September 26, 2002 - From the September, 2002 issue

TPR Readers Reflect On The Memorable Lagacy Of Downtown Visionary Ira Yellin

The contributions Ira Yellin made to the revitalization of Los Angeles are substantial. He is most often associated with his restoration of the Grand Central market and the Bradbury Building, but there was much more. His passing is an immeasurable loss for Los Angeles and the many whom Yellin inspired. TPR presents first an abridged version of the eulogy given for Ira by Brenda Levin, followed by a sample of TPR readers' reflections on Ira Yellin's legacy.

Ira Yellin

Ira Yellin, was, among other rare talents, a BUILDER a builder of family and meaningful friendships, an uncommon builder of community and community institutions, An enlightened and respected city builder in the city he loved Los Angeles.

Each developer, in my experience, finds his own path, but only a few realize that the uncharted path, the path most often ignored, can become the most meaningful and symbolic. Ira chose the uncharted path. He was passionately committed to his vision and the realization of a revitalized historic urban core, believing that heterogeneous Los Angeles could be reborn and reinvented only by rediscovering and recreating the soul of its city center.

Ira loved cities and he loved the people who made the city's mosaic complex and vibrant. Ira rejected suburban isolation, reminding us that the richness of our lives is in the interdependence and connections with one another and that what might look for most like a path to be rejected is often the most rewarding.

Our relationship began in 1985 when Ira was looking for an architect. He had just left the Hapsmith Company to form the Yellin Company, his own real estate investment and development firm. His passion for architecture, urban streets, history and people converged in his recent acquisition of the Grand Central Market. From our first meeting, I realized that I had met a most uncommon developer. Although trained as a lawyer, he had the aesthetic of an architect, the vision of a city builder and the passion of an artist.

I watched him and learned from him as he shared his vision with everyone from political and civic leaders to the individual stall owners at Grand Central Market. There was no apparent distinction between the way he treated people. His soft voice, penetrating eyes, articulate words, passionate optimism was contagious. He was a leader and a listener.

Our ten year collaboration focused on a half square block, bounded by Hill, Third and Broadway known as Grand Central Square. On one of our first visits to the market Ira shared his belief that the market would become a bridge between the downtown of Bunker Hill's gleaming hi rises and the historic core of the city. Ira was a big picture person.

But there were many challenges . 58 individual business owners of varying ethnic backgrounds and native tongues; code enforcement for a building type with no precedent; inconsistent regulations, varying interpretations, where delay was the norm and catch 22 the standard. Ira's patience was constantly put to the test changes to the market were subtle and happened over a long period of time and Ira was a big picture person.

But for those of you, who were fortunate enough to work with Ira, know that no detail was too small or mundane for Ira to consider, and consider, and consider. In fact it was legendary. How many meetings did we sit though to compulse about paint colors, signage, countertops, floor tile, ceiling fans and light fixtures Mies Van der Rohe had met his match . God and Ira were in the details.

If the Grand Central market reflected Ira's spirit undaunting, persistent and eternally optimistic, then the elegance of the Bradbury Building embodied his incredible refined eye. It's restoration along with the conversion of the Million Dollar and Homer Laughlin buildings into apartments, and the addition of a 12-story garage completed the Grand Central Square complex. Ira had stitched together a patchwork quilt in which every piece of the project supported and enhanced the other. Much like Ira, it is both urban and urbane; a catalyst and a cornerstone; popular and prestigious.


He has touched much more of our great city. His guiding hand is present in the restoration of City Hall through Project Restore, in APLA, and in the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels.

Ira, the builder, surely leaves a legacy of projects and relationships his passing can NEVER take from us. The Yellin Company and Urban Partners remain as means to fulfill his desire to positively and humanely impact the present and future form of Los Angeles.

Ira was-if descriptors are ever adequate - smart, charismatic, controlling, inquisitive, wise, optimistic, generous, demanding, humble, collaborative, compulsive, respected, empathetic, sensitive, insightful, tireless, inspiring, loyal, creative, honest, a visionary, a democrat, a feminist, a dreamer, a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend, a colleague, a partner.

But he was also A BUILDER and I and we were truly blessed to have him be a part of our lives.

I will miss him without measure.

-Brenda Levin

Levin & Associates


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