Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More thoughts on downtown development

I saw a post on Curbed LA that mentioned LA Live. Since I had only a very vague idea of what LA Live is, I did a little googling and quickly found out that LA Live is basically Marina del Rey combined with Universal City Walk, located right next to the Staples Center.

Wow. Talk about missing the point of being downtown.

I know that South Park is supposed to be the most successful neighborhood in Downtown--but by what criteria? Do we really want to recreate Marina del Rey Downtown? I mean, if you want a Marina del Rey living experience, wouldn't you rather just live in Marina del Rey and be able to walk to the beach?

If you're going to develop Downtown, you should exploit what's good about being in a dense city: walkability, readily available mass transit, older buildings with details you don't find in newer construction. That's the hook. Not, "Ooh, it's just like Third Street Promenade! And almost as expensive! Only it's not next to the beach and the freeways form a cluster fuck around it!"

The Bank District/Gallery Row/Historic Core (pick the name you like best) makes a lot more sense. You're restoring the beautiful Beaux Arts and Art Deco buildings that are already there. There are more and more restaurants, bars and galleries springing up. It's a quick trip to the freeway but you're not living right next to it. You have easy access to most of the major bus and rail lines in the city. And you have a lot of economic and ethnic diversity, which is not the case in most of LA.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in South Park as the condo crash continues. I think the more central areas of Downtown may wind up doing better in the long run. The artists and creative types who are drawn to the Historic Core may be more likely to stick around simply because their expectations are more reasonable. And the changes to the neighborhood are driven by residents, rather than by developers.

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