Curbed made it out last night for the first-annual "Light of the Angels," the high-hype, high-tech tree lighting ceremony that officially opened downtown megadevelopment LA Live. Yes, Britney Spears was there. No, she didn't perform (but she did help light the tree). Adam Carolla MC'd the event, and his goofy rambling included a comparison of downtown's resurgence to Britney's comeback (we hope Downtown wears underwear). The "tree" itself, a 37,500 lb. multi-media sculpture, wasn't as exciting as we expected, but it does fit in with the rest of Nokia Plaza's LCD-crazed environment. Speaking of the plaza, the majority of the space in the square was reserved for VIPs at the event, a move that brought to mind some of the criticisms in LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne's scathing LA Live review. Talk about "velvet-rope urbanism"--the rest of the public had to squeeze in at the sides and corners of the plaza in hopes of catching a glimpse of Brit. Not a great way to inaugurate a supposedly public square. Speaking of: We asked AEG's Lisa Herzlich, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, LA Live, what she thought of Hawthorne's review. The Q&A is after the jump, while a video of the tree can be seen here.--Dan Caroselli
Q&A with Lisa Herzlich, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, LA Live
Curbed: What is your response to Christopher Hawthorne's recent review in the LA Times (in which he harshly criticized the way the project related to the urban fabric)?
Lisa: You know, we had a purpose when we developed LA Live: we really wanted to be a part of what we felt was the fabric of the community. One of the things that Christopher referenced is that Staples Center is part of the inspiration for this project. And when you look around, at what the Astani project is doing down the street with Concerto, at what Met Lofts and the Hanover building have already done, and if you think of what the plans are going to be for the Moinian project across the street [LA Central] we feel that we have got a project that is very integral to this area. It was purposely developed to reflect light, to be an open-space gathering for people--to be intimate enough and not so big that you can't feel connected to people. You know one of the things that I think people need to look at is that this is a project where the momentum is building. A lot of things are coming on board in the future. The hotel that we're building, the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriot, will be a beautiful structure, it will be an iconic building in this area, and when you look at the project as a whole, it's really going to fit beautifully into the environment that we built it in. The whole area is going to become a gathering place and a hangout for people. There'll be benches on the plaza that people can come and sit on. They'll walk their dogs here. You know we also put Grammy Lane in--a place where you can walk around and see all of the Grammy Award winners in the sidewalk. So I'd like for people to look at the vision that we've got for everything that we'll be doing here.
Curbed: And as the neighborhood develops, will there be efforts in order to adapt to and integrate with the changes?
Lisa: Well, I'll tell you that when we developed the idea for this plan--the specific plan that we developed in conjunction with the city--we bought many different lots of property in addition to this. We sold off that property to other developers, and we required that they build within the specifics that we developed--so that you wouldn't have one project that was art deco, and one project that was modern, and one project that was gothic, that it all fit together. That's really what we wanted to see happen, a planned development, not a sporadic development, and that's what will spring up around this area. It will be a planned development that feels like it makes sense.
Curbed: Transit. Is there any effort to make sure you pull people off the metro stations in the area?
Lisa: Absolutely, for the Red Line, first of all, we extended the hours of the red line on the weekends in a project in conjunction with MTA. We also have extended the DASH lines as a trial program. And of course we're looking at alternative transportation—trolleys and other things that we could have in this area. That's all part of the master plan for this area. We also have some funds that we are going to look at for the Figueroa corridor beautification project. So yes, there is definitely an effort.
Curbed: Lastly, Housing. Was there ever any thought of housing above any of the buildings at LA Live (besides the Ritz Carlton)?
Lisa: That wasn't something we thought about for LA Live. But we did think about housing, overall. The project that's being developed by the Moinian group, that has housing in it, a hotel, and it will also be the retail arm of the project. We really wanted to be the dining, entertainment, and sports and music arm, and they are going to be the retail arm. [There's also] South Group, that did Elleven, Evo and Luma...So yes, when you look at all of it, it's a village concept. Or a campus, as we call it.
More coverage of last night's event: