Category Archives: smart growth

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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888 South Hope: CIM Group’s New 33-Story Project Preparing for Ground Breaking in Downtown LA

A new 33-story tower by CIM Group is set to rise at the corner of 9th/Hope in South Park called "888 South Hope"

A new 33-story tower by CIM Group is set to rise at the corner of 9th/Hope in South Park called “888 South Hope”

South Park in Downtown LA just keeps getting hotter and hotter! Recently announced are a slew of new proposed shiny high-rises set to break ground in the next year or so that will give our growing skyline a major shot in the arm — how exciting! Now let’s add another tower to the mix, this time at the northeast corner of 9th and Hope also in South Park (directly adjacent to the u/c boutique “Empire Hotel“). The new 33-story residential tower — to be called “888 South Hope” — will be developed by CIM Group, which just recently purchased Two Cal Plaza on Bunker Hill and also developed the Market-Gas Company Lofts across the street.

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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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EightyTwo (82) Arcade Bar Brings Classic Gaming to the Arts District in Downtown LA

EightyTwo is a new arcade bar that grand opened this week in the Arts District in Downtown LA

EightyTwo is a new arcade bar that grand opened this week in the Arts District in Downtown LA

Did you grow up in the age of classic gaming (like me) in the 80s and 90s when going to the arcade was an absolute integral part of life? Remember the good ol’ days of lining up quarters on the arcade console waiting eagerly for your turn to challenge the “unbeatable” incumbent player on games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat? For me, it was all about Chun Li: “Yatta!” Walking into EightyTwo, now open in the Arts District in Downtown LA, is like taking a trip back in time when arcade game consoles were ubiquitous (7-Elevens used to be the hang out spot after school right?).

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Applause: South Park Parking Structure Adding 11,000+ SF New Retail Space in Downtown LA

(Click to enlarge) Rendering of new eateries (with outdoor patio dining) along Hope Street after the ground level parking is converted to retail space (Photo: PSP Investment Group)

(Click to enlarge) Rendering of new eateries (with outdoor patio dining) along Hope Street after the ground level parking is converted to retail space (Photo: PSP Investment Group)

Some very exciting news coming out of South Park that will help enliven the streets just a little bit more. Just two blocks from the Staples Center, an existing parking structure at 11th and Hope that currently houses two restaurants on the ground floor — Il Mare and Arashi Sushi — will be expanding its commercial retail space for lease by another 11,200 square feet. The 5-story parking structure with 598 spaces will be converting the ground level parking area along Hope Street into retail and restaurant space. Essentially, the entire perimeter of the parking structure will be wrapped with commercial spaces with a focus on adding new eateries. You lose a little bit of parking to benefit the growing community with neighborhood serving businesses that make living in Downtown LA enjoyable and convenient. I call that a win-win.

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Downtown LA Chinatown’s New Jia Apartments: Amenity Rich and Super Pet Friendly

Chinatown's first market rate housing development, Jia Apartments, is now open adjacent to the Chinatown gateway at Broadway and Cesar Chavez

Chinatown’s first market rate housing development, Jia Apartments, is now open adjacent to the Chinatown gateway at Broadway and Cesar Chavez

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.

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Watch Downtown LA’s New 32-Story Onni Tower Rise Halfway Up in 21 Seconds

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.

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New Wayfinding Signs, More Upgrades Coming Soon to Union Station in Downtown LA

The busiest rail station west of the Mississippi, Union Station in Downtown LA, is getting some exciting upgrades by the end of spring 2014 including new wayfinding and interactive electronic signs

The busiest rail station west of the Mississippi, Union Station in Downtown LA, is getting some exciting upgrades by the end of spring 2014 including new wayfinding and interactive electronic signs

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.

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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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In-N-Out Burger: “We’re Not Coming to Downtown LA without a (Suburban) Drive-Thru Location”

In-N-Out Burger is stubborn to maintain its suburban model of drive-thru restaurants, refusing to open an "urban location" in Downtown LA (Photo: In-N-Out Burger)

In-N-Out Burger is stubborn to maintain its suburban model of drive-thru restaurants, refusing to open an “urban location” in Downtown LA (Photo: In-N-Out Burger)

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.

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Russian-Style “T & Y Bakery” Coming to Union Station in Downtown LA

Coming this spring, Russian-style T & Y Bakery will be building out a new food stall in Union Station opening next to Ben & Jerry's

Coming this spring, Russian-style T & Y Bakery will be building out a new food stall in Union Station opening next to Ben & Jerry’s

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.

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Los Angeles Getting Its “Train Mojo” Back: Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge Now Open at Union Station in Downtown LA

An exciting new Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge is now open at Union Station catering to Amtrak train passengers

An exciting new Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge is now open at Union Station catering to Amtrak train passengers

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.

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Early 2014: Hanover Plans to Break Ground on 274-Unit Mixed-User in South Park Downtown LA

A rendering of 1000 Grand at the SE corner of Olympic/Grand in Downtown LA

A rendering of 1000 Grand at the SE corner of Olympic/Grand in Downtown LA (Photo: TCA)

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.

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Downtown LA Scores Two New Office Tenants: SEC and Buro Happold Coming in 2014

Downtown LA snags two new offices leases including the SEC and the new West Coast anchor office for engineering consulting firm Buro Happold

Downtown LA snags two new office leases including the SEC and the new West Coast anchor office for engineering consulting firm Buro Happold

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.

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Lessons in Urbanism for Downtown LA from Chicago: Brigham Yen Joins LA Architect Thomas Cox’s ULI Panel

Downtown Chicago is bustling and filled with a variety of commercial activities and is a great model for Downtown LA to follow

Downtown Chicago is bustling and filled with a variety of commercial activities and is a great model for Downtown LA to follow

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.

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