Category Archives: community involvement

No Way! Downtown LA’s Seedy Rite Aid at 5th/Broadway Cleans Up

The infamous Rite Aid at 5th and Broadway has gone through an extensive remodeling job, helping to improve one of the seediest intersections in Downtown LA

The infamous Rite Aid at 5th and Broadway has gone through an extensive remodeling job, helping to improve one of the seediest intersections in Downtown LA

Well, this is certainly good news. The infamous “problem Rite Aid” at the corner of 5th and Broadway just wrapped up on a much, much needed remodeling job that I am hopeful will help clean up this seedy intersection. Historically speaking, this is one of the worst intersections in Downtown LA — a drug haven for decades — and has been a huge thorn in the side of downtown redevelopment efforts. In fact, getting beat up in broad daylight here isn’t out of the question. All this has been exacerbated by the dingy Rite Aid that opened here on the southeast corner back in 2007. Recently, Rite Aid’s pharmacy was exposed as being a pill pusher, dispensing thousands of powerful drugs like Vicodin illegally, where they were purchased by unscrupulous individuals and then subsequently sold on the street right outside Rite Aid’s front door. Well, now it finally looks like perhaps the “leaky faucet” has been fixed with the pharmacy under intense scrutiny and the store remodeling job completed giving it a much needed visual upgrade to signal a new direction.

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Message for Ralphs in Downtown LA: Keep Those Lights on at Night!

As part of Ralphs' $2.5 million remodeling upgrade, they finally replaced the exterior lighting in front of the store that have been burned out for as long as I can remember

As part of Ralphs’ $2.5 million remodeling upgrade, they finally replaced the exterior lighting in front of the store that have been burned out for as long as I can remember

For many who shop at Ralphs Fresh Fare in Downtown LA, I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed that some pretty cool aesthetic changes have taken place recently. For those who don’t know, DTLA Rising first reported that Ralphs — the South Park grocery store that opened in July 2007 that helped propel the downtown revitalization forward at the time — wrapped up on a major $2.5 million remodeling job late last month. Old floors were replaced with new ones, more checkout stands were added for speedier service, and new additions like Murray’s cheese shop and a fancy wine bar have given Ralphs a, dare I say, hipper vibe inside. But one thing that excited me the most about their recent upgrade is also the simplest thing Ralphs should be doing whether or not they went through the remodeling job, and that is, keeping those exterior lights turned on outside in front of the store.

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Colorful New Murals Sprucing Up The Bloc’s Blank Walls in Downtown LA

A new mural on the backside of The Bloc by SF-based artist Chris Lux began going up near 8th and Hope on Tuesday, Nov 4

A new mural (one of three coming) on the backside of The Bloc by SF-based artist Chris Lux began going up near 8th and Hope on Tuesday, Nov 4

For those following The Bloc makeover project, we’ve seen a lot of new exciting developments that show a very bright future ahead for a once very dreadful place that stifled Downtown LA’s urban revitalization progress. We’ve seen what The Bloc will be like on 7th Street, Flower, and Hope. But very little was known about the 8th Street side of the project — until now. Yesterday, work started on three exciting permanent murals commissioned by The Bloc’s ownership, The Ratkovich Company, that will adorn the bland fortress-like walls, transforming the streetscape into a colorful and artistic urban experience.

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Downtown LA’s Library Tower Lit Up with Rainbow Colors

Downtown LA's Library Tower -- tallest skyscraper on the west coast -- was lit up with rainbow colors on Monday night celebrating the advancement of LGBT rights in America (Photo: Sterling Davis)

Downtown LA’s Library Tower — tallest skyscraper on the west coast — was lit up with rainbow colors on Monday night celebrating the advancement of LGBT rights in America (Photo: Sterling Davis)

[Update 10/7/14: Apparently I jumped the gun last night when I looked up and saw the rainbow colors, got excited, and assumed the colors were lit up to celebrate the expansion of LGBT rights (read below) when it was actually meant to signify the Special Olympics are opening offices inside the tower as well as hosting the summer games next year in Los Angeles. It was definitely a major coincidence that these two events fell exactly on the same day. The confusion stemmed from the fact that the international symbol for the LGBT community, recognized around the world, just so happens to be the colors of the rainbow. This brings up an obvious glaring issue that the US Bank Tower needs to inform the public on their website what the colors on top actually mean (like what the ESB does in NYC). Nevertheless, I’d still like to think the rainbow colors represented both significant events: the Special Olympics coming to LA and the advancement for LGBT rights. Win win for all.]  

