When Pinkberry arrived, shocking numbers of food trendies formed long lines that snaked down the wheelchair ramp — something which never happened at Wok Avenue. Nowadays, although still popular, the wait for that chain’s particular brand of not-exactly-yogurt is not nearly so long.

There are signs of  pedestrians returning to the corner, or at least aspiring actor Rik Martino, a longtime fixture of East Hollywood and the Mideast Side who is known for posting signs around town admonishing motorists to slow down for the sake of squirrels and who tosses off handfuls of birdseed — acts which have earned him the nicknames of both “Squirrel Guy” and “The Birdman of Silver Lake” as well as the adoration of flock of feral pigeons, two of whom alit from the shopping center’s green-trimmed, white cinderblock wall as I approached.

2829 Hyperion Avenue at Night
2829 Hyperion Avenue at Night
*****
Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, or listicles and jobs must pay more than slave wages as he would rather write for pleasure than for peanuts. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

7 thoughts on “Mini-Mallism — Visiting 2829 Hyperion Avenue

      1. I used to go to the Hub Market in 1987 all the time it had the best Turkey Sandwiches from their Deli

        Like

  1. I am apt manager at 3116 Rowena next door to this ugly mall. The original landlady (1968-2008) told me a funny story about sleeping with the contractor just so our driveway would be a foot wider. Yes she was a wild lady even up to her passing at age 82. Our driveway when the gas station was here was much wider now we have an ugly concrete wall.

    Like

    1. That’s great! I don’t suppose you have any pictures of the gas station that I might use for the piece, do you? They’re not the sort of thing people typically photograph… but I have to ask!

      Like

      1. If you google Hyperion Avenue 1956 there is an aerial photo of this intersection at Rowena that shows the gas station.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s