Why There Is A Renaissance In DTLA

By Karen Jordan | Bisnow

There were nearly 30 cranes in DTLA at the close of last year, placing the city in third nationwide, with Seattle at No. 1, according to a report by Rider Levett Bucknall. LA now has 36 cranes, the firm reports.

Those cranes in the air are an indicator of what developers know — LA is drawing in people and businesses, and DTLA is giving them reasons to stay.

People want to walk to work, something DTLA increasingly offers, according to Sonnenblick Principal Bob Sonnenblick.

"The ability to walk to work is huge," he said.

Parks also add to the appeal, and renovating Pershing Square would be a game-changer, according to CBRE Senior Vice President Anthony Gatti.

A plan to reno Pershing Square made headlines last year when a French firm, Agence Ter, won a competition organized by LA City Councilman Jose Huizar and the nonprofit Pershing Square Renew.

The project could include replacing concrete with grass and opening up the park more to the sidewalks around it, the LA Times reports.

The increasing number of restaurants from other parts of the country opening up outposts is also contributing to a booming DTLA, Gatti said.

"The restaurants in downtown LA are off the charts," he said. "They're the best restaurants in Los Angeles."

Those coming into DTLA find that the historic buildings that have yet to be renovated offer the opportunity to create new spaces that will bring in more tenants.

Rising Realty Partners Senior Vice President Matthew Ahrens said he does not see a better submarket across the nation for office.

Sonnenblick said he is convinced opening public transportation that connects downtown LA to Santa Monica will really energize DTLA.

"This is experiencing this wonderful renaissance, but it can only work if we support it, and we're passionate about it," Gatti said at Bisnow's LA Downtown Renaissance event.

As the former Central City Association CEO, Carol Schatz said she is proud of how the organization helped shape the DTLA renaissance, coming up with the concept of the adaptive reuse ordinance.

"Building and safety grabbed it and made sure it was actually developed," Schatz said. "We didn't know whether the departments would support it or not. So that happened. It was passed in 1999, and then Staples opened a few months later, and that was it. Those two things are what set off the renaissance."

She also started the Downtown Center BID.

The developers in the room were encouraged to think of their projects not as stand-alone developments but as extensions of their communities, LA Police Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff said.

MWest Holdings Chief Investment Officer Matthew Ellis and Oceanwide Plaza Senior Manager Public Relations Daniel Atwater said it is important to think of ways to serve those communities.

"We have to do more for the community," Atwater said. "It has to be ingrained."

Oceanwide Plaza is a 4.6-acre project east of Staples Center that will have a Park Hyatt, 160k SF of retail, 504 condos, a 700-foot-long LED screen and a two-acre park.

Oceanwide is establishing a community relations program to look at education, jobs and the homeless and find ways to provide programs in those areas, according to Atwater.