Conveniently coined “DTLA,” Downtown L.A. is the most exciting new neighborhood in the Los Angeles area. But it wasn’t so long ago that you would make sure you were far away from the area before it got dark. The neighborhood’s emergence has been slow and steady, and now it’s finally arrived.
Only 15 years ago, Downtown L.A. was referred to as an “urban wasteland” by Tom Gilmore, one of the neighborhood’s primary developers who is responsible for the transformation. The neighborhood had good bones and unique architectural stock. Beaux-arts and art deco buildings were abandoned throughout and the neighborhood was brimming with potential for a developer with the right vision.
The area has been on the rise since the late 1990s, but it has been a long uphill climb. The Los Angeles Theater Center made a sizeable investment hoping to revitalize the area. People came for the shows but retreated back to the suburbs by nightfall. By 1998, the project was considered a failure.
Tom Gilmore purchased four old buildings with plans to convert them into loft apartments and add bars and restaurants. Simultaneously, Staples built its 21,000-seat arena and Lillian Disney had lined up Frank Gehry to design an iconic concert hall.
Those three projects and the Broad Museum are now considered cornerstones to the $20 billion investment in DTLA. Hoteliers, foreign companies, the city of Los Angeles and private investors contributed to the revitalization.
Now that DTLA has arrived, the struggle is to prove its longevity. As global brands like Whole Foods and H&M recognize the potential in the area, Gilmore and other developers dedicated to the success of DTLA strive to keep the unique local character that is signature to DTLA.
To achieve a balance, Row DTLA is a 30-acre complex of historic buildings that have been overhauled to insert a creative district into the area. It includes a carefully curated collection of independent retailers, businesses, and restaurants to keep the area fresh, dynamic and fundamentally cool.