Downtown Los Angeles: There’s a “There” There
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Swati Pandey

Last week I was at the downtown Central Library to talk about my book with the Los Angeles Times’ Jim Newton. Talking with Jim, and seeing that landmark 1920s building, is always a treat. But the real pleasure for me is going to downtown Los Angeles.

For a good many years, there was simply no there there. When I first flew over Los Angeles in the late 1950s, I couldn’t figure it out. Dorothy Parker was quoted as saying it was 72 suburbs in search of a city. On that first flight into LAX, someone on the plane said, “Look! It’s one big Queens.”

But for the last 10 years, whenever I drive downtown, there is something new happening. These days, The Broad is being built, and you can watch online here. (If  I'd had a webcam when I started out in homebuilding, I could have saved a lot of trips to construction sites.) A new civic park is set to open soon, funded by the $50 million down payment I secured from Grand Avenue developers Related Companies.

But last week was particularly big for downtown. The L.A. Live complex hosted playoff games for the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings and the Amgen Tour of California for cyclists. Hundreds of thousands of people came downtown and found plenty to do.

Then, it was announced that the Wilshire Grand Hotel would be demolished and replaced with a 70-story luxury hotel to be completed in 2017. The new development will transform the downtown skyline, which always provokes some controversy. But L.A. has come to love landmarks and great architecture like the performing arts high school by Wolf Prix, Jose Rafael Moneo’s cathedral, Frank Gehry's Disney Hall, our museum by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, MOCA by Arata Isozaki—all within three blocks on Grand Avenue.

The new Wilshire Grand will be a great neighbor for The Broad set to open in early 2014, the civic park that will open this summer, and the forthcoming residential towers planned by Related, likely to break ground in the next two to three years. And of course, the best neighbors for all that development will be the new residents I predict downtown is likely to attract over the next five to 10 years.

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