Thursday, June 07, 2012

LA Times Sale Getting Closer. What Does This Mean For Downtown Los Angeles?

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that the end of the Tribune/LA Times bankruptcy case may conclude by the end of this year - if everything goes right.  That would then allow the LA Times to be sold to a new owner.

Now whoever buys the Los Angeles Times will control the number one news voice and Opinion section of the major media voice of Los Angeles.  But, just as importantly to Downtown, that new owner will also have a considerable physical impact on the continued rebirth of Downtown Los Angeles.

(and this will be featured on this weekend's walking tours of Historic Downtown Los Angeles.

Their first decision will be if the Times stays in one or more buildings of its now full city block sized parcel located across from City Hall and the Police Department; a site that is  a couple blocks of the seat of Los Angeles County, the major state and federal buildings, the Music Center and the Bunker Hill, Financial District.

Even if the Times does stay in Times-Mirror Square - there will be hundreds of thousands of square feet no longer needed.  The paper is no longer published there, the second paper, the Mirror, no longer exists, there are fewer divisions such as the Times-Mirror book publishing company and there is no longer an empire of other newspapers from suburban LA dailies to a major daily on Long Island.  It also takes a lot fewer people to produce much reduced in size and circulation paper and even fewer as technology replaces many other jobs.

The next decision will be how to use or dispose of multiple properties the Times owns south of the main block.  One property almost certain to be sold is the parking lot on the south side of Second Street from Spring to Broadway. It has already been discussed as a possible terminus for the new Downtown Streetcar.

Equally important to Downtown and the revitalizing Broadway Theater, Shopping and Cultural District,  are the multiple parking garages that front  Spring and Broadway.  

With convenient streetcar and bus service to the rest of Broadway, these garages are almost empty at night exactly when the demand will be the greatest for the theaters.  And today, they also have ample vacancies during the day.

But once the empty offices are filled in the old Times buildings, more civic buildings are built along First Street - such as the new Federal Courthouse which will have secured parking, and the new park from City Hall to the Music Center is opened used for festivals and events, these parking garages will need to be kept for commercial as opposed to residential uses to meet soon to be expanding day time needs.  

And that, of course, will then keep them available at night to meet Broadway's nighttime needs.

So  the answers as to what should be done seem simple.  The Times should stay in its symbolic home at the center of all civic affairs, its parking garages should be kept open for the public on weekdays to access the government agencies along First Street and on weekends to access the new park.  Then at night they could be used by the public not just for the Broadway Theater District, but also the Grand Avenue Cultural District and the Music Center that the street car will also service.

And of course, the streetcar needs a vacant parcel to build its terminal that would - ideally - be walking distance of both the main subway line that runs through Downtown - which stops right now at 1st and the new Regional Connector subway, which will stop at 2nd Street.

So now all we need now is a local owner who will run both the Times and the overall property as not just a civic institution, but as a profitable combination of businesses to protect the long term financial interest of both the Times and the City of Los Angeles since each one  depends upon the other.

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