downtown los angeles

The Changing Face of “Old Town Los Angeles” (LA’s Historic Core in Downtown LA)

Beautiful historic office buildings have been converted to lofts now filled with full time residents

For as long as anyone can remember, Downtown Los Angeles has been a 9-to-5 CBD. Workers drove into downtown, filling in the new skyscrapers built in the 80s in the Financial District, and a mass exodus ensued at 5pm. After employees quickly dashed back home to the suburbs, Downtown LA became a veritable ghost town inhabited only by the entrenched social dysfunction of Skid Row. Downtown LA was forlorn and the Historic Core–bounded by 3rd St, Los Angeles St, Olympic Blvd, and Hill St–sat hollow without any sign of hope for a brighter future.

I remember those days when Downtown LA seemed beyond any chance of repair. On occasion as a high schooler, I would drive through Downtown LA, touring an area that seemed utterly fascinating, with beautiful architecture and a true urban city grid–a treasure–yet completely ignored. Our city’s heart was essentially dead. And moving back to LA after studying at UC Berkeley where I would frequently venture into San Francisco’s lively urban core, I dreamed of LA resuscitating our own urban heart back to life.

Fast forward to 2011, and my dreams are coming true. LA’s Historic Core (aka “Old Town Los Angeles”) is now becoming a bona fide neighborhood with thousands of residents that have moved in over the last decade. Beautiful historic buildings after historic buildings have been converted to lofts and condos and have become the solid foundation for revitalization.

I took many of these pictures during the last art walk, which happens on the second Thursday of the month. They give us a glimpse into the future of Downtown LA with streets filled with shops and pedestrians, and the possibilities of accomplishing the Holy Grail of LA, restoring the heartbeat back to our city’s urban core.

Night Toast @ 653 S. Spring St.

New neighborhood cafe Night Toast owner, Yani, greets girl on bike

LA Cafe @ 639 S. Spring St.

Business has been so brisk lately that LA Cafe is now open 24 hours on Spring St

Coffee Bar @ 600 S. Spring St.

Coffee Bar patio filled with onlookers enjoying people watching

New stores in LA's Historic Core are now attracting more people

Emperory @ 600 S. Spring St.

You know a place has "arrived" when a Chinese foot massage parlor opens up shop!

SixHundred @ 600 S. Spring St.

A DJ sets up outside Six Hundred clothing retailer on Spring St for art walk

Six Hundred clothing store sells trendy attire appealing to the local taste

Six Hundred store associate Kelly Love says she "loves the new Downtown LA"

Six Hundred store mannequin

Stanton James @ 600 S. Spring St.

Stanton James clothing retailer has opened up at the corner of 6th/Spring

Stanton James sells both women's and men's independent designer clothing from around the world

Inside Stanton James clothing store

Round 2 LA @ 600 S. Spring St.

Used But Not Abused clothing store on 6th Street

Designers at a fraction of the cost at Used But Not Abused

A peek inside Used But Not Abused

Salon 6 @ 548 S. Spring St.

New local independent businesses from salons to juice bars to clothing retailers have given LA's Historic Core a new sense of community

KapSoul @ 548 S. Spring St.

KapSoul on 6th St sells DTLA T-shirts (I purchased one of course!)

Spring Street MAC @ 600 S. Spring St.

Spring Street MAC has everything for your Apple needs

Syrup & City Grill @ 611 S. Spring St.

New restaurants have popped up on Spring St

LA's Historic Core is getting its heartbeat back

This scene would have been unthinkable just several years ago

The Falls @ 626 S. Spring St.

The Falls is one of the newer bars/lounges to open up on Spring St that has become a local hotspot

This retail space at 5th/Spring will become one of the largest indie bookstores in LA at 10,000 SF appropriately called "The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles"

The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles @ 453 S. Spring St.

The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles will become one of the largest independent bookstores in LA when it reopens in a few months at 5th/Spring

Buzz Wine Beer Shop @ 460 S. Spring St.

Buzz is a new wine and beer store with one of the widest selections in the city and will open up at 5th/Spring in late spring/early summer

Bolt Barbers @ 460 S. Spring St.

Bolt Barbers has become not only a place to get your haircut but a local hangout

Rosslyn Lofts @ 451 S. Main St.

The Rosslyn Lofts offers affordable living in Downtown LA

(Sub)Urban Home @ 101 W. 5th St.

(Sub)Urban Home sells modern furniture at 5th/Main

Art by Kinski Gallo at (Sub)Urban Home

Giant murals add spice to the urban landscape

Cotrutza Fine Art @ 446 S. Main St.

Galleries galore have popped up all over the Historic Core over the past several years paving the way for urban revitalization

LA Lofts in Old Bank District

The Old Bank District at 4th/Main is where it all began back in 1999

Pete’s Cafe @ 400 S. Main St.

Cafes with patio seating are activating sidewalks

Blends @ 125 W. 4th St.

These were some of the first retail stores to open in Downtown LA, like Blends, here on 4th St near Main

Spring Street Park

A new urban park called "Spring Street Park" will replace this parking lot providing much needed green space (construction starts in August 2011)

Silo Vodka Lounge @ 221 W. 7th St.

The new Silo Vodka Lounge opens on June 1 on the ground floor of the Haas Building at 7th/Broadway

Los Angeles Brewing Company @ 750 S. Broadway

Broadway is the next frontier as Los Angeles Brewing Company is slated to open at 8th/Broadway


  1. Lawrence says

    Great overview of what’s happening in downtown, the true heart of our fair city. People who have seen it during its worst times are astounded by the changes. Even I sometimes have to do a double take. The best part is that it shows no signs of stopping. Even during a recession, new restaurants and bars are opening up left and right and the area continues to develop and take shape.

  2. Brigham:

    WOW. Thank you so much for that perspective. As president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) and a 10 year resident of the Old Bank District, I am thrilled to know that our great neighborhood is being recognized and appreciated.

    For those of you who have not been downtown for a while, may I invite you to come for lunch, dinner, shopping or just a walk through the core of Los Angeles. Or take a look at the lofts, apartments and condos. This is a great place to live.

    Patti Berman
    Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council

  3. The historic core (Main, SpringBroadway) arennt the only areas that are exciting. Yesterday I spent the morning visiting many of LA’s produce wholesalers in the industrial section, and was struck by how incredibly busy it was, and also how arts and residential elements were creeping in. There are cool bars and edgy murals going up on warehouses and factories.

  4. Well, one should be grateful for LA came back to life. As we can see, it’s very booming now and prosperous.

  5. Jame says

    Great pics! It makes me want to visit, and live in Old Town LA.

  6. Eugene Valde says

    DTLA, specially the Historic District is quaint, elegant and beautiful. I have the same love and passion for this city as you do. I’m happy I came across your blog.

  7. Henry Miranda says

    As kids, we use to ride our bikes to Downtown LA. That was in the early 1980s. The streets were empty on the weekends. Times have changed. The area now bustles with traffic 24/7. There’s sidewalk cafés and a better variety of eating establishments. I also noticed that highrise condos have gone up in certain areas. So happy to see the upswing in things.

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