Tonight, Downtown LA’s Library Tower (aka US Bank Tower) was lit up with rainbow colors celebrating a major milestone in LGBT rights in America. Earlier on Monday, 11 states legalized same-sex marriage as a result of the Supreme Court strategically declining to hear appeals from five states. The beautiful crown at the top of the tower — still the west coast’s tallest skyscraper — lit up brightly with red, green, purple, yellow, and blue that could be seen from miles away.

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New Stunning Flyover Video: Fall in Love with Downtown LA All Over Again

Downtown Los Angeles from Ian Wood on Vimeo.

There have been some pretty amazing video tributes to Downtown LA lately, like the beautiful 4-minute time-lapse video by TimeLAX that captured the glittering urban center that is our growing and revitalizing Downtown LA. Once abandoned and left for dead, Downtown LA is once again the center of pride for Angelenos. Now, there’s another new video sent to me by a downtown resident named Ian Wood that’s upped the ante on just how amazing Downtown LA can look on camera. Wood spent 2 months filming with a flying quadcopter “that looks a bit like a mutant chicken” equipped with a GoPro camera. What he captured and compiled into another 4-minute video (coupled with perfect music from Chassol) really will knock your socks off.

It made me fall in love with Downtown LA all over again — enjoy.

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New Downtown LA CVS Opening August 10; Fingers Crossed It Helps Improve Seedy Intersection

A new CVS Pharmacy drug store is opening at the corner of 7th/Spring in Downtown LA this coming August

A new CVS Pharmacy drug store is opening at the corner of 7th/Spring in Downtown LA this coming August

Last November, we found out that a new CVS Pharmacy drug store had signed a lease to take over the entire corner of the historic Van Nuys building at 7th and Spring in the heart of the Historic Core. This can be seen as a good and bad thing for those who live in downtown. Good because it’s always nice to have more options and variety to get your daily residential needs fulfilled. After all, CVS along with other drug store chains like Walgreens and Rite Aid are meant to be neighborhood serving retailers that are convenient and ubiquitous in established urban communities. However, this particular CVS can also be viewed as a bad thing because of its close proximity to Skid Row where homeless individuals are known to frequent these drug stores to purchase prescription drugs and alcohol. In the case of Rite Aid at 5th/Broadway, loitering in front of the store is a big issue along with drug dealers and other unpleasant “it’s-your-fault-for-moving-to-an-urban-downtown” experiences like getting beat up by random thugs!

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Come Walk with Me: Brigham Yen Shows the LA Register What It’s Like to be a Pedestrian in Downtown LA

As Downtown LA continues to revitalize, the urban center of LA is becoming more vibrant with pedestrian activity, a phenomenon many still are unaware of happening to Los Angeles

As Downtown LA continues to revitalize, the urban center of LA is becoming more vibrant with pedestrian activity, a phenomenon many still are unaware of happening to Los Angeles

Just last week, I gave a staff writer, Bill Johnson, at the Los Angeles Register a 4 hour walking tour of Downtown LA. Yes, we actually walked for those who don’t believe it’s possible in “car-centric” Los Angeles. The walk was not only long but interesting all along the way. I love giving these walking tours because it’s always my goal to surprise those who aren’t familiar with downtown not only all the exciting changes happening but also that it’s completely possible to be a pedestrian in Los Angeles when a city has a centralized urban center that’s filled with things to do and see. Simple concept, yet so many were/are skeptical it could ever happen here in sprawly LA. To read the full tour described by Johnson, please check out the LA Register article by clicking here.

