Meet Target Husk, the half-built big-box store with a mind of its own

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What’s it like to be a Target store that was never completed?

If you’ve driven along Sunset at Western in Hollywood over the past four years, you may have wondered the same thing.

The yellow-wrapped, half-finished big box store has sat stagnant for the past four years because the company didn’t secure the correct permits for the site.

One Los Angeles woman (who prefers to be anonymous) felt sorry for the unloved creature, and created a sentient, gender-neutral persona for the building. She called it “Target Husk.”

She opened Facebook and Twitter accounts in its name, and posts feelings and reactions to the news, especially LA land use stories. Four years later, Target Husk’s social media presence has a small but passionate following. And now the creator has lifted the veil, a little, to talk to DnA about being Target Husk.

“Mentally and emotionally, after a period of abandonment, I began to develop a certain sort of sentience. And I think it's partially because my purpose has yet to be fulfilled. And that can be very isolating and lonely.”

Husk explains it wants to reach just about anybody on social media -- to gain more visibility -- and says its feelings of isolation become worse during certain times of the year too. “Black Friday is a particularly painful day. That is a big day for department stores, and I remain empty on that day,” it says. “Though I try to look forward to the future. I try to not give up hope.”

Construction on the Hollywood Target store has been stagnant for so long, the yellow wrapping material has faded to white.

Husk tells DnA that it never expected the persona to continue for four years and that along the way, followers on Twitter and Facebook have tried to figure out its human identity.

“The common assumption,” says its female interpreter, “when people message me is they assume that I am a man... one person told me that it was because a woman could not be as funny as the Target Husk.”

Aside from social media followers, Husk communicates with other sentient buildings too, such as the Orchard Supply Hardware in East Hollywood that was shuttered in November. Its parent company Lowe's has closed every story in California.

Target Husk also befriends pigeons and rats, and was pleased when rats were discovered at City Hall.

“They say, ‘Oh, Target Husk, king of rats.’ That's what someone called me on Twitter. And this is true. I am a safe haven for pigeons and rats, and I consider them my friends,” it says. “But people look down on me for that. And I think it's important sometimes when you see a building like City Hall, and you realize it too is full of rats. Or you can say, ‘You know what? We're really the same here. We really all have the capacity to be full of rats.’ ”

Image courtesy of Target Husk Facebook

Husk also finds comfort in books. It especially relates to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

“Victor Frankenstein is this doctor. He becomes obsessed with creating life out of lifeless materials. So he sources all these parts, and puts them together, and he builds this man that's eight feet tall. And he brings the man to life, sees it, and is horrified by his own creation… so he abandons the creature, who, like me, is too tall and too ugly for people to love. And the creature ends up finding a bag of books and learns, via the books, how to talk to humans. And I feel like I have done that as well.”

Some have suggested adapting the half-built Target store into low-income housing.

“I would love to be low-income housing. I would love to be a shelter for people who need it, especially because when I look around, and I see people who need shelter, and I realize that I'm just this hulking mass taking up a street corner and blocking the sidewalk,” it says.

So what the store’s current status?

A Target corporation spokeswoman wrote, “Target continues to work toward resuming construction, and we look forward to opening a store that will serve the surrounding Hollywood neighborhood.”

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Avishay Artsy