HERE IS A RECENT ARTICLE I WROTE -- POSTED IN TWO PARTS
Not long ago, for most Angelenos, Downtown was somewhere you worked or went to Lakers games â€“ period; end of story. What may come as a surprise to some, however, is that Downtown LA is enjoying a renaissance much like that of SoHo, New York in the 1980â€™s, San Diegoâ€™s Gaslamp Quarter in the early 1990â€™s, and Manhattanâ€™s Meatpacking District in the late 1990â€™s.
As of 1900, the population of Los Angeles swelled to 100,000, and, by 1920, with the arrival of the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads, LA had become a major metropolis, with Downtown as the city center. The Downtown area served as the hub (and its population continued to grow) until the end of World War II, when a more suburban lifestyle, enabled by a sharp increase in automobile ownership and the development of the Los Angeles Freeway System, grew in favor. Consequently, many corporate headquarters relocated from Downtown, and several, resultingly-vacant, historic buildings were demolished in favor of parking lots (which were more profitable as a result of, and were more needed to accommodate, the burgeoning â€œcar cultureâ€ of LA). As the Downtown population diminished, the store-front businesses, once frequented by a now-extinct pedestrian population, shuttered. Downtown LA became a â€œdestinationâ€ â€“ primarily for business.
Owing, in part, to the creation of the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance in 1999 (which enabled the conversion of historic buildings to residential living and provided certain tax or other financial benefits), an astounding $15 Billion Dollars in investment cascaded in to Downtown over the past decade. Factoring in significantly to Downtownâ€™s transformation has been Anschutz Entertainment Groupâ€™s (AEGâ€™s) development of the $375 Million Staples Center (home to four professional sports franchises â€“ the NBAâ€™s Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers; the NHLâ€™s Los Angeles Kings; and the WNBAâ€™s Los Angeles Sparks) and the contiguous 27-Acre entertainment complex known as â€œL.A. LIVEâ€ (a $2.5 Billion Dollar development by AEG). Comprising 4 Million square feet of concert theaters, hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, ballrooms, broadcast theaters, movie theaters, and condominium residences, L.A. LIVE is internationally recognized as the home of the Grammys, the Emmys, the Video Music Awards, American Music Awards, Peopleâ€™s Choice Awards and the X Games.
As they say, â€œa rising tide lifts all boatsâ€. With the success of L.A. LIVE and the introduction of previously-lacking residential support amenities (such as the 2007 opening of the massive Downtown Ralphs grocery store â€“ one of the highest grossing stores in all of Los Angeles; the opening of multiple 24-hour Rite Aid and Walgreens drug stores; and the imminent opening of the spacious Equinox facility), residents and developers alike are relocating to Downtown LA. Currently, more than $1.5 Billion is under construction Downtown yielding the new Broad Museum, nearly 1,000 hotel rooms, new parks and plazas, and hundreds of thousands of square feet dedicated to more retail, condos and apartments, and restaurants and bars.
Downtown LA is poised, once again, to be the hub of metropolitan Los Angeles. And, to me, itâ€™s unstoppable. Because of its weather, cosmopolitan mix of people, richness of cultural and entertainment options, proximity to Asia, and a wealth of other reasons, LAâ€™s population is growing. As a result of such higher density, along with a continued increase in traffic, Angelenos are seeking out neighborhoods where they can live, work, walk and play. The post-World War II development of LA, which was based on a prevalent car culture, leaves Downtown as the one area in Los Angeles which can deliver it all â€“ a vast number of jobs; countless cultural, entertainment and sports options; a diversity of restaurant and nightlife alternatives; numerous parks and community gathering spaces; and a growing number of retail offerings â€“ all walkable within a locale which features a rich variety of architectural styles, both old and new.
Itâ€™s no surprise, then, that GQ Magazine recently declared LA the â€œCoolest City on the Planetâ€, with Downtown LA providing 5 of the Top 10 reasons; that many of LAâ€™s hottest and most heralded chefs are opening eateries Downtown (LA Weeklyâ€™s last annual â€œ99 Essential Restaurantsâ€ included 12 Downtown eateries); and that several housing, retail, and other developments are in the process of gaining approval and financing. Most notable among those developments making their way through the pipeline are the Farmerâ€™s Field and LA Convention Center Expansion projects, aggregating nearly another $2 Billion of investment, which would bring NFL football back to LA and which would replace an aged portion of the Convention Center with a new and expanded section.