Revitalization Fires Up Downtown Los Angeles

Photo: Art installation at The Broad © Bruce Damonte

- January 1, 2016

With a slew of new hotels, transportation and infrastructure improvements on the horizon, Los Angeles’ economic forecast looks almost as bright as its sun-drenched landscape. In the past 10 years, the city’s once-neglected downtown has welcomed a host of new developments, ranging from hipster hotels to renovated theaters along the historic Broadway corridor.

More than 10 million people visit L.A. annually, making tourism one of the city’s most significant industries, along with international trade, manufacturing, entertainment and fashion. Last year, the trendy Ace Hotel debuted its first L.A. location, within the restored United Artists building, complete with a 1,600-seat theater for concerts and movie premiers.

“Los Angeles hosted a record number of visitors in 2014, and the travel and tourism business is on fire,” says Gary Toebben, president and CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “New hotels are going up throughout the community; hotel occupancy is at an all-time high, as are the number of passengers flying into Los Angeles International Airport.”

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles exterior

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles exterior © Ace Hotel

To accommodate the explosion of interest in Downtown L.A., JW Marriott will expand its hotel at the L.A. Live entertainment complex from 878 rooms to 1,633 rooms by 2018. The project also adds 75,000 square feet of meeting and conference space to the property. This year, Starwood Hotels and Resorts announced the W Los Angeles Downtown, opening adjacent to L.A. Live in early 2019.

“The time is right for a W Hotel in the heart of Downtown L.A.,” says Anthony Ingham, global brand leader, W Hotels Worldwide. “From tech and nightlife to entertainment and a fresh foodie scene, Downtown Los Angeles has been undergoing a rapid revitalization, and we’re excited to fuel this fire.”

Currently, 22 new hotels are under construction and another 21 in the final planning stages throughout Los Angeles County. Among them, the 73-story Wilshire Grand Center will be the tallest building in the Western United States when it opens in 2017. High-speed elevators will whisk guests to a 70th-floor “sky lobby” serving the hotel’s 900 guestrooms. In addition, the Korean Air-owned skyscraper will feature shops, restaurants and 30 floors of offices.

According to Toebben, “Private companies located in Los Angeles city and county are adding new creative and technology jobs by the hundreds, and new buildings are being constructed to house these operations. … Investment in Los Angeles by individuals and businesses from Asia continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down.”

Other highly anticipated developments include architect Frank Gehry’s 8150 Sunset Boulevard, a $300 million mixed-used development on the Sunset Strip. The project consists of five individual structures centered around a public square and is scheduled to begin construction in late 2016. In the Financial District, a new 700-unit luxury apartment complex, complete with a 42,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market, opened this year. Nearby, a $180 million transformation of Macy’s Plaza into an open-air shopping and dining complex called The Bloc also debuted in 2015.

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles theater

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles theater © Ace Hotel

In September, downtown L.A. welcomed The Broad, a $140 million contemporary art museum featuring more than 2,000 works of art from Eli and Edythe Broads’ personal collections. Other cultural projects include Bringing Back Broadway, a 10-year revitalization plan begun in 2008 and intended to revive Downtown L.A.’s Broadway corridor by restoring its theaters, retail spaces and historic streetcar.

In addition to the downtown streetcar, a number of other transportation projects will improve the city’s connectivity. In early 2016, L.A.’s metro expects to complete its light rail extension from Culver City to Santa Monica, allowing passengers to ride from downtown to the beach in 46 minutes. And while the California High-Speed Rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco has experienced legal setbacks since its approval in 2008, construction on the 300-mile-long project should begin early next year and be completed by 2029.

Los Angeles International Airport is undergoing its own improvement plan, consisting of more than 20 individual projects. At the center of the plan, the new $1.9 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal features 18 new gates, half of which are designed to accommodate superjumbo jets. The updated terminal, aiming for a 2020 completion date, will also offer passengers a new Great Hall for dining and shopping.

Even the Los Angeles River faces redevelopment with the help of famed architect Frank Gehry. Gehry’s master plan will not only revive public use of the river’s 51 miles of bike paths and walkways but will also store and treat storm runoff, allowing the city to import less water and ensure a thriving downtown well into the future.

SCENIC DRIVES

California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) runs along some of the most spectacular coastline in the United States, starting just south of Los Angeles in Orange County and terminating 655 miles up the coast in Mendocino County. The signature stretch near Los Angeles runs from Santa Monica to Malibu’s Zuma Beach (20 miles). You’ll pass sun worshippers and longboarders on the miles of perfect public beaches and catch glimpses of multimillion-dollar homes set among the hills. Make a stop at the Mediterranean-style Getty Villa to view Greek and Roman art before catching a few rays and some surf on Zuma Beach.

Palos Verdes Drive in the Rancho Palos Verdes suburb boasts jaw-dropping views of craggy cliffs and the Pacific Ocean southwest of Downtown Los Angeles. Follow winding Palos Verdes Drive for 14 miles as it climbs and descends the cliffs between Palos Verdes Estates and San Pedro. Rest stops along the route allow plenty of opportunities to pull over and snap photos of Santa Catalina Island or migrating gray whales. Finish the drive with a picnic at the White Point/Royal Palms Beach Park, where the tide pools teem with marine life.

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