Chinese Developer Greenland Begins Construction on $1 Billion Metropolis Project in Downtown LA

A preliminary conceptual rendering of the first phase of Metropolis including the first two towers (on the right) adding to the burgeoning Downtown LA skyline (Photo: Gensler)

A preliminary conceptual rendering of the first phase of Metropolis including the first two towers (on the right) in the burgeoning South Park district of Downtown LA (Photo: Gensler)

This past Valentine’s Day was another major, major milestone in Downtown LA’s continued march forward toward urban renewal and revitalization. The Metropolis project, which is a 6.3 acre development site (currently an ugly surface parking lot) on the western edge of downtown abutting the 110 freeway, held a ceremonial ground breaking event that finally secured the fate of the long-delayed project.

For those who have been following the history of the Metropolis project in Downtown LA, the project has had a frustrating track record of numerous false starts. Many of today’s downtown advocates wondered if Metropolis would ever really happen in our lifetimes. First proposed in the 1980s, the stalled Metropolis project has remained a surface parking lot for nearly three decades leaving an ugly scar on the Downtown LA landscape. Surface parking lots are for the car-oriented suburbs, not for an aspiring urban center with a goal to encourage mixed-use density and walkability.

IDS Real Estate Group purchased the Metropolis site back in 2005 and announced in 2011 that Metropolis was ready to break ground after decades of seemingly endless dormancy. Unfortunately, the project was mired in financial uncertainty and thrown off course again this time by the recent Great Recession.

Thank goodness, with the economy improving and investors optimistic once again, the Metropolis project is finally, truly getting off the ground this time. Foreign capital to the rescue. Chinese developer Greenland USA — a subsidiary of Shanghai-based Greenland Group — successfully purchased the site from IDS Real Estate Group closing escrow on Jan 31, 2014 for nearly $150 million. Greenland Group is the largest diversified company in China with major real estate developments around the world including London, Seoul, Sydney and the massive forthcoming $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in New York.

Work will begin shortly on the first phase of Metropolis, which includes two high-rise towers along 9th Street: a 19-story, 350-room Indigo boutique hotel and a 38-story residential tower (rentals or condos have not been determined yet). The trendy Hotel Indigo, part of Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), will be the first one in Los Angeles County (they’re also in Anaheim and San Diego). The hotel is slated to open on February 14, 2016, exactly two years from now.

The entire Metropolis project — with a total of four towers planned — is being designed by global architect firm Gensler. The second and final phase, which consists of two towers, will break ground at an unspecified time in the hopefully not-too-distant future. These two residential towers along 8th Street will rise to 50 and 60 stories giving the Metropolis project a skyline defining height.

Caveat: I’ve been told that these renderings below are preliminary conceptual models that are not finalized and will be refined.

Metropolis Ceremonial Ground Breaking on Feb 14, 2014

Chinese lion dancers celebrate the ceremonial ground breaking at the Metropolis site in Downtown LA

Chinese lion dancers celebrate the ceremonial ground breaking at the Metropolis site in Downtown LA

Shanghai-based Greenland Group is the developer of the $1 billion Metropolis project

Shanghai-based Greenland Group is the developer of the $1 billion Metropolis project

Hundreds gather on Feb 14, 2014 to attend the ceremonial ground breaking of Metropolis in Downtown LA

Hundreds gather on Feb 14, 2014 to attend the ceremonial ground breaking of Metropolis in Downtown LA

The developer is joined by city officials and business leaders for the ceremonial ground breaking of Metropolis

The developer is joined by city officials and business leaders for the ceremonial ground breaking of Metropolis

Metropolis Architectural Scale Models

A scale model of the four planned towers of Metropolis

A scale model of the four planned towers of Metropolis

What Metropolis will look like viewing from along the 110 freeway

What Metropolis will look like viewing from along the 110 freeway

First phase of the Metropolis project consists of two towers

First phase of the Metropolis project consists of two towers

View of the 19-story Hotel Indigo standing along Francisco Street looking southwest

View of the 19-story Hotel Indigo standing along Francisco Street looking southwest

A view of the 38-story residential tower and shared plaza courtyard along Francisco

A view of the 38-story residential tower and shared plaza courtyard along Francisco

The view of the hotel and residential gardens and pools

The view of the hotel and residential gardens and pools

Metropolis will add a substantial presence to the skyline as well as create a stronger pedestrian connection between South Park and the Financial District

Metropolis will add a substantial presence to the skyline as well as create a stronger pedestrian connection between South Park and the Financial District

More Renderings of Metropolis by Gensler

A rendering of Metropolis with four towers (notice the under construction Wilshire Grand Tower is also included on the left)

A rendering of Metropolis with four towers (notice the under construction Wilshire Grand Tower is also included on the left)

The first phase of Metropolis with two towers

The first phase of Metropolis with two towers

A rendering of the hotel and residential tower

A rendering of the hotel and residential tower

A rendering of the 19-story hotel at the corner of 9th/Francisco

A rendering of the 19-story hotel at the corner of 9th/Francisco

15 Responses to Chinese Developer Greenland Begins Construction on $1 Billion Metropolis Project in Downtown LA

  1. SO stoked for this. Invite me next time! :P

    • I am too. Wish they could fit 5 towers, but I’m just being selfish. I also think across the freeway should be some towers as well to stretch the skyline. That would be so amazing. So everyone won’t look just look to one side of the freeway.

