Category Archives: environmentally green

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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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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Downtown LA Pershing Square Task Force Formed, Gensler Releases New Renderings of Reimagined Space

A rendering of Pershing Square reimagined (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

A rendering of Pershing Square reimagined as open and transparent (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

Okay, it’s a complete coincidence that after posting yesterday about redeveloping/redesigning Pershing Square (using SF Union Square as a model) that Councilman Jose Huizar announced this morning at the Gensler office downtown that a new 21-member task force was put together to help re-envision and re-imagine the future of Pershing Square. Perhaps the stars are finally aligning? Some of the members (listed below) are property owners surrounding Pershing Square who obviously would like to see the immediate surroundings improved. Remember: A beautiful and successfully activated Pershing Square of the future will benefit the nearby building stock tremendously, raising property values. A conceptual video was also released by Gensler highlighting some ideas for Pershing Square that you can watch here.

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Now Open: Dr J’s Vibrant Cafe Adds Tasty Vegan Option to Old Bank District in Downtown LA

Vegan eatery Dr J's Vibrant Cafe is now open at the Medallion Apartments at 4th and Main in Downtown LA

Vegan eatery Dr J’s Vibrant Cafe is now open at the Medallion Apartments at 4th and Main in Downtown LA

Back in January of this year, DTLA Rising first reported that Dr J’s Vibrant Cafe was coming to the Old Bank District at 4th and Main. The new vegan eatery — named after its health-conscious owner Dr. Juliet Tien — opened last week at the Medallion Apartments, which is fast becoming a total foodie hot spot not only with Simply Salad and potentially pricey Sushi Zo on the roster, but six more exciting food concepts coming within the next year including Bigmista’s BBQ and Cafe Uzes from Tara Thomas (Traxx Restaurant at Union Station).

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Urban Radish Specialty Market Now Open in Downtown LA Arts District

Urban Radish, a new 8,200 square foot specialty market, is now open in Downtown LA Arts District

Urban Radish, a new 8,200 square foot specialty market, is now open in Downtown LA Arts District

Over the last decade, the Arts District on the eastern edge of Downtown LA has become increasingly more residential as opposed to being a strictly industrial district. As more residents moved in over the years into industrial buildings turned into lofts, the demand for basic amenities became ever more apparent. Even though numerous high profile restaurants and eateries have opened here in the last several years (i.e., Urth Caffe, Wurstkuche, Church & State, Bestia, Handsome Coffee to name a few), sorely missing was a neighborhood grocery store. And now with the opening of Urban Radish at 660 Mateo St near the Biscuit and Toy Factory Lofts, the Arts District finally gets its own specialty market helping to fulfill that basic residential need.

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Downtown LA’s New Spring Street Park Adds Much Needed Open Space to Historic Core

Downtown LA's newest urban park, Spring Street Park, officially opened today at 10AM with a community gathering

Downtown LA’s newest urban park, Spring Street Park, officially opened today at 10AM with a community gathering

Today was another great step forward in Downtown LA’s evolution in becoming a mature urban center that’s balanced not only with more needed density but open space as well — two important ingredients needed in urban planning that encourage a pedestrian lifestyle. The 0.7 acre Spring Street Park, nestled in between two historic condo high-rises — The Rowan and El Dorado — between 4th and 5th Street, officially opened at 10 am with a community gathering and inauguration that included downtown residents, community stakeholders, and LA Mayor Villaraigosa along with Council Members Huizar and Perry. The mood was cheerful and celebratory as today’s park, designed by Lehrer Architects, opening marked an important milestone for the Historic Core that further establishes the district as a bona fide urban residential community.

