With 162 Projects, Downtown Continues to Evolve
Coming Into Focus|With 162 Projects, Downtown Continues to Evolve
by Evan George, Andrew Haas-Roche, Kathryn Maese, Kathleen Nye Flynn and Jon Regardie
Excerpts from the list relating to arts, entertainment and culture follow. Complete list of 162 projects is here.
Development Map The traditionally slow winter period had little effect on the pace of development in Downtown Los Angeles. Over the last several months, even as temperatures dropped and people tended to remain indoors whenever possible, the community not only continued its residential revolution, but began adding the bells and whistles that mark the turn from a collection of separate housing complexes into an actual neighborhood.
In the last several months, in fact, the community began to come into focus, with the opening of nearly a dozen restaurants, bars and retail outlets – everything from the upscale J Restaurant & Lounge to a second installment of coffee shop Groundwork to two locales of Japanese convenience store Famima!! – and the announcement of a handful of others. This occurred as new housing developments like the Eastern Columbia Lofts, Library Court and the Visconti came online, bringing hundreds of new active stakeholders into the area.
And while some observers remain skeptical of continued growth, the momentum continued with the mega-projects: In South Park L.A. Live continues to take shape, with the first elements due to open later this year, and on Bunker Hill, city and county officials gave the green light to the Grand Avenue plan. Each is worth more than $2 billion.
In all, Los Angeles Downtown News is tracking 162 projects, from Chinatown to South Park to City West to the banks of the Los Angeles River. Each entry includes a grid reference to our updated, full-color Downtown Development map. The map appears on page 28. (Some projects are beyond the map’s boundary. They are denoted by NA).
These projects were either announced or garnered public interest in the last five months.
Jake Tringali and partner Kevin Kansy have leased a one-story brick building at 800 E. Traction Ave. with plans to turn it into a 75-seat beer restaurant called the Brewer’s Gallery by late 2007. Tringali, a former manager at the Bonaventure Brewing Company in the Bonaventure Hotel, said the “beer-centric” full-service restaurant, bar and brewery will feature 10 beers made behind the counter, as well as some taps for guest beers. Chef Jason Nunley is whipping up a menu featuring “cuisine a la biere,” or cooking with beer. Designers Robert Ley and Adria Pauli are currently finishing floor plans. F5
The once dilapidated venue at 448 S. Main St. is scheduled to receive a major makeover this year, although plans are still being finalized, said an official with developer Gilmore Associates, which signed a long-term lease for the Historic Core property. The 10,000-square-foot space is expected to open by 2008. The Regent will likely see live music – particularly rock shows – and a bar, which fits with its gradually sloping floor and large stage. However, plans for a restaurant are still uncertain. The theater has recently been open for some live music performances during the monthly Downtown Art Walk. D6
Former Mayor Richard Riordan, owner of The Original Pantry Cafe at the northwest corner of Figueroa and Ninth streets, plans to open a steakhouse and bar in the restaurant’s annex (which closed Jan. 7). The establishment would occupy space currently used as morning overflow seating for the famous 24-hour eatery just north of Staples Center and L.A. Live. According to a publicist for the venture, the new Riordan restaurant will take cues from New York’s famed PJ Clarks. B8
A $4 million sushi restaurant and lounge is set to open in May on the entire 21st floor of the 811 Wilshire building. Developer Downtown Entertainment Group plans to draw a celebrity-studded crowd to the ultra-modern space, which will include wall-to-wall glass, a wraparound patio, dance floor and views of the city. B7MIXED USE
In January the Community Redevelopment Agency approved preliminary plans by developer Bond Companies to transform the site of the former Little Joe’s restaurant at 900 N. Broadway in Chinatown into a mixed-use project that will connect the Chinatown Metro Gold Line station to Broadway. The $144 million development will feature two residential towers, designed by Nakada & Associates, with 169 condominiums, 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 344-car parking garage; roughly half of that will be available for public, paid parking. The development will also include a landscaped plaza, which will host cultural events and connect Chinatown shops to the light rail station as well as the new state park. City officials helped secure about $35 million in public funds for the project, including $15 million from the CRA. Construction is expected to begin this summer. C2
