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The 5 Most Underrated Los Angeles Stories of 2014

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It's the last week in December, when according to tradition we make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to all the best, worst, and shitshowiest of things that happened in Los Angeles real estate, architecture, and neighborhoods this year. These are your 2014 Curbed Awards.

Sometimes it takes a while for the importance of a story to sink in, or a story that seems really important doesn't end up getting noticed as much as it should. Whatever the reason, here Curbed shines a light on a handful of this year's most under-the-radar big deals.

SoLA Village: Glendale-based developers PRH LA are planning two condo towers topping out at 32 and 35 stories; a 208-room, 19-story hotel; plus residential mid- and low-rises, retail, restaurants, an art gallery, and a grocery store on what are now a couple of parking lots in a prime, Blue-Line-adjacent section of Historic South Central, right next to the Reef Building (formerly LA Mart), which houses creative-type businesses. "SoLA Village will be about place making," explains one person involved, meaning they're going to attempt to create an entire community out of nothing in this neighborhood south of the 10 Freeway. It'll be years before any building begins, but SoLA Village represents the unstoppable spread of Downtown development and gentrification; whatever it does to this area, the changes will surely be seismic.

Frank Gehry's Center for At-Risk Youth: Aside from the incredible Watts Towers, there aren't a lot of showstopping neighborhood draws in Watts. But this year, everyone's favorite bird-flipping starchitect Frank Gehry signed on to design a permanent, two-acre facility for the Children's Institute, Inc., an established nonprofit working in the community. While no designs have come out yet, CII envisions the structure as "a beacon of hope in the surrounding landscape, providing a safe, welcoming community hub for residents of the area." Gehry's known for making dramatic statements, and his architecture combined with his name are going to bring a lot of attention—and who knows what accompanying changes—to often-neglected Watts.

Ace Hotel's Snappy Yuppification Kit: When people say that the Ace Hotel made Broadway and Ninth the epicenter of Downtown cool, it's true in a completely literal sense. In both Manhattan and Downtown, the Ace called on a firm called Tungsten Properties to convince upscale retailers to open in areas around their new hotels, creating a ready-made hipster neighborhood. In DTLA's case, several fancy shops signed on, with many opening before even the hotel did. It's like MiracleGro, but for city blocks, and it worked: for better or for worse, everyone can agree that change sure did come swiftly to southern Broadway.

Pershing Square Makeover: Pershing Square makes such an effort to be liked, with its ice skating and its outdoor summer movie nights, but for all its hard work, it is still widely mocked and even hated for its awful anti-urban design. So what could be more thrilling than a set of improvements that will begin to make Pershing less terrible? With $1 million each from the Department of Recreation and Parks and MacFarlane Partners (whose new development will overlook the square), this notoriously unwelcoming space will be remade into what a rep from MacFarlane calls "a world-class public space and a vibrant 'front yard' for our new development." The first round of rehabilitation will take out a lot of that hated concrete and add two playgrounds and fencing that will allow people to actually see into the park.

La Plaza Cultura Village: On one side of Broadway, Chinatown has its plate full, development-wise. But just cross the street and things are a lot quieter in El Pueblo. That's probably why it was such an incredible surprise that developer La Plaza Partners is hoping to drastically change the city's oldest neighborhood in one fell swoop. La Plaza Cultura Village would add 384 apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail, and an east-west shopping alley to the two blocks between Hill and Spring Streets. All of that could be completely transformative to this collection of blocks that's for now most memorable as "that place where I parked."
· First Look at the 35-Story SoLA Village Megaproject Headed Just South of Downtown [Curbed LA]
· Frank Gehry Will Design Campus For At-Risk Children in Watts [Curbed LA]
· How the Ace Hotel Engineered Broadway's Speedy Yuppification [Curbed LA]
· Big Improvements Finally Coming to Awful Pershing Square [Curbed LA]
· Gamechanging Mixed-Use Project Planned for El Pueblo [Curbed LA]