downtown los angeles

Metropolis (Mixed-Use Project) Slated to Break Ground in 2012 in Downtown LA

A rendering of Metropolis showing a new focus on retail in addition to the residential and hotel towers planned as part of the project (Photo: Collarmele Partners)

A large mixed-use project near LA Live that has been in the works for over two decades may finally come to fruition in Downtown LA, which would be a tremendous boost to the growing prominence of LA’s urban renaissance. According to IDS Real Estate Group, the developer and land owner of the development site, Metropolis is expected to break ground in 2012 with a completion in 2014.

Metropolis has gone through many iterations throughout the decades–both the scope of the project and its design–as each time the project was set to break ground, some outside force (usually economic or even a lawsuit) reared its ugly head to stop it from happening. Each stop and go has resulted in a new design and objective for the project, reflecting the needs of the community relevant at the time.

Renowned architect, Michael Graves, was initially hired by previous land-owner City Centre Development to design Metropolis back in 1990 when the project was first proposed, during the commercial office boom of the 1980s. In fact, most of the skyscrapers that define LA’s skyline today were built during the office boom of the 80s and early 90s. Graves had come up with three 30-story office towers that reflected the desires and ambitions of the time to make Downtown LA into the pre-eminent CBD.

A rendering from 1990 of what Metropolis (three towers with reddish details) would have looked like if designed by Michael Graves (Photo: Michael Graves & Associates)

However, we all know that Graves’ vision never materialized. After IDS Real Estate Group purchased the Metropolis site from City Centre Development back in 2006, the project was meant to break ground soon after with a focus more on residential and hotel instead of office. The switch to residential happened as a result of Downtown LA experiencing an amazing residential building boom at the time. Again, due mostly to the global economic downturn, the project was delayed again. Until now, hopefully.

Today, thousands upon thousands of new residential units (both rentals and condos) dot the downtown landscape in both shiny new towers and historic loft conversions. The influx of all these new full-time residents has reached a critical mass with demand for services and amenities that has altered the trajectory of Metropolis to have a heavier emphasis on retail. According to Retail Traffic Magazine, IDS is teaming up with Florida-based Collarmele Partners to design and develop “a 300,000 square foot retail complex with 836 residential units and 480 hotel rooms.”

The new emphasis on retail will make Metropolis into a major shopping destination in Downtown LA. As a result, Metropolis will also act as a “pedestrian bridge” between the Financial District and South Park, connecting LA Live and the future remodeled FIGat7th (with a new City Target concept and rumors of H&M, Zara, Sephora, and Urban Outfitters signing on), generating a powerful cross-flow of pedestrian activity between these destination points. An area once dead will be vibrant and alive. In essence, Metropolis’ own success as a retail center will help fill in the void that separates other major destinations around it, which creates a walking phenomenon taken for granted around the world as being simply “urban.”

I am very confident that even more retailers will be attracted to Downtown LA as a result of the powerful synergistic combination of LA Live, Metropolis, and FIGat7th. Retailers that took a wait-and-see approach to Downtown LA will begin to scout for locations once they see “the green dollar signs.” Could this be the tipping point where Downtown LA regains its crown as the pre-eminent urban center of Greater Los Angeles?

This rendering clearly shows the shift to focus more on retail in the Metropolis project (Photo: Collarmele Partners)

A view of Metropolis from the 110 freeway also shows the 12-story residential towers (Photo: Collarmele Partners)

Metropolis will be developed on a parking lot (seen above) bounded by the 110 freeway, Francisco St, 8th St, and 9th St

Metropolis will replace this surface parking lot near LA Live (seen in the distance) and turn an area that is currently dead into one that is vibrant and alive

7 Comments

  1. LAofAnaheim says

    I’m scared to ask but how many parking spaces are proposed in this project? Hopefully there was a reduction in requirements due to it’s proximity to residents and our mass transit system. Nothing worse in downtown LA than high suburban parking requirements…..

  2. tony says

    If this is truly happening then this is fantastic news!

  3. tony says

    Just noticed that the renderings seem to show a lot of blank walls with tables and chairs on a terrace high above the street – which not much happening on the ground. Maybe this isnt the final design but I hope that the final design has encourages pedestrian activity at the street level. The design that I saw a few years ago had street level plazas with outdoor seating. God, I hope this development doesn’t end up being like westfield in century city where there is nothing happening on the street. That would be a bummer.

  4. paul says

    Street level retail is the key. The 3 sided fortress of Broadway Plaza is just aweful. Learn from dt mistakes.

  5. paul says

    The renderings look pretty promising. Can’t wait!

  6. Wes says

    Ditto to Tony’s last comment. The intersection at Francisco & 9th is also very problematic with respect to pedestrian flow towards the LA Live area. It would be nice to have “back streets” besides Figueroa as a way to get between Metropolis and LA Live. Without special attention this project might end up marooned or perhaps not living up to its potential .

  7. Carter says

    Yes, a Francisco Promenade-type street facing east would connect 8th and 9th in a good way, with hotels, etc. set back toward the Harbor Fwy. Definitely needs pedestrian-friendly development.
    No more bunker-type projects – think Macys Plaza, the Bonaventure Hotel, and any interior-facing mall, anywhere.

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