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“Around the Globe Kid’s Center” Aims to be the Next Parental Gathering Spot in Downtown LA

Responding to a growing number of parents who live in Downtown LA, a new retail shop for kids with an indoor playground is now open on Broadway near Olympic Blvd

Responding to a growing number of parents who live in Downtown LA, a new retail shop for kids with an indoor playground is now open on Broadway near Olympic Blvd

People think of Downtown LA as a place for either professionals who work in suits in big skyscrapers or the creative set living in cool hip lofts above funky bars perhaps on Spring Street or in the Arts District. Singles and couples attracted to urban living, the usual suspects you know? But something you don’t expect to see downtown is a growing number of parents with kids living in those cool hip lofts. Many parents have decided to continue living in the urban center even though it seems most downtown residents who decide to have children usually end up moving out to the suburbs. Seeing more and more parents pushing their strollers down the sidewalks of Downtown LA says a lot about the changing demographics and what it means for the future. And now that group of urban-loving parents reluctant to move to suburbia are taking matters into their own hands by creating services and amenities geared for families. A perfect example is the amazing new K-2nd Metro Charter School in South Park that was started by a dedicated group of downtown parents who wanted a high quality education for their downtown-based children. And now that’s why I’m so excited to see a new children’s retail store called, “Around the Globe Kid’s Center,” opening on Broadway just south of Olympic Blvd.

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“Arts District Flea” Permanent Weekly Indoor Flea Market Launches in Downtown LA

The Arts District Flea -- a permanent indoor flea market -- officially launched this past weekend at 453 Colyton Street near Urth Caffe

The Arts District Flea — a permanent indoor flea market — officially launched this past weekend at 453 Colyton Street near Urth Caffe

This past weekend was the official launch of the Arts District Flea, which is a permanent indoor flea market located at 453 Colyton Street just a short block west from the central gathering hub otherwise known as Urth Caffe. The three-day event started on Friday and attracted hundreds of people throughout the weekend ending on Sunday. The high turn out shows the kind of demand there is for community oriented events like this in a rapidly growing Arts District. Local vendors and artisans from throughout Los Angeles (and many from the Arts District itself) set up stalls in the cavernous 15,000 square foot industrial warehouse space with concrete floors and 14.5 foot high exposed wood-beam ceilings. With a capacity for up to 60 separate vendors (each stall is 8′ x 8′), the Arts District Flea will continue to offer a dynamic and wide range of both new and vintage items for sale.

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New “LA Plaza” Mixed-User with Exciting Paseo Coming to El Pueblo in Downtown LA

A new mixed-use project being spearheaded by the LA Plaza foundation in El Pueblo is being planned for two parking lots just west of Olvera Street with a pedestrian paseo as the highlight of the project (Photo: LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes)

(Click to enlarge) A new mixed-use project being spearheaded by the LA Plaza foundation in El Pueblo is being planned for two parking lots just west of Olvera Street with a pedestrian paseo as the highlight of the project (Photo: LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes)

A very, very exciting mixed-use project is in the early planning stages over in El Pueblo just north of the 101 freeway and south of Chinatown, which is the historic birthplace of Downtown LA, and to a greater extent, the birthplace of Los Angeles itself. In fact, the oldest residence still standing in Los Angeles, Avila Adobe built in 1818, remains one of Downtown LA’s main visitor attractions located on historic Olvera Street within El Pueblo. Now, exciting plans are taking shape to further enhance and strengthen El Pueblo allowing for both visitors and Angelenos alike to embrace and appreciate the historic value of the district. A non-profit foundation based in El Pueblo called LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is currently in the process of selecting a developer to build two mixed-use projects, named “LA Plaza Cultura Village,” on two county-owned parking lots just west of the foundation’s headquarters on Main Street that will connect El Pueblo to its surrounding communities including Chinatown and Union Station.

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Stephen Kane Running for DLANC: “Safer Streets, Redoing Pershing Square, More Transit” in Downtown LA

Native Angeleno Stephen Kane is hoping to contribute his love and passion for Downtown LA by running for Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (Photo: Stephen Kane)

Native Angeleno Stephen Kane is hoping to contribute his love and passion for Downtown LA by running for Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (Photo: Stephen Kane)

By Stephen Kane

It’s no longer a secret: DTLA is on the verge of becoming a great urban core once again. Promise and opportunity abound in this rapidly growing community, but so do the challenges that we must address in order to keep downtown on the right path and direction. As we continue to grow and evolve, we will increasingly wrestle with who we are and what we aspire to be.

