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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Re-Experiencing Los Angeles: Historic Downtown Core (Part III)

Two years ago, I was back in Los Angeles and had a bit of time to explore the Historic Downtown Core. Here's a link to Part I and Part II of this multi part series. 

The historic Rowan Building, located on the corner of 5th and Spring, built in 1912 and recently converted into residential units. 

Spring Street, looking south (technically, southwest). I turned the corner and headed west (technically, northwest) on 5th Street. 

The Last Bookstore - Los Angeles' largest independent bookstore - located at the corner of 5th and Spring Street. This is the entrance off of 5th Street. 

The 1913 Jewelry Trades Building - originally known as the Title Guarantee Block - on the corner of 5th and Broadway. This is looking northwest on 5th Street.

Another view of the Jewelry Trades Building.

A local resident with dog in tow. 

Downtown Los Angeles has seen a huge influx of new residents. Over 50,000 new residents have more into downtown L.A. since the 1999 enactment of the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. According to the Downtown L.A. News website - Los Angeles is not as much gentrifying as it  is evolving.

Gentrification implies displacing existing residents. For the most part, these new residents are moving into previously empty buildings, or brand new buildings built on former surface parking lots. 

Leasing information for the Jewelry Trades Building. 

I crossed Broadway and turned around for another view of the Jewelry Trades Building. This is looking north (technically northeast) up Broadway. 

Another view looking up Broadway. 

The crosswalk at 5th Street & Broadway - looking back north on Broadway..

Looking across the street, south down Broadway towards 6th Street. 

While the the addition of 50,000 new residents - with, no doubt, many more to come over the next twenty years - isn't necessarily pushing out a lot of existing residents. However, it is - or eventually will be - replacing retail businesses. 

Up until WWII, Broadway was THE upscale shopping district in Los Angeles, with the largest concentration of theaters, departments store, and shopping. 

Broadway continues to thrive as a commercial district, catering almost exclusively to working class Latinos. 

As a student at UCLA back in the 1980's, a visit to Broadway was a cross cultural experience - it was like another world. 

Then, as now, the contrast between the white collar office towers just a few blocks away on Bunker Hill and the sights and sounds of working class Broadway were really incredible. 

The Arcade Theater, built in 1910, is one of a dozen surviving movie palaces along Broadway. I was amazed to learn that Broadway (between 3rd and Olympic) has the largest surviving collection of pre-WWII movie palaces in the United States. 

There is a push to "bring back Broadway" as a cultural and entertainment hub. The city has recently approved plans to bring a streetcar (light rail) back along Broadway in the near future. Actually, I couldn't find a date when the Broadway streetcar is suppose to be up and running - so maybe not so "near" future. 

The ground floor of the Broadway-Spring Arcade Building. The enclosed arcade stretches between Broadway and Spring Streets. This has always reminded me of something you'd find in either Europe or Mexico. According to a wikipedia article, this place was packed with shoppers - mostly from Mexico or Central America - up until the mid 1990's. 

Apparently, the previously vacant upper floors were converted to upper end residential in 2003. My guess is that - similar to Spring and Main Streets, these shops will be catering to the influx of new downtown residents in the not so distant future. 

A final photo at the corner of 6th and Broadway. More next time in Part IV

© 2015


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Re-Experiencing Los Angeles: Historic Downtown Core (Part II)

Two years ago, I was back in Los Angeles and had a bit of time to explore the Historic Downtown Core. Here's a link to Part I from last week.

This is walking west (technically northwest) along 4th Street towards Spring Street. In the background is one of the office towers on Los Angeles' Bunker Hill. 

Across the street was a vintage sign for Heilman's Old Style. My educated guess is that this isn't original, but an attempt to create a working class style dive bar (think Milwaukee, circa 1975) in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Or, maybe it's been there for years, and this is all authentic? 

The six story Barclay Hotel was built in 1897 and was originally known as the Van Nuys Hotel. When it opened, it was the most state of the art hotel in Los Angeles, with telephones and electricity in every room. It has the distinction of being the oldest hotel in continuous operation in Los Angeles. According to the Los Angeles Conservancy website, it is currently operated as a low income residential hotel. 

Another view across the street, this time of the Popular Center Building. Couldn't seem to find too much information on-line on this building, aside from the fact that it was built in 1908. 

Personally, I'd ditch the aqua blue lettering, but maybe that's just me. 

This looks much more like New York or Chicago, definitely not what one images when thinking about Los Angeles. 

Robert Reynolds Art Studio - located on the corner of 4th and Spring Streets. This is a good example of the massive gentrification and changes that are currently occurring in downtown Los Angeles. 

I've got a lot of information from this blog from google maps and other web searches. But in this case it was pretty to figure out the name of this art gallery. 

I crossed the street for a quick view back down 4th Street where I was a few minutes earlier. This is looking south towards Rocket Pizza. 

Another view of Rocket Pizza. 