The $125 million Medallion will break ground in June, said developer Saeed Farkhondepour. Two six-story structures are planned to rise on what is currently a parking lot on the northeast corner of Fourth and Main streets. The project, downscaled from an earlier vision, will include 200 rental units that average 800 square feet, 750 parking spaces and ground-floor retail. Farkhondepour said that retail on Los Angeles Street will resemble the current Toy District-style retail already in the area, while the Main Street side of the project will have shops and restaurants. M2A Architects is handling the designs. D6
Developers Tom Gilmore and Richard Weintraub have announced plans to retrofit and transform the rectory of the former Saint Vibiana’s Cathedral into housing and a restaurant. Plans are also underway for a mixed-use high-rise on a lot just south of the cathedral. More than a year ago, Gilmore completed an $8 million conversion of the former church at Second and Main streets, and the venue is now used for occasional shows, concerts and parties. The cathedral was once the headquarters for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, but was closed after suffering damage during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. D5CULTURAL/ENTERTAINMENT
On Jan. 24 the operator of the tiny funicular that connects Bunker Hill to the Historic Core announced that the railway will reopen by the end of summer and that the fare will remain 25 cents. Angels Flight has been closed since a fatal accident in February 2001. Last month, the private, non-profit Angels Flight Railway Foundation signed contracts with engineers and resumed a dialogue with the California Public Utilities Commission, which must ultimately approve the train before it reopens. The Foundation said it is proceeding with the final phase of the $2.6-million renovation process, which will include upgraded safety features. However, the project has been delayed for years and announced reopening dates have not been met. Additionally, Councilwoman Jan Perry has suggested that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should take over the operations. C6
Major ground excavation has been completed for the California Science Center’s new $165 million World of Ecology wing. In October, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined former governors George Deukmejian and Gray Davis for a ceremonial groundbreaking of the project. The wing will add 170,000 square feet to the Exposition Park museum and will host an exhibit that demonstrates principles of ecology. The expansion, set to open in 2009, will combine aspects of aquariums, zoos and botanical gardens and will include 250 species of plants and animals. The addition is the second phase of a 25-year master plan. So far, construction crews have dug three stories deep into the ground to make room for a kelp tank and support systems for the displays. F10
Plans for a three-acre public art park must wait until the new police headquarters parking facility is completed. The site, currently a parking lot on the block bounded by First, Judge John Aiso, Temple and Alameda streets, is still several years from being changed, said city Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller. He added that formal designs for the art park are still being drawn and would not be ready for another year. D4
Construction began in late 2005 on a $4.8 million renovation of the city Department of Recreation and Parks facility at 1410 Colton St. in City West. According to the most recent information available, the renovated pool will reopen during the summer. When finished, the heated, indoor pool will feature a new roof, electrical system, locker rooms, bathrooms and showers and be accessible to the disabled. The upgrades are being designed by West L.A.-based Frank R. Webb Architects. NA
Momentum has slowed significantly in the effort to place a professional football team in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Before the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a press conference, “It’s important for us to be in Los Angeles long-term, but we have survived quite well without Los Angeles, and Los Angeles has survived quite well without the NFL.” Although Eighth District Councilman Bernard Parks continues to lobby the league about bringing a team back to the 1923 Exposition Park stadium, the Coliseum Commission – the panel of city, county and state officials that oversees the stadium – has publicly discussed securing a long-term lease with USC as a priority, rather than inking a deal with the league. Activity was more heated in the first half of 2006, before former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped down. At the time, Coliseum supporters described an $800 million effort that would turn the 90,000-occupancy venue into a 67,000-seat stadium with improved sight lines and about 180 revenue-generating luxury suites, all while preserving the historic peristyle. The plan called for the NFL to pay for the entire renovation, and an owner and team would be named in the future. NA
