Barely 20 years ago, downtown Los Angeles was almost a city center that attracted the interest of few Angelinos, to say nothing of visitors to Southern California. I remember friends from the area commenting that L.A. “doesn’t have much of a real downtown.”
Yes, after the big bank headquarters and city government offices closed for the day, those artistically inclined would stray a couple of blocks off of the 101 to attend concerts, theatre and opera performances at the Music Center, but other than that, downtown at night was primarily the haunt of the homeless. Today, all of that has changed.
L.A.’s downtown renaissance likely dates back to the enlargement of its 1971 convention center in 1993 and 1997 to the behemoth it is today, one of the largest such complexes in the U.S. As part of the expansion process, however, the northwest corner of the original building was demolished in 1997 to make way for the Staples Center, the city’s mammoth sports palace, which opened in 1999 and is today home to the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, the NHL’s Kings, and the WNBA’s Sparks.
Next to brighten the downtown area was the much anticipated opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the fall of 2003, the widely acclaimed new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, designed by architect Frank Gehry and acoustician Yasuhisu Toyota.
But it was the opening of the first phase of L.A. Live, the magnet dining, entertainment and hotel complex adjacent to the Stapes Center, in October, 2007, that really got the ball rolling. Now complete, and in addition to numerous fine restaurants, this striking facility also draws thousands of residents and visitors alike downtown with the Grammy Museum, ESPN Zone, 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre and 2,300-seat Club Nokia.
Needless to say, all these additions to the downtown scene have resulted in a flood of other brand-new restaurants and shopping venues. Early this year, the latest major capital venture got seriously underway with what was subsequently certified by Guinness World Records as the largest concrete pour in history. Literally hundreds of cement-mixing trucks poured concrete, ten abreast, for 20 hours straight, to lay the foundation for the new Wilshire Grand Hotel complex, which, at 73 stories and 1,100 feet in height, is slated to be the tallest building in North America west of the Mississippi River. So the renaissance continues…on and on. Way to go, L.A.!
L.A. Live entertainment and dining complex
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Downtown Los Angeles Skyline (from the Walt Disney Concert Hall)