Back on the corner of 4th and Spring, Robert Reynolds Art Studio is located in the historic Continental Building.   

The 13 story Continental Building was built in 1903, and was the tallest building in Los Angeles at the time. Almost 100 years later, it was converted into loft style residential apartments, and - apparently - is managed by the same firm that operates the San Fernando Building, located a block away. 

View looking up from the street. 

Public Parking. $5 for what? For the day? Per hour? For 20 minutes? Parking a few blocks away at the Bonaventure Hotel runs $30 for two hours (or $47 for the day) ... so I'm a bit cautious of what "$5 parking" really means. I'd definitely read the fine print first. 

Across the street, advertising for filming. A bit later that same day, a security guard saw me taking photos and asked if I was a location scout. Downtown Los Angeles has the advantage of a dozen or more early 20th Century buildings that ar ideal as filming locations. 

The Lunch Box cafe. Not a standout - but not everything can be in a 100 year old restored building, or sidewalk cafe. 

Mixed in with historic buildings being converted to residential were new apartments (or condos) going up. Ideally, this section of downtown will eventually be a mix of old and new buildings - saying goodbye to surface parking lots and saying hello to street level retail with residential or commercial above it - in many ways bringing Los Angeles back to how most cities were designed up until the 1950's. 

These photos were all taken back in November 2013. Actually this was a parking lot, that was in the process of being turned into the .7 acre Spring Street Park.

The 1915 twelve-story Spring Arts Tower, a historic office building located on the corner of Spring & 5th Streets. The Crocker Club - located in the former first floor bank - is a 1920's themed bar and nightclub. 

Looking back at the former parking lot - now Spring Street Park. 

Cross the street, on the corner of of Spring and 5th Streets, sits the Rowan Building, built in 1912 and converted into upscale loft condominiums in 2008. So, what does an 800 square foot unit goes for? About $400-$500 thousand. Here's a link to some listings. 

I turned the corner and headed northwest on 5th Street towards Broadway. 

More next week in Part III

© 2015


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Re-Experiencing Los Angeles: Historic Downtown Core (Part I)

Two years ago I was back in Los Angeles and I took some time to walk around and explore the Historic Core in downtown. This is Part I of a five part series:

I found street parking in front of Raw Materials on Main Street (in between 5th & Winston Streets). Raw Materials is, of course, an art store. But the name also symbolizes what the Historic Core of downtown Los Angeles represents. 

Next door was the Local Leaf Cafe. 

I headed north (technically, northeast) along Main Street. The "raw materials" of the historic core consist of hundreds of older buildings, most with retail spaces at the street level. Los Angeles has the advantage of some of the most stellar weather in the world. How about a cup of coffee outside in November?

Blossom Vietnamese Cafe, located at the corner of Main and Winston. Most of the street level retail was alive and active. 

What could pass for New York or Chicago. Got to love the old school (and very functional) metal fire escape. 

Crewest Gallery. The gentrification of downtown - of course - means art galleries. 

Contrast the number of people out and about on the city streets to, say, Los Angeles' Century City or even the financial district of downtown L.A. 

Across the street was Big Man Bakes. This was two years ago: they're still around. From the sign, I'm guessing they jumped on the cupcake craze that started about 2010. 

Looks like Big Man Bakes is right next to entrance to a parking garage. Fortunately, there's still some retail at the street level.

Street level outdoor dining along Main Street at Baco Mercat. This was about 3pm. I'm curious what this place is like at, say, 8pm? 

Outdoor along the street, yet with some privacy. This is not how most people envision Los Angeles. I certainly don't. Looks more like Paris, right? Someone had a vision. 

The entrance to the San Fernando Building - located at 400 S. Main. This seven story loft apartment building was renovated 15 years ago as part of the Old Bank District development - at, and around, this intersection. 

More street level outdoor dining at Ledlow - located at Main and Fourth (or is it, 4th?) Streets. 

Across the street, you can see much more the San Fernando Building, built in 1907. At the time, it was considered the finest office building in the city. Like much of downtown Los Angeles, it hit hard times in the 1950's, but - like dozens of other buildings in the area - has now come back as residential rental units. 

As a Christian, I'm always curious what makes a great city. What elements, what public policy, what sort of planning, zoning, and design elements make for a truly great city? How are neighborhoods laid out? Roads, parking, public transportation? How does this affect the poor or economically marginalized - as well as the general populace? What can we learn from other places -- and from history? How does a Christian world-view affect this, if at all?

Historically, Los Angeles - much more so than cities like New York or Chicago - grew out rather than up. There were numerous reasons for this. One hundred years ago, a sprawling, low density city was considered the wave of the future. Today, not so much. 

I headed west (technically, northwest) on 4th Street past the Farmers and Merchants Bank Building towards Spring and Broadway Streets. In the distance are the office towers that run north/south along streets like Figueroa, Hope, and Grand. 

More next time in Part II

© 2015