Renovation of the storied Linda Lea Theater at 251 S. Main St. is underway. The new theater will be renamed the ImaginAsian Center and will feature Pan-Asian and general market content. The building owner, Costa Mesa-based Cinema Properties Group, hired Culver City-based Hodgetts + Fung Design and Architecture to handle the redesign. Completion is expected this year. D5
The first phase of the $2.5 billion entertainment complex at Olympic Boulevard and Figueroa Street just north of Staples Center is on course to open this fall. Developer Anschutz Entertainment Group broke ground in 2005. The first elements to come on line will be the 7,100-seat Nokia Theater and the plaza that will run through the complex. Other attractions include the 2,400-seat Club Nokia, the Conga Room nightclub, a 15-screen Regal Cineplex, a Grammy museum, retail, restaurants and additional venues. A second phase will bring facilities including the West Coast headquarters for ESPN. There will also be an office component, and the corporate headquarters for both AEG and Herbalife will be part of L.A. Live. B8
The anticipated grand opening of the Los Angeles Theatre Center has been pushed back to this September, according to documents filed in December with the city’s General Services Department; previous plans had called for the venue at 514 S. Spring St. to debut this month following a $4 million renovation. Lori Zimmerman, interim manager of the Latino Theater Company, which in 2005 won a 20-year contract to operate the Historic Core edifice, said that drawings have been completed by architect John Sergio Fisher and the LTC is now seeking building permits. Plans call for turning the property into a three-theater complex with new lighting and seats. The patio would be enclosed and a cafe added, and the Latino Museum of History, Art & Culture would set up exhibits in the lobby and basement. Pankow is the contractor and Cushman & Wakefield is the project manager. D6
Although plans to dramatically update the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park remain on hold, renovations and retrofitting to the existing buildings are set to begin this month, said spokeswoman Jennifer Mau. Museum staffers still intend to begin a fundraising campaign to raise the estimated $300 million needed for an expansion. Architect Stephen Holl completed a master plan several years ago. In the meantime, the museum’s 1913 rotunda building will be retrofitted and seismically strengthened; that is expected to take about a year. The $84 million project will use private and public funds, Mau said. E10
Former Pasadena Playhouse owner David Houk closed escrow Dec. 7 on the Variety Arts Center for an undisclosed amount. Houk, who heads Downtown-based Houk Development Company, purchased the 1924 theater and event space at 940 S. Figueroa St. from Anschutz Entertainment Group. He plans to restore the 1,000-seat main theater and produce new plays and musicals. The renovation is expected to last a year and Houk plans to move his offices and theater company into the location once the project is complete. B8BARS & RESTAURANTS
Crews have begun work on a bar and lounge in the basement of the Spring Arts Tower at 453 S. Spring St., said Vincent Terzian, president and CEO of Hollywood-based Five Five Endeavors. The developer has already obtained a liquor license for the speakeasy-themed nightspot where patrons will enter through a hidden door and mingle in the basement vault. According to Terzian, the 6,000-square-foot space, which may also serve as a private members club, will be a casual upscale bar and lounge with a 1920s feel. He is refurbishing the original Italian marble, mosaic tiles floors, and oak and maple touches. It is named after a former tenant of the 1914 building, the Crocker Citizens National Bank. The club could open by spring and will feature an extensive specialty drink list. C6
Hollywood-based Sweet Freedom Development is working on a $1.5 million bar at the base of the Hellman Building at Fourth and Main streets. Complete with a cigar bar and a smoking room, Dietrichs – named for film star Marlene Dietrich – will have a 1920s speakeasy decor and live music. Architect George Kelly is designing the 1,300-square-foot space that was previously scheduled to open in December. A new opening date has not yet been announced. D6
Plans to transform a former bank vault in the basement of the Los Angeles Trust and Savings Bank Building at 215 W. Sixth St. are still on hold, awaiting the completion of condominium conversions taking place in the building above, said developer Andrew Meieran. Meieran hopes to bring a bit of classic Hollywood nightlife to Downtown with the 8,000-square-foot retro bar featuring white marble floors, walnut wood paneling, polished stainless steel walls and much of the original architecture, including the vault’s 38-ton circular door. C7
