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.
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?