Today’s Place is a profile of what has become iconically known as an unfinished place — the Target Husk on Western Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.
Before 2012, if you were a resident of Hollywood, your choices for shopping at Target came down to two locations: West Hollywood (off La Brea Avenue & Santa Monica Boulevard) or the Glendale Galleria, which, for anyone not familiar with Los Angeles, is a gap of almost 40 miles. So, when the development of a nearly 200,000 square foot, brand-spanking-new location smack in the middle of Hollywood was announced, people were stoked. Well, some people.
In 2014, after two years of construction, the La Mirada Neighborhood Association sued Target Corporation citing that the construction violated the Station Neighborhood Area Plan (SNAP), which determines zoning laws for areas surrounding the Metro red line. Target Corporation had originally submitted project plans that meet SNAP regulations, but then followed behind with a second submission for a Super Target, which includes a grocery section and far more square footage.
With the help of exemptions from the LA City Council, they impressively broke nearly every requirement for commercial buildings in their area (Subarea C for the note-takers):
The building was supposed to, per SNAP:
- Not exceed 35 feet in height
At 74 feet the structure more than doubles its limit.
- Not have more than 390 parking spaces
Final count comes in at 458.
- Limit the hours during which they accept deliveries
LA City Council provided an exemption.
- If the square footage exceeds 40,000 square feet, is required to offer free delivery to local residents.
Big Baby Super Target comes in at 163,862 sq ft, and why yes you guessed it, another exemption.
La Mirada Neighborhood Association won their case, hammers were laid down, and the partially built store sat in the middle of a busy Hollywood intersection untouched… for five years.
The massive wooden headstone became a symbol of unfinished projects floating about in a city of creative minds. Scripts left on first draft, ideas that lost their fire the minute they jumped off tongues, bands that called it quits. Can’t forget self-improvement projects, sobriety pledges, or weight loss challenges—those are the real Target Husks, where everyone can clearly see just how “not finished” you are.
These projects open our eyes a little wider at the notion that they could be our salvation; phases of pursuit that could change our lives in the way we’ve always wanted, only to often become nagging reminders that motivation is fleeting. If you want to successfully achieve something, you have to give consistent effort even when a project doesn’t excite you anymore (and just hope the flame comes back).
The trick of consistency can be like pulling teeth. In my twenties I had a new game plan every three weeks that was gonna help me get from geek to chic—creatively, financially, and physically. Every plan I abandoned only made self-efficacy that much harder the next time around. These beautiful ideas, birthed from our special brains, are now just begging questions:
“Why can’t I just make myself sit down and do this thing?”
“Why am I actively dodging something that makes me feel more fulfilled and understood?”
“Why can’t I stick to my own plans?”
In my thirties, I still struggle to consistently commit to creative projects, but it’s a shared mix of work and life getting in the way, rather than pure self-sabotage or just procrastination. Physical and creative stamina becomes a game of diminishing returns, and I try to give myself a break when I haven’t laid a finger on a project in months, a reminder I get every time I drive past that Sunset/Western intersection.
And the struggle to make it to project completion doesn’t stop there! If you actually get out of your own way, put your nose to the grindstone, and procure a final product, there’s a whole other crushing aspect of the Target Husk metaphor that comes into play: when someone else has the ability to shut it down.
Writers, artists, musicians, and business owners have to receive an external “Yes” to move forward with their work. Investors, showrunners, labels, corporations—the people with the money—get to tell you whether or not you’re allowed to finish what you start. Having to wave the white flag, when you’ve done everything you could, is pure heartbreak.
These people with power can also change their minds about a work in progress that was previously given the thumbs up. I experienced this kind of crushing halt personally with a startup I helped grow from a humble four people to a demanding 50-person team. As anyone who’s worked with a small team knows, it’s more than just a job for most employees. When the massive corporation who acquired us decided we weren’t making them enough money, 70% of our staff lost their jobs in one day. Including me. All of the emotional investment from six years of work was zeroed out at once.
The upside of a worst case scenario actually happening to your project, is it gives you a tangible understanding of something you’ve only dreaded thus far. It makes you a little more fearless. More willing to check yourself the next time around, when you feel the stress cutting at your grace. What’s the worst that can happen? Everything just flatlines? Been there. It’s more manageable than you think (if you’re willing to accept you can’t control everything, and have a good therapist.)
If you’re one of the many sitting in the ruins of a lost labor of love, or a rejected tour de force, or a back-burner project gnawing at your heart, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A beacon of personal hope, inspiring confidence in us all: the Target Corporation overcame their strife in appellate court in May 2018, with an expected opening in Summer 2020… by changing the laws to fit their desires. The husk will be completed, eight years after it began construction, and Hollywood gets their GIANT Super Target.
Maybe we can all use this ballsy capitalistic saga as an excuse to pick back up an old creative idea, dust it off, and try again. What would Target Corporation do? Never give up! Or, on the other hand, to avoid a very long drawn out public display of deficiency, for the sake of closure, accept that certain projects are as done as they’re going to get, and make room in your heart for something new.