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Organic Erewhon Market Looking to Open at One Santa Fe in Downtown LA Arts District

Rumors have it that organic market Erewhon will be opening at the One Santa Fe project in the Arts District (Photo: Michael Maltzan Architects)

Rumors have it that organic market Erewhon will be opening at the One Santa Fe project in the Arts District when the mixed-use project is completed late next year (Photo: Michael Maltzan Architecture)

One of the largest projects under construction right now in Downtown LA is the massive quarter-mile long One Santa Fe mixed-use project in the burgeoning Arts District, designed by Michael Maltzan. When completed late next year, One Santa Fe will add 438 apartments for rent and 79,000 square feet of commercial space (office, retail, and a 99-seat community theater). As to be expected with a growing residential population, grocery stores are all the rage in Downtown LA, so the developer of One Santa Fe was smart to allocate 15,000 square feet for just that purpose. But what kind of grocery store will it be?

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Ideas for Downtown LA: What We Can Learn from NYC with Road Diets, Ped Plazas, Etc

This snapshot I took in New York is the single most powerful visually compelling reason why a city should be more about pedestrians and less about cars

This snapshot I took in Chelsea of a typical scene in New York shows how wonderful a city can be when it is pedestrian oriented

Every time I visit New York, I’m like a kid in a candy store. Why? I’m an urbanist at heart and New York is brimming with urbanism. No, it’s exploding with urbanism! I love walking and being a pedestrian free to roam the city, and whenever I’m here in New York (usually for a week at a time), I feel liberated and empowered as I dart through the energetic streets, slide my MetroCard on my way down into the ubiquitous subway stations, and jaywalk whenever and wherever I please. The way New York and other East Coast cities are built, compact and mixed-use, encourage a thriving pedestrian culture. What are some key ideas that we can bring back from a city like New York that can continue to help Los Angeles (and specifically Downtown LA) develop that wonderful pedestrian urban lifestyle and lessen our dependence (read: handicap) on automobiles?

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Ideas for Downtown LA: Minor Tweaks to 110 Overpasses Will Encourage Pedestrian Activity

Some ideas on how to bolster pedestrian connections -- between City West and the rest of Downtown LA -- includes making the 110 overpasses safer and more attractive (mainly Wilshire Blvd and 7th Street)

Some ideas on how to bolster pedestrian connections — between City West and the rest of Downtown LA — include making the 110 overpasses safer and more attractive for pedestrians (mainly Wilshire Blvd and 7th Street)

As Downtown LA continues to evolve and mature into a multi-faceted urban center that’s not only a commercial hub but a bona fide residential community, it becomes even more important that we focus on creating an environment that is pedestrian friendly making it enjoyable and convenient for residents to live, work, and play in. That enhancement to the pedestrian realm — wider sidewalks, narrower streets, more bike lanes, etc. — in Downtown LA is needed to create the strong walkable connections that eventually spawns a walking culture.

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Rumor Mill: Is Whole Foods Coming to 8th & Grand in Downtown LA?

Rumor has it that Whole Foods is looking at opening in the new 8th and Grand project (Photo: Carmel Partners)

Rumor has it that Whole Foods is looking at opening in the new 8th and Grand project (Photo: Carmel Partners)

What do we want more of in Downtown LA? More grocery stores of course. The growing residential population downtown has been clamoring for more grocery options (even though we really do love our Ralphs Fresh Fare!). A source working closely with Whole Foods has confirmed to me in an email that the Austin, Texas-based supermarket chain “is looking at a number of sites” in Downtown LA.

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Wetzel’s Pretzels Now Open at 7th/Metro Subway Station in Downtown LA

A new Wetzel's Pretzels sign points down toward the 7th/Metro subway station entrance where the new chain eatery is now open

A new Wetzel’s Pretzels sign points down toward the 7th/Metro subway station entrance where the new chain eatery is now open

A new Wetzel’s Pretzels has replaced the original “subway snack bar” that symbolized a new direction that LA was taking when it comes to walking vs driving and urban vs suburban. Back in summer of 2011, “Carmegeddon” was the talk of the town as many Angelenos feared the impending “shut down” and “collapse” of our city due to the closure of the 405 (aka, the Westside’s largest parking lot) as part of a billion dollar freeway-widening project. (Don’t we know by now that widening a freeway actually induces more traffic because it encourages driving?) The amount of irrational widespread national media coverage of the “impending shut down” spoke volumes about the general public’s negative impression of Los Angeles as an auto-obsessed town utterly dependent on the car where a single freeway closure could incapacitate all Angelenos!

