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.
Category Archives: union station
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.
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.
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.
Back in 2007, Megabus — an economical bus service popular on the East Coast and Europe — started their service in California and Nevada offering their ridiculously low $1 fare (obviously in limited quantities, of course) to popular destinations like Las Vegas, San Francisco, and San Diego. I was one of those who took advantage of the dollar fare taking the new bus service from LA to San Diego for a weekend getaway. You can’t beat a dollar. That’s why I was pretty disappointed to learn when they discontinued their service only about a year later due to low ridership numbers.
Last month, we found out that Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was opening soon inside Union Station within the passenger concourse area. It was exciting news for those of us (urban transit geeks) who want to see Union Station open up more businesses, becoming more of a destination itself rather than just a transfer point. Many cities around the world have shopping and dining inside their major rail stations (you can see some examples here).
Ice cream lovers rejoice. A new Ben & Jerry’s is coming soon to Union Station in Downtown LA adding to a mix of new businesses that have been opening inside the rail hub. Construction began on the ice cream shop in May 2012 inside the passenger concourse and will be wrapping up very soon. According to B & J’s Facebook page, it should be opening up “early summer.”