It’s been an entire century since the Metropolitan Theatre opened in Hermosa Beach — and now, it will be home a business geared toward the modern age.
Movies haven’t screened there since the building’s stint as the Bijou Theatre in the 1980s. But over the decades, the stately building, which first opened on Hermosa Avenue in 1923, has been home to a number of businesses, from an art gallery to Chase Bank.
The building, with the ornate terracotta front is one of three designated as a city landmark. The others are the Hermosa Beach Community Center and a Craftsman bungalow built in 1913 on Monterey Boulevard, which recently received the historic designation.
Now, the newest resident to take up space in the historic building is Local Collaborative, a co-working business that recently celebrated its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Jason Muller, founder and CEO of Beach City Capital, which is also based in Hermosa, said he signed a 20-year lease to open Local Collaborative at the property just before the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s ready at last.
“The idea is to have a place where we can be like an incubator of entrepreneurs,” Muller said at last week’s ribbon cutting, “where we can help bolster creativity, where people can come and not worry about a five or 10-year lease and focus on their companies.”
Local Collaborative offers desks in private offices rented on a monthly basis. Amenities include 24/7 access, a mailing address, printing services and storage, according to its website.
Beginning in 2015, Muller was renting space from another office space sharing company while he built Beach City Capital. He started out in Manhattan Beach with one dedicated desk — and eventually expanded to a 10-person office.
Renting out a space for his nascent company led to his idea to launch Local Collaborative.
Muller had gone through the hurdles of getting that project approved by the Hermosa Beach City Council when COVID-19 hit. But a challenge was the fact that the building is designated a city landmark, so there are rules and regulations for any construction done by new tenants.
The Bijou building was designated a local historic landmark in 1999, two years after it was purchased by CIM Group and turned into retail and office space, according to a Certificate of Appropriateness Review in 2019.
The 23,172-square-foot, three-story mixed-use office/retail building was sold by Federal Realty Investment Trust to 1221 Hermosa Ave., LLC for $18 million in 2019.
The current tenants at the building, 1221 Hermosa Ave. — besides Chase Bank and Local Collaborative — are The Bar Method, Forma and Compass real estate office, according to Carrie Tai, the city’s community development director.
“Any time a new business locates in there, it needs to get a special approval called a Certificate of Appropriateness,” Tai said, “to make sure that the physical alterations that the business is making, that those physical alterations are consistent with the historic character and architecture of the building.”
While there were some interior modifications,such as removing walls, the renovations done by Muller were “found to be consistent with the historical nature of the building,” Tai said.
Muller said he feels “privileged to be the care keeper of this historic building.”
But while under construction, a few surprises were found, including a poster featuring silent film star Harrison Ford — not relation to the Harrison Ford of “Indiana Jones” fame — who was the original leading man of his time, making films from 1915 to 1932.
The construction also uncovered a collar bone, which Muller initially thought might be of human origin.
“We’re like, ‘Oh my god!’ And I was like, ‘If this happens again, they’re gonna shut us down,’” Muller said. “And then we found a hip bone.”
But the two turned out to be dog bones.
At the ribbon cutting, Hermosa Beach Mayor Raymond Jackson said the collaboration between Muller and the city is one reason why Hermosa is the “Best Little Beach City.”
“It’s more than just a cliche,” Jackson said. “It’s folks like Jason and his team who are willing to invest their faith and their finances in our city.”
For more information, visit localcollaborativehermosa.com.