Well, no longer.
I've done over thirty leases in the Historic Core (all pro bono) and the first to come were the art galleries and creative businesses and organizations that didn't need a street level presence. Next were the restaurants, bakeries and bars. Now... finally... clothing, furniture and other retail. Today I am working with over a dozen potential tenants.
As a harbinger of the future, the Planning Committee of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (which I sit on) is seeing increasing numbers of applications for restaurants, bars... and now retail. In fact, just one project we endorsed at the committee level last Wednesday had over 250,000 square feet of retail and restaurants with numerous major national retailers being mentioned as potential tenants. And two more supermarkets were also proposed at that meeting besides the soon to open Ralphs and the already planned market on Grand Avenue.
Ironically, the proposed Italian restaurant/gourmet market is being built very near where a proposed Italian Cultural center might be invited to build.
Has downtown L.A. finally arrived?
The district's revival appears to be picking up steam as national chains seek store sites to serve the growing residential population.
By Cara Mia DiMassa
Times Staff Writer
March 30, 2007
The construction cranes that are roosting all over downtown these days are one thing. But the real hints that the neighborhood is changing come in more subtle forms — such as the tours Derrick Moore has been giving around downtown recently.
Moore, a senior associate in CB Richard Ellis' Urban Development Group, has been helping representatives from national chain stores such as Walgreen's and the Outback Steakhouse group — who have long shied away from downtown — search for properties in the area. He has wined and dined potential retailers at local hotspots — and found their reaction a distinct shift from even a few months ago, when most took a wait-and-see attitude toward the neighborhood.
What has changed, downtown backers say, is how the burgeoning neighborhood is being perceived. After years of being not quite there, retailers seem to think that the area has reached — or is near reaching — a tipping point.
Residents have moved in, with the population now at 30,000. Some of downtown's long-anticipated, large-scale projects — including a supermarket and a movie theater — are only months from opening.
It's this trend that is behind much of the debate over the city's proposal to sell the air rights above the Los Angeles Convention Center, allowing developers to build larger and denser residential buildings downtown.
Because the Convention Center was originally zoned for towers, the city wants to sell the unused airspace as a way of boosting development elsewhere in downtown beyond what current zoning laws allow.
Backers argue that selling air rights would boost downtown's residential population even more. The more residents downtown can lure, the thinking goes, the larger the market for upscale retail. Until now, retail development has lagged behind residential development, with some merchants waiting to see whether the downtown boom is for real.
Questions about downtown's future have heightened with the recent cooling of Southern California's real estate market. But downtown so far doesn't appear to be suffering much, and there are growing signs that retail is actually strengthening.