Downtown Is Booming, But Also Still in Transition

DTLA - When it comes to development, Downtown Los Angeles is experiencing a bull market unlike anything ever seen in the city. Although plenty of neighborhoods have gone through significant periods of growth since the founding of the pueblo in 1781, the billions in investment now pouring into the Central City and the multitude of projects are unprecedented. 

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If anything, all the articles are underplaying what is happening in Downtown. We were reminded of the breadth of activity last week, when Los Angeles Downtown News published its Building L.A. issue, with the latest information on 109 projects.

These are taking place in every portion of Downtown. There are mixed-use mega-developments in the works or proposed in Chinatown, South Park and the Arts District. The Historic Core is seeing more residential action, with both building transformations and new construction. Thousands of housing units are rising or in the pipeline, and civic projects will add park space and create bike lines.

Certainly not every project will happen. Some will encounter trouble with financing. Others will stumble due to a developer’s inexperience or missteps. There’s a growing belief that after years of expansion the national economy, which is cyclical, will hit a downturn, and that lending markets will chill and Downtown will feel the effects. All of the above are likely.

But even if, say, half the projects are delayed or permanently shelved, then more than 50 Downtown developments will still move forward, including ones deep in construction such as the $1 billion Oceanwide Plaza in South Park, the nearby $500 million, twin-tower Circa, and the $1.75 billion Regional Connector, which will streamline rail travel throughout the region. These projects are something stakeholders in most neighborhoods can only dream about. 

All the activity is a reminder that, despite the change that has occurred, much more is on the way. The addition of housing and businesses — including anchors such as Warner Music Group, which will fill the refurbished Ford Factory Building in the Arts District in the fall — will lure additional residents and companies to the area. One should consider the Downtown of 2018 not the end product, but rather a community still in the midst of a transition. The neighborhood 10 years from now stands to be significantly different.

As the community progresses, some major challenges remain. Downtown continues to suffer from a shortage of workforce housing, units affordable to mid-income earners. The homelessness situation remains unacceptable and an embarrassment to the city. We need more ways for people to navigate the community without getting into a car; this will require better pedestrian corridors and improved mass transit options, as well as DASH buses. Adding so many people requires updating the community’s infrastructure.

The good news is this is already on the radar, and the Department of City Planning is looking toward the future with its DTLA 2040 plan. 

The future will bring challenges, but also excitement and opportunity, and open up untapped potential.

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2018