Would an Angeleno of forty years ago, say, ever guess that Westwood Village and Downtown would one day switch fortunes? Here we are in 2013 and Downtown is busy and kinda fancy and getting better all the time and Westwood, "by some measures the hottest neighborhood in L.A." at one point, is a dreary, empty bore. As the LA Times reports: "These days, a humbled Westwood finds itself in the unexpected position of turning to a resurgent downtown for ideas." Wah wah waaaaaah. We all know the troubles: a student was shot in 1988 and life has been draining out ever since; "[o]f the more than a dozen movie theaters that once stood in the village, all but three have closed down"; many of the storefronts are empty. There's a new cityTarget and a few hot restaurants, but not much else going on. So now Westwood Village is trying something new, "moving away from its past as an entertainment and upscale shopping mecca. Backers see the 21st century Westwood as a magnet for arts and culture, filled with galleries, museums, performance space and trendy food." Here's what locals are up to:
-- In an attempt to change up the retail dynamic, Hammer has gotten property owners to give a month's free rent to "artists, craftsmen, chefs and other entrepreneurs" so they can take a shot at running businesses "that could range from crafts shops to artisanal eateries."
-- "A recent Anderson School of Management class studied the idea of staging some UCLA performing arts events at the now-vacant Mann Festival Theater in the village."
-- "UCLA's School of Public Affairs is working with Westwood officials to convert some parking spots on the street into 'parklets' — tiny public spaces that hold bike racks, a little greenery and a bench or two." (More on that here.)
-- Local leaders really like think tank cityLAB's "Living Culture" plan for the Village, which "calls for UCLA to export the Fowler Museum and part of its performing arts program from campus to Westwood. It envisions a public square as the "crown jewel of the plan." And it imagines "seven slender live/work mid-rises" creating a 'skyline' for drivers on the 405 Freeway."
And good news! Suburbia booster Joel Kotkin is skeptical about all of it: "The problem with Westwood is that it's hard to get to, and it's incredibly boring and has been for a long time."
· Westwood Village wants to be cool again [LAT]
· 2 Radical Plans For Turning Westwood Village Around [Curbed LA]