Nine projects, including a restaurant, new residential complexes and a concert venue in a revamped historic theater, were honored at the 14th annual Downtowners of Distinction awards last week.
Only one project, however, walked away with the top prize as the most impactful development in the Central City in 2014.
Ace Hotel, at 929 S. Broadway, was named Los Angeles Downtown News’ Project of the Year for the transformation of a 1927 structure into 182 guest rooms. The project also rehabbed the historic United Artists Theatre into a 1,600-seat venue for concerts and other events. The Ace’s arrival has, in turn, ushered in new crowds, new hipness and new life to a stretch of Broadway that had long been a recreational dead zone.
The Downtowners of Distinction awards were held Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The district winners, chosen for the impact on their neighborhoods and on greater Downtown, were selected by the editorial staff of Downtown News. The Project of the Year was picked by leaders from each district.
Approximately 300 people turned out for the event, including City Attorney Mike Feuer, former councilwoman and current Economic and Workforce Development Department General Manager Jan Perry, and Councilmen José Huizar, Tom LaBonge, Curren Price and Mitch O’Farrell.
The Ace has received attention from national and international media. Still, hotel General Manager Jason Diebler said there is an emphasis on providing amenities for locals, not just travelers.
“You can’t just have a hotel. You need to create a haven for people who are already in the neighborhood,” Diebler said. “To be a part of Broadway, of the Fashion District, and all the historic venues reopening, it’s an amazing feeling.”
District winners came from a variety of fields. The 50th anniversary season of East West Players was awarded the prize for Little Tokyo. South Park was represented by the restaurant Faith & Flower. The renovated Regent theater took the honors for the Historic Core.
The largest project to win was the 438-apartment One Santa Fe in the Arts District. Development partners Bill McGregor, president of the McGregor Company, and Charles Cowley, president of Cowley Real Estate Partners, said the recession made it extremely difficult to forge ahead with One Santa Fe. Yet the effort has been transformative for the neighborhood, they said.
“We hope one day people come to the Arts District to look at the building just like they would Disney Hall, or the Police [Administration Building], or the Caltrans headquarters,” Cowley remarked.
Other winners included The Emerson apartment tower on Bunker Hill, Skid Row Housing Trust’s Star Apartments in Central City East, the Civic Center’s Hall of Justice and the Financial District’s 8th + Hope apartment tower.
New this year was the introduction of “Notable Projects,” akin to honorable mention prizes, in numerous districts. Recipients included the Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn hotel near L.A. Live, the reinvigoration of Grand Central Market and Feuer’s crackdown on homeless patient dumping in Skid Row, and the Broadway streetscape “dress rehearsal” project.
Huizar noted that such an acknowledgment for the improvement along the Broadway corridor was not something he would have expected a few years ago.
Other attendees expressed enthusiasm for the progress in Downtown and urged the community to keep pushing forward.
“Let’s not think of L.A. as a city with no center, but rather think of L.A. having a strong, vibrant center that is a model for the rest of the city,” Feuer said.