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Will New Walgreens Help Improve Crime Infested 5th/Broadway in Downtown LA?

Does this new Walgreens signal a new direction coming for the still-seedy intersection of 5th/Broadway in Downtown LA?

Does this new Walgreens signal a new direction coming for the still-seedy intersection of 5th/Broadway in Downtown LA?

A brand new shiny Walgreens just opened this past Friday at the crime ridden intersection of 5th and Broadway — a part of Downtown LA’s Historic Core that has resisted change from its gang and drug infested past even as the rest of downtown continues to revitalize. The grand opening on Jan 31 at 10 am was an event marked with DJ music, balloons, free food samples, and lots of smiles and cheer. The celebratory mood inside stood in stark contrast to the seedy elements that still lurked outside as the daily east-west migratory pattern from Skid Row to Pershing Square continued as usual uninterrupted. However, given Walgreens’ different operating strategy from “the problem” Rite Aid across the street, the new Chicago-based drug store is hopefully a sign of more positive changes to come for one of Downtown LA’s worst intersections.

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ULI FutureBuild Event Will Unveil Radical Reinventions of Downtown LA and Beyond


Watch a short video about ULI FutureBuild hosted in Downtown LA!

Mayor Eric Garcetti is among the leaders who will preview dramatic changes in urban living at FutureBuild 2014. On January 28 ULI Los Angeles presents this high-level, interactive event. Mayor Garcetti will give the keynote speech – a preview of a sustainably designed a future Los Angeles. (Could it be something like the transit-oriented Downtown depicted in Spike Jonze’s movie “Her?”) Other Downtown-focused topics will include: new bikeways; a preview of the new cubicle-free office represented by CBRE’s redesigned headquarters; parklets such as those popping up on Spring Street; expanded access to a restored L.A. River, and more.

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Brigham Yen Featured in NY Times: “In a Car-Culture Clash, It’s Los Angeles Police vs. Pedestrians”

LAPD sting operation at 7th/Figueroa slapping unsuspecting pedestrians with $200 jaywalking tickets for those who step off the curb after the countdown timer begins

LAPD sting operation at 7th/Figueroa slapping unsuspecting pedestrians with $200 jaywalking tickets for those who step off the curb after the countdown timer begins

There is nothing to be proud of when it comes to LA’s backward car culture. Endless ugly strip malls along with empty sidewalks and congested freeways have defined LA in pop culture — no wonder we were the butt of jokes. But we all know that things are changing for the better now as LA is in the midst of an exciting urban renaissance transforming Downtown LA into a bustling urban center filled with, believe it or not, pedestrians walking! I like to describe it as “LA getting its mojo back.” However, instead of continuing to encourage more pedestrians to walk in a land infamous for car loving addicts, the LAPD has been cracking down on (read: penalizing) pedestrians who jaywalk and going so far as to set up sting operations at the busiest intersections (i.e., 7th and Figueroa) to slap unsuspecting pedestrians with up to $250 tickets. That’s exactly why I am very glad to see the conversation continue about “jaywalking in Downtown LA,” this time in the NY Times in an article that came out today titled: “In a Car-Culture Clash, It’s Los Angeles Police vs. Pedestrians.” (Click here to read the NY Times article.)

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Brigham Yen on KCRW: Police Crackdown on Jaywalking in Downtown LA Terrible Idea


Click to listen: Police Cracking Down on Jaywalking in Downtown LA

In case you’ve been under a rock over the past few days, “jaywalking” has been a controversial headline in the LA media circuit. And it’s something I’ve been an outspoken critic about (for a long time) with the LAPD and their antiquated enforcement policy against jaywalking in Downtown LA, an urban oasis in Los Angeles and what I like to think of as the largest island of pedestrianism in an ocean of car-loving suburbia.

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