The New Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles: A Renaissance in the Making
By Jeremy Joven
Published Mar 2014
With an improving economy, a lot of space available for development, and an ambitious public transportation plan in the works, Los Angeles is once again under the spotlight—this time not for the movie industry, but for a revitalization of its formerly sluggish downtown district. Downtown was a predominantly commercial area—filled with Hollywood’s corporate offices, department stores, hotels, and banks attracting daytime traffic to the barely five-square-mile district—until it suffered a long economic downturn that left many of the beautiful art deco buildings abandoned. With the construction of countless freeways, growth distributed outside the city’s center, and the downtown district, which is composed of 15 small and diverse neighborhoods, became a haven for the low-income population. Revitalizing an otherwise overlooked downtown in the heart of Southern California’s most popular city was not an easy task; crime and traffic continued to be a huge issue, a major drawback for developers. It wasn’t until the era of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that DTLA slowly started turning its fortune around. Today, the city’s revitalization efforts are gaining major traction. New skyscrapers are making an impression in the classic city skyline, mixing towers of glass with the flair of its art deco history; the completion of L.A. LIVE drew a host of new attractions and cultural exploits for locals and tourists alike; and a number of long-abandoned lofts have been rezoned for residential use, now housing adventurous young Angelenos out to make names for themselves. All the while, LA’s focus on affordable housing remains rife with units up for the taking, ushering in a new era in the city’s colorful history of racial and economic diversity living and thriving in the same hood. In the early 2000s, with just a little over 27,000 residents, Downtown LA’s 15 districts had a median household income as low as $15,000, with only 17.9% of residents holding a college degree. Today, with all the new developments, available jobs, and nightlife in the district, the population has almost doubled, with a median income of $98,700 and 80% of its new residents holding college degrees. Thankfully, wealth is not the golden key to the city’s heart at its current stage of growth; apartments in the area are still available for as low as $800 per month for studios and $2,500 for modern two-bedroom dwellings in the heart of downtown (quite a deal compared to San Francisco’s market). Los Angeles still has a ways to go in terms of walkability, but DTLA is getting there. Downtown’s historic beauty—coupled with developments like the Walt Disney Concert Hall and L.A. LIVE, Bunker Hill, and redevelopment plans to better Skidrow—is poised to make a comeback, one that will hopefully be able to maintain its character while still benefitting its residents. Another notable addition to the city’s landscape is the new Ace Hotel in the heart of the Broadway Theater District. The boutique hotel group has been known to take root in up-and-coming neighborhoods all over the country with a focus on revitalizing a classic space and modernizing it with today’s minimalist style. The hotel boasts a beautifully remodeled entry way, a restored private screening theater and a great addition to DTLA’s nightlife with The Bar at LA Chapter. With the Bay Area’s massive economic growth due to the recent tech industry boom, LA’s civic leaders are vying for a piece of the pie, reinvesting in the downtown area to attract venture capitalists. They hope to encourage startups to trade the cold summers of San Francisco for the perpetually sunny days of Los Angeles, a goal made easier with the impending completion of California’s High Speed Rail system, which promises to connect the two cities. With all the shiny new upgrades and thriving, expansive suburbs near its hub, Los Angeles now offers a promising future—a future that could very well restore the City of Angels to its former glory. THINGS TO DO IN DOWNTOWN LAMOCA Founded in 1979, MOCA is the only museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to contemporary art. ANGEL’S FLIGHT RAILWAY Dubbed the world’s shortest railway. Angel’s Flight Railway is just steps from Bunker Hill. ACE HOTEL’S BAR The posh hotel bar pictured right epitomizes the new DTLA lifestyle. GRAND CENTRAL MARKET In the heart of downtown, you’ll find fresh, organic, handmade, “home cooked” goodies and artisinal delights at the Grand Central Market. LITTLE TOKYO Probably one of the best spots to enjoy Japanese Culture and food in California. Ramen lovers rejoice! THE LIBRARY Dim lighting, sexy bedtime stories, and sumptious cocktails make this spot a great place for a nightcap.