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As Downtown’s real estate leaders work through a pandemic that’s forced them online, community, business and technology experts at the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID) launched a platform for virtual development tours. 

This online program — which features 360-degree high-definition panoramic photography, drone footages, architectural renderings and in-depth data — offers a replacement for the DCBID’s quarterly development tours. 

“Tours have always been a big deal for us. It’s kind of a core thing,” said Nick Griffin, DCBID’s executive director.

“We realized we’re not going to be putting 50 people on a bus anytime soon. At first, it was really done as a response to the crisis, (but) almost immediately, we saw that in that challenge was a huge opportunity. It was an opportunity to create an innovative platform.”

Griffin helped model the program after DCBID’s tours, which, pre-COVID-19, would bring interested developers to the most important projects around Downtown. 

It gave developers a chance to connect with a space so they could understand the context of the neighborhood — like its proximity to offices, grocery stores and performance venues or just the actual look and feel of the block. These tours were conducted around the release of the DCBID’s Quarterly Market Reports.

“The investors want the numbers, but they can get the numbers from our market report. What they really want is that context,” Griffin said. “They want to understand beyond the numbers. They want to get a feeling for, ‘Well, what’s on that block?’”

The virtual platform features four development sites: Second and Grand, First and Broadway, Pershing Square, and Eighth and Figueroa. Each of these locations has multiple development projects that can be explored by pictures, narrative, data and renderings. They provide a view into the future of Downtown’s high-profile projects. 

“Version 1.0 was based on the development tour. The next version will add existing residential, office, retail and hospitality,” said Griffin about the platform’s future. “It adds all of the existing properties. When we have all of those in there, we can do a residential housing tour. That will be targeted to prospective residents.”

Right now, the website also has plans to expand its tour offerings to residential, office and retail spaces. The DCBID also helped set up in-person residential tours, so these will replace and enhance the previous showings for potential new tenants. With the residential tours in particular, DCBID plans to link its platform with the robust virtual tours already offered by apartment buildings, providing a kind of “door-to-door” tour platform for anyone looking to live Downtown.

Once expanded, the platform will catalogue properties all over the Downtown Core, making it an exciting new resource where the potential residents, investors, developers or anyone interested can access data once limited to those dense industry reports. With the visual aid, it lets the public intuitively engage with the most impactful projects shaping Downtown’s future. 

“It’ll be all the significant properties, all the significant office, residential, hotel, retail properties. We already have all of that in our database,” Griffin said. 

And according to Griffin and the DCBID, that future looks bright. Griffin sees the bounce back of Downtown’s economy once pandemic restrictions loosen as a potential renaissance for the neighborhood, similar in scale to the robust period of dynamic innovation in New York’s urban cores post-9/11.

“There’s been a lot of negative narrative about the future of cities and dense urban centers. I don’t subscribe to that. I think the economy is going to boom coming out of this,” Griffin said. 

“The reason that New York was able to recover from (9/11) so successfully is because they tapped into the great assets they have, the creative assets, the arts and culture, the engaged civic community they had. These are all things that Downtown has in spades.”

With Griffin’s firm optimistic and the burgeoning possibilities of a vaccinated world, Downtown looks ready to get back onto its path of rapid growth. While obviously impacted by the difficulties of isolation and lockdown, the 80,000 residents and thousands more workers in LA’s urban core helped buoy the struggling local businesses. Now the neighborhood and the DCBID are looking ahead to bringing everyone forward safely and successfully into a post-pandemic world.

“All of the stuff that Downtown has to offer are the things that people have so desperately missed for a year,” said Griffin on the future. “I actually think that they’re going to come flooding back into Downtown, that we’re going to see a whole new renaissance of the city, because it’s what people want. I think we’re going to see really exciting growth as the spring opens up.”

Info: downtownla.com/virtual-tour