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Two Views of Downtown LA Revitalization: LA Vs. New York

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Over at the Architect's Newspaper, Design East of La Brea conspirator (and Curbed alum) Marissa Gluck writes about the connection between Downtown LA's renaissance and the 1999 Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, which "created thousands of new residential units by making it easier and cheaper to convert rundown offices into housing" (think: Old bank District). All that new residential development is now leading to a second wave of development in retail and restaurant businesses: "since 2008 over 400 new restaurant and retail shops have opened in Downtown LA, with another 50 expected to open this year." The article goes on to highlight recent additions and anticipated arrivals made possible by the ARO, such as Clifton's Cafeteria, UMAMIcatessen, Ace Hotel, Two Boots Pizza, and Figaro Bistro, although noting that there's room for improvement on Broadway, which "can be desolate at night." Hopefully the Bringing Back Broadway initiative--which offers "tax exemption for new businesses and employer hiring credits"--will help that corridor return to the 24/7 entertainment destination that it once was. And we can hope because Downtown already has the track record of leveraging its existing charms to achieve economic and neighborhood revitalization.

Contrast that portrait with a different narrative of Downtown's success, wherein Downtown becomes a more tolerable proxy for Manhattan. Back in February, the New York Times focused their "36 Hours" travel feature on Downtown LA, opening the story with this: "The immense L.A. Live entertainment complex is largely responsible for [Downtown's] comeback."

Then there is the Time article from last July that claims "Nothing reflects the disparity between the new and old downtown like the stimulating L.A. Live district and its aging neighbor, the convention center." The retail mentioned by Time includes these neighborhood favorites: Regal Cinemas, Nokia Theatre, and the Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott. At least the NYT mixed in names like the Gorbals, Lazy Ox Canteen, and the Nickel Diner before comparing LA Live to Times Square and devoting nearly 100 words to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Because the trend of comparing New York to Los Angeles can be expected to continue, we recommend you put on your skeptical hat when you see ledes with variations of the following:

-- "THE sprawl, the scale, all that freeway time -- for many, Los Angeles is an acquired taste. But not downtown. New York-like in its density and mishmash, the long-blighted center has become an accessible, pedestrian-friendly destination in recent years..." (NYT)

-- "Los Angeles and New York City are about as different as two cities can be. L.A. is horizontal, while N.Y.C. is vertical. L.A. is about the car; N.Y.C., the subway. And downtown L.A. has traditionally been the laughingstock of the city's nightlife, while N.Y.C. has a concentration of nightlife in Manhattan. Now that is changing." (Time)
· Reuse Renaissance [The Architect's Newspaper]
· 36 Hours in Downtown Los Angeles [New York Times]
· The City of Angels Who Never Sleep: Can Downtown Los Angeles Be Manhattanized? [Time]

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