The sign for Seven Grand now hangs outside its 515 W. Seventh St. location, and the bar is scheduled to have a soft opening in April with an official debut May 10 (pushed back from last October). Downtown-based 213 Ventures is behind the project; plans call for one of the largest selections of premium spirits west of the Mississippi. The $1 million venture will be the biggest bar 213 and its president, Cedd Moses, has created to date (it previously opened the Golden Gopher and the Broadway Bar). The 4,500-square-foot space will offer 16 beers on tap (with a system that creates its own nitrogen and CO2, allowing it to keep draft beer continuously refrigerated), plus a 250-year-old walnut bar, two 150-year-old pool tables, a smoking patio, a private room and a live music area. C7BUSINESS
New York-based Brookfield Properties purchased the 7+Fig shopping mall last year and has begun working on plans to expand and renovate the complex. Not many details have been released yet, but Anthony Manos, senior vice president of Brookfield’s Southern California region, said the company is working on a complete repositioning of the mall that would include an expansion of more than 150,000 square feet. In the meantime, the company is working to bring “some of the hottest restaurant concepts in Los Angeles” to the food court level, Manos said. New retail stores – which could include a big-name home store – will be announced within a month. B7
The effort to clad the exterior of the AT&T building in a new metallic, off-white skin should be complete in March. Architect William Pereira’s iconic South Park structure at 1150 S. Olive St. will also receive modern metal panels and a glass curtain wall at the corner of 12th and Olive streets. The upgrade will create a new restaurant, said Chris Egger, a spokesman representing LBA Realty, which purchased the 32-story high-rise last year for $130 million. This phase of construction will also include interior renovations such as new lobby finishes and refurbished elevator cabs; those are also expected to be complete in March. New retail will come into the building, including Starbucks, Robeks Juice, Subway, Trimana Express and a FedEx/Kinkos, some of which will open in June. Plans for a second phase of the facelift focusing on the tower’s top will be finalized in mid-2007, Egger said. C9
The twin 51-story black granite office towers at Fifth and Flower are 72% leased after a $125 million renovation that wrapped last year. In 2003, Thomas Properties Group bought the failing office skyscrapers and underground mall for a reported $270 million. The company has leased 233,661 square feet of office space since 2006, said Kent Handleman, managing director of leasing. Chaya Brasserie, a high-end, Asian fusion restaurant, is scheduled to open in the building’s ground floor retail space by early 2008 and another restaurant is in the works, said Handleman. The mall was also renovated and now holds a 30,000-square-foot gym, a Weiland’s Brewery, seven fast food restaurants and other service businesses. B6
Anschutz Entertainment Group is moving forward with development of the 54-story Convention Center headquarters hotel as part of the $2.5 billion L.A. Live. An earlier partner, KB Urban, has dropped out of the endeavor. The hotel/condo hybrid, whose cost has been estimated at up to $800 million, will feature three elements: an 876-room Marriott Marquis, a 124-room Ritz-Carlton, and 216 luxury condominiums, on the upper levels, known as The Residences at the Ritz Carlton Los Angeles. The Marriott’s rooms will comprise the bulk of an L-shaped structure that will give way to the tower containing the higher-end Ritz Carlton rooms. The hotel, which will feature the largest ballroom in the city, is scheduled to open in early 2010. B8
Although no construction is apparent from the street, a conversion of the former Embassy Hotel and Theater at 851 S. Grand Ave. into the swank new Gansevoort West is scheduled for completion in late 2008, said Kristen Hammer, a spokeswoman for the project. WSA Management and Chetrit Group plan to turn the nine-story South Park structure into a 175-room boutique hotel. It would include a restaurant, a spa and a rooftop pool and lounge. Crews will also restore the building’s 1,800-seat theater. The 1914 edifice designed by Thornton Fitzhugh has served at various points as a church, hotel and a facility for USC. Stephen B. Jacobs Group is the architect of the conversion. New York-based WSA is behind the Hotel Gansevoort in Manhattan and is also developing a hotel in Miami, which is opening in three months. C8OPENED IN THE PAST SIX MONTHS
