After more than two and a half years of construction, Chinatown’s very first market rate housing development called Jia Apartments is now officially open. Developed, owned, and managed by Equity Residential, the new mixed-use project — with a new Starbucks opening in early April and a couple more restaurants in lease negotiations — rises six stories adjacent to the striking Chinatown gateway with its twin golden dragons guarding the Broadway entry. Jia Apartments, which cost $93 million to develop, signals a new economic incline for Chinatown as more money is being invested into this northern district of Downtown LA. Finally, Chinatown joins the rest of downtown’s development wave that has reinvigorated the city center with new life and regional relevancy.
Category Archives: smart growth
Watch Onni’s 32-story apartment tower u/c rise halfway up in just 21 seconds!
Downtown resident, Aileen Viray, sends in this cool time-lapse video she put together — starting last November and ending just last week in February — tracking the progress at 9th and Olive where Onni’s new apartment tower is actively under construction. The high-rise has now risen exactly halfway up with work starting on the 17th floor (out of 32 floors total). Construction has been humming at the site since Jan 2013 just over a year ago when groundbreaking commenced. Vancouver-based Onni Group is developing this new mixed-use apartment tower, currently dubbed 888 Olive St., and will eventually bring to market 283-units for rent and add 11,000 square feet of retail space to the corner intersection.
Last week, I got an awesome tour of Union Station from Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning, Jenna Hornstock. I learned about some very exciting changes coming to the busiest rail station west of the Mississippi. Basically, you have two different timelines for planned improvement projects: short term and long term changes. Both are very exciting because it means Union Station is going to get better and better and play a much more prominent and vital role in our region’s growing mass transit network.
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.
With 292 locations in five states, one of the most popular burger joints in the country, In-N-Out Burger, is also on the top of Downtown LA’s wish list (along with the elusive Trader Joe’s). Vegetarians aside, who doesn’t crave a juicy double-double with fresh cut fries on the side every now and then? Well, sadly, the burger chain that was born in the suburbs of LA (in Baldwin Park in 1948) may never outgrow its suburban roots to open in the heart of Los Angeles. When asked if In-N-Out would consider opening an urban location in Downtown LA, the answer was an adamant “No.”
In-N-Out Burger would prefer to stick to the suburbs.
Always good to see more new businesses opening at Union Station. T & Y Bakery is coming to the west coast’s busiest rail hub by this spring. The Russian-style bakery with currently two locations — one at Farmers Market at 3rd/Fairfax and another in West Hollywood — is planning to build-out a brand new 258 square foot food stall next to Ben & Jerry’s and across from the Amtrak ticketing counter and exciting brand new Amtrak Metro Lounge. T & Y, which stands for “Tbilisi & Yerevan” (the capital cities of Georgia and Armenia respectively), will bring to Union Station the same yummy selection of pastries (like baklavas) and paninis that they’re known for in their other locations.
Los Angeles Getting Its “Train Mojo” Back: Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge Now Open at Union Station in Downtown LA
For a city known mostly for its embarrassingly robust driving culture and clogged freeways, it’s no surprise that LA lagged behind other large urban cities (i.e., New York, DC, Chicago, Philly, etc.) when it comes to train travel even though we’re the second largest city in the country. However, we are making great strides as the Pacific Surfliner — serving LA and San Diego up to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo — is now the busiest Amtrak route outside the northeast corridor with 2.7 million passengers in 2013. And now another symbolic sign that LA is getting its “train mojo” back is the opening of the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge at Downtown LA’s Union Station.
So the Hilton rumor at Olympic and Grand in South Park is now officially debunked — well sorta. It’s not that it wasn’t true that Hilton was eyeing the surface parking lot for development, it’s just that Hanover eventually won the battle in the next hottest section of South Park. Apparently, Hanover secured the deal early on and Hilton tried to “interject” but to no avail. Now Texas-based Hanover is planning to develop another 7-story mixed-user called “1000 Grand” at the SE corner of Olympic Blvd and Grand Ave (they’re currently building another mixed-user at Olympic and Hill), which is currently an ugly surface parking lot surrounded by the most cracked, tow up sidewalks you’ve ever seen in a developed nation. Shameful.
Downtown LA scores two new office leases including the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and engineering consulting firm Buro Happold. That’s good news as we all know the more companies and jobs that move to Downtown LA, the stronger the Downtown LA economy will be overall. For instance, downtown office workers play a significant economic part when they spend their earned dollars locally at restaurants and retail stores, or even better, decide to rent/buy real estate downtown becoming actual residents and fulfilling the “live, work, and play” motto.
Lessons in Urbanism for Downtown LA from Chicago: Brigham Yen Joins LA Architect Thomas Cox’s ULI Panel
I spent last week in one of the country’s best downtowns — Chicago. I was invited by Downtown LA-based architect firm, TCA, to join the founder Thomas Cox on an Urban Land Institute (ULI) conference panel discussing Gen Y (a demographic group I belong to) and our shifting preference toward multifamily housing in urban centers away from the default auto-centric suburbia that the Baby Boomers — our parents — once salivated for. The panel discussion was held at the Langham Hotel in the heart of Downtown Chicago across from the brand new stunning Trump Int’l Hotel and Tower. Lodging nearby at TheWit (highly recommended), I was in the perfect central location to explore all the amazing urban attributes that Downtown Chicago has to offer.
Okay, so we all know now that Downtown LA is in the midst of another impressive building boom with at least a half dozen high-rises under construction including the ginormous 73-floor Wilshire Grand Tower slated for completion in early 2017 (the West Coast’s tallest new tower in the making). Out of the half dozen, another one of those exciting new high-rises under construction is the 22-story apartment tower rising at the southwest corner of 8th and Hope on the northern edge of South Park (right across from the future Macy’s Plaza $160 million makeover). National development company, Wood Partners, is developing the residential high-rise project.
Feast your eyes on the newest renderings of the exciting $160 million makeover of The Bloc (formerly Macy’s Plaza) located in the heart of Downtown LA’s Financial District bounded by bustling 7th Street, Flower and Hope, as well as 8th Street to the south. The 1.8 million square foot mixed-use project will be transformed from the current eye-sore, brick fortress into an updated, modern commercial hub of 400,000 sf of retail, 750,000 sf office, and a $40 million updated 485-room Sheraton Hotel that will contribute significantly to the unprecedented urban revitalization happening in Downtown LA.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will join ULI Los Angeles, a District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), for Transit Oriented L.A., a long-anticipated summit exploring how to dramatically improve transportation corridors. With interactive panel presentations from nationally recognized speakers, Transit Oriented L.A. – or ToLA– will expand the traditional emphasis on individual transit stations to a bold transformation of corridors to achieve a truly transit-oriented Los Angeles.
ToLA is Thursday, October 10, 2013, 7:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, 90012.
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.
The parallels between San Francisco’s Union Square and Los Angeles’ Pershing Square are pretty astounding. On the surface it’s hard to believe, but they are essentially twins living two separate lives 337 miles apart but following almost identical historical paths, faced with similar challenges, and playing similar roles in their respective city centers. SF’s Union Square, however, is about two decades ahead of LA’s Pershing Square. As a result, visiting Union Square is really like looking into a crystal ball and gazing into what the future of Pershing Square could become, which is a much better and prettier version of its current ugly self. Unlocking the immense potential surrounding Pershing Square will depend heavily on the right kind of redevelopment and redesign efforts focused on the square itself. In other words, making Pershing Square into a beautiful public space where everyone wants to be will naturally raise the value of all buildings surrounding the square nearby, and as a result, transform the area into a viable and vibrant commercial district akin to Union Square.