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Good PR for Urbanism: Downtown LA Gets Two New “Parklets” in Historic Core

The new parklets downtown expand the realm of public space, taking over a metered parking spot and replacing it with more seating for example

The new parklets downtown expand the realm of public space, taking over a metered parking spot and replacing it with more seating for example

Yesterday, Downtown LA celebrated the grand opening of two new parklets along Spring Street in the Historic Core, which has become one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Downtown LA now active with pedestrians and bicyclists almost around the clock. In case you’re not quite sure what a “parklet” is, they’re basically mini parks extended from the sidewalk that replace usually one or two metered parking spots. The most amazing thing about these parklets — besides the fact that they actually do expand our public space — is that they represent a change in attitude about what Los Angeles should be. In Los Angeles a decade ago, if you were to propose getting rid of a parking spot for any reason whatsoever, the pitch forks and torches would be coming out in mob form. And in some backward places in LA, that’s still the case unfortunately (I’m looking at you West LA).

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“Friends of Pershing Square” Reimagines Downtown LA’s Faded Historic Central Park

One of the first redesign options for Pershing Square is to get rid of the walls and return it to its original form, an example seen here in 1965 (Photo: LAPL)

One of the first redesign options for Pershing Square is to get rid of the walls to increase visibility and accessibility, returning it closer to the original form seen here in 1965 (Photo: LAPL)

Pershing Square has gone through several major overhauls since its inception in 1866 when it was then called La Plaza Abaja, or “The Lower Plaza.” In its current state (another major overhaul designed by Ricardo Legorreta and completed in 1992), purple, yellow and beige walls surround most of the square with giant pink cylinders lining the wall on Hill St, blocking accessibility and visual connections. In addition, long driveways on all four sides of the park — leading cars into an underground parking garage — run parallel to the sidewalk (instead of space saving perpendicular driveways) creating uncrossable rifts between the sidewalk and square. It’s as if the park was designed deliberately to cater to the automobile with the intention of keeping people out of the park.

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New Modern Subway Station Canopies Help Elevate Transit in Los Angeles

The newly completed station canopy at Pershing Square gives the station a stronger identity and higher visibility

The newly completed STV-designed station canopy at Pershing Square gives the station a stronger identity and higher visibility

Pretty much exactly a year ago, we learned that two subway stations in Downtown LA were getting new modern station canopies (courtesy of Metro) that would make the portals both more visible to riders (especially visitors unfamiliar with LA’s transit network) and to help protect the escalators and entryway from the elements. A year later, the two downtown stations — Civic Center and Pershing Square — have now completed construction on the new oval-shaped glass canopies.

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Ideas for Downtown LA: Using Grand Central Terminal NYC as a Model for LA Union Station

Post WWII, Grand Central Terminal faded away from the hearts and minds of New Yorkers and was almost demolished in the 60s, but today, the station is now relevant as one of New York's top destinations

Post WWII, Grand Central Terminal faded away from the hearts and minds of New Yorkers and was almost demolished in the 60s, but today, the station is now more relevant than ever as one of New York’s top destinations — a path LA Union Station will hopefully follow

I just got back to LA after spending a week in New York. Every time I visit America’s largest urban center, I am inspired by the incredible urbanism that defines the city. The infrastructure and built environment, mix of architecture, diversity of businesses, and strong pedestrian culture never ceases to amaze me. For us in LA, as we continue to press for change — improving our own urbanism in a city still dominated by a suburban, car-oriented mentality — it would behoove us to look at successful models and examples from other cities that could be applied to Downtown LA. One of those prime examples is Grand Central Terminal in Midtown at 42nd Street, which has experienced an amazing turnaround from irrelevancy and near demolition in the 1960s to one of the greatest rail stations in the world today.

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