  2. Good write up and recap. Is Indigo confirmed? My only gripe is that the pools are not on the roofs

  3. I like the design of the tower, but I’m alarmed on how this will “connect” LA Live-Fig/7th-Wilshire Grand. Green rooftop gardens for the affluent is not going to cut it.

  4. Brigham,

    When you say the renderings are still preliminary, were you referring to the first phase, the second phase, or both? I understand Greenland Group was in the processing of requesting city financial assistance, just curious if this might have any part in it. Btw, thanks for the great pics and really looking forward to this project, along with the Wilshire Grand. Now, any word on Fig Central with Oceanwide? :-)

    I’ll agree with Javier though. The rooftop terrace will be wonderful for the hotel guests and residents, but will really not connect with the pedestrians on the streets. The renderings even show, from what I believe, two large drive through entrances for these towers on Francisco St. Please correct me if Im wrong, but having driveways here on Francisco is not the way to incubate street life. You lose contiguity of retail/shop frontage and create voids in the public realm with vehicular cross traffic. Having said this though, this project, in my opinion, will have more positives than negatives for downtown L.A.

  5. Will people be able to walk up Francisco St all the way from Olympic to Wilshire? Or will the crosswalks still be so ruined by freeway offramps and driveway entrances that you’d be better off going up to Figueroa?

  6. John G – the driveways must be on Francisco, as 9th Street has fast eastbound traffic coming from the 110 Freeway, and thus making any turn in that short a distance could be life-threatening.
    8th Street suffers from a similar problem, meaning westbound traffic driving way too fast to get to the on-ramp to the 110 Freeway.
    Thus Francisco, by default, becomes the access street to the project. I agree that it would be nice if Francisco were to be more of a pedestrian street. Maybe the city could further this discussion before signing off on all permits for the project.

    • It’s unfortunate the on ramps and off ramps to downtown are designed to facilitate speeding. It would seem much more logical for every single one of these to have stop lights the minute you get off the freeway.

      I’m not sure if this is in LADOT or a CalTrans thing, but it’s a remnant of the past that should be addressed. Proper urban street design would encourage that people slow down as soon as they enter the city center. There’s simply no reason anyone needs to be driving any faster than 20-25mph on the surface streets downtown.

    • carter – Thanks for pointing those things out. It makes sense since I myself have taken the 9th St. exit many times off the 110 Harbor Fwy.

      I understand that there are L.A. downtown design guidelines for developers, but it’s effect here on Francisco St. seems to be lacking. The rooftop terrace from the renderings seem remniscent of a suburban oasis, while the bottom streets (taking an idea from Syd Mead) is more akin to the basement from a comparative perspective. The mitigating factors however are the planned retail/shops at street level. How they will inject street life and pull pedestrians from other areas will still have to be seen.

      I’ve traveled to many global cities (New York City, Makati, Shanghai, Frankfurt, London, etc.) and observed how people are drawn to walk various streets. Comparing my empirical observations with concepts like AEG’s “Avenue of Angels” vision for Francisco St. tells me L.A. has a long way to go. However, this project will bring these concepts a bit more closer to reality. As you mentioned, it would be nice if there was more effort into the design of the streets between the city of Los Angeles and developers. The developers themselves may focus more on their parcels and not have the need or requirement to work with the surrounding parcels/environment. Some of the best urban landscapes and designs I’ve seen in Asia that promoted high walkability were those of multiple adjoining buildings built from the same developer or partnerships between developers and/or the city. Los Angeles can learn a thing or two from them. Unfortunately, with our long history of dependence on the automobile, it will take quite a while to improve our standards, and that’s why I also think it’s critical that the L.A. streetcar gets implemented as soon as possible.

    • I disagree about 8th Street having westbound traffic driving too fast to get on the 110 Freeway and agree that they should be slowing down anyways! There are several driveways off of 8th on the other side of the street, including parking for Fig@7th/Target, so why not on the south side of the street? Or, extend Georgia between the onramp and the back of Metropolis at least as an alley. That HUGE driveway rendering on Francisco is killing me. I suppose if there were sidewalk adjacent retail on both sides, it might be ok (thinking about the LA Live parking driveway entrance off Olympic), but it’s really hard to tell exactly how much street level pedestrian interaction there is going to be.

  7. John G- I heard from a source that fig central will b breaking ground within 2-4 months

  8. Looks better from afar than up close. Much like most every Bunker Hill project that doesn’t enliven the street environment. I believe that was the main problem for Gensler with their Grand Avenue plan that was rejected. This too is quite boring at street level. Of course, there is plenty of time to address that critical issue. And let’s face it, aside from some misses, Gensler is a stellar company with tremendous talent.

  9. keep bringing them on . a world class city deserves world class towers. watch the next great city in the work .

  10. Hopefully there will be retail around the project at street level.

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