The 20-year-old, 37-story skyscraper at 1100 Wilshire Boulevard – long a laughingstock of Downtown’s office sector, as it was completed in 1986 but never leased – opened in December as the only modern high-rise to be turned into a residential building. It is also one of the only Downtown buildings to offer 360-degree views and glass walls. Since December, 85 of the 228 units have been filled, and most of those residents have moved in, according to developer Forest City Residential West. Forest City headed a team that included TMG Partners and MacFarlane Partners on the $37 million project. With 42 floor plans, the studio, one- and two bedroom units range from about 700 square feet to 3,400-square-foot, two-story penthouses. Prices start at $500,000 and run to more than $3 million. The conversion from office space to residential was completed by Thomas P. Cox Architects. A7
This sleek poolside restaurant and lounge near Staples Center opened in November in the former Holiday Inn, which has been converted into a residential building called The Flat. Robert Hartstein and developer Bret Mosher created the 4,300-square-foot space, which features three lounges, a dining room with a 17-foot sunken granite table, a glass fireplace and a rooftop garden. Chef Kris Morningstar, formerly of Patina and Meson G, crafted a contemporary American menu that is available for lunch weekdays and dinner nightly. A8
Restaurateur Jason Ha recently opened his second establishment in the Arts District, an Asian-inspired steakhouse dubbed e3rd (next door to his popular Zip Fusion). The new restaurant, short for “east of Third,” had its soft opening in January and an official opening is set for March 1. Ha converted a former warehouse and film studio at 734 E. Third St. into a stunning steakhouse and lounge that features lower price points than some of Downtown’s more upscale meat palaces. E5
Residents began moving in to the regal, turquoise terra cotta landmark in the last week of January. The Kor Group spent $30 million converting the 1930 eye-catching structure at 849 S. Broadway originally designed by Claud Beelman. Architecture firm Killefer Flammang restored the edifice to its original splendor, and even the lobby floors are original. Interior designer Kelly Wearstler worked on the building’s 147 luxury condominiums that have high ceilings and exposed pipes, ducts and thick columns. The Eastern Columbia has a rooftop fitness center, terrace and pool. Units range from 881 to 3,208 square feet and prices started around $400,000 and topped out at $2 million. All units but the penthouses, which have yet to be released, are sold out. C8
The USC men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams have started playing in their new $140 million home at Jefferson Boulevard and Figueroa Street. Except for a few details like finishing the suites, the 10,225-seat arena is complete and fully operational. The 300,000-square-foot building holds a 35,000-square-foot practice space, administrative offices and a founder’s hall. The structure, designed by HNTB architects, maintains the classic orange-brick aesthetic of other USC buildings, and includes luxury accommodations such as private vanities and lounges in the teams’ dressing rooms and a 500-person banquet hall with a private courtyard. The arena is also used for concerts. F9
The newest addition to the Groundwork Coffee Co. debuted this month at 108 W. Second St. on the ground floor of the Higgins Building. Unlike owner Richard Karno’s Traction Avenue location in the Arts District, this Groundwork focuses solely on brewing the company’s signature coffees, with a selection of pastries and bagels. The lofty, 1,100-square-foot, two-level space has concrete floors and chairs on an outdoor patio facing Main Street. D5
The 128-unit, six-story apartment complex at Second Street and Central Avenue has been nearly half leased since its soft opening in December, according to developer Related Cos. About 30% of those inhabitants have already moved in to the $38 million development designed by Thomas P. Cox Architects. Rents in many units are more than $3 per square foot, making them among the most expensive apartments in Downtown. The building features studio, one- and two-bedroom residences. Amenities include an outdoor pool, a fire pit and barbecue equipment as well as a luxurious retro lobby and a façade light installation. The ground-floor retail is set to open in the coming months, including a Fed Ex/Kinkos, a Robek’s, Zen Asian Bistro and Italian eatery Pastagina. E5
The former 30-year-old industry hideaway known as Little J has been transformed by entrepreneur Sergio Dovarro into J Restaurant & Lounge at 1119 S. Olive St. The sprawling 25,000-square-foot space features a 10,000-square-foot outdoor patio, a glowing fire pit and a 30-foot granite bar. Executive chef Ryan McKay has designed a New American menu. C9
Library Court was completed last October and the building is now 70% sold and 60% occupied, according to a sales representative. The $20 million project, at 630 W. Sixth St. near the Richard J. Riordan Central Library, features 90 condominiums ranging from 570 to 1,185 square feet. All types of units are still available and prices range from $410,000 to $735,000. With granite countertops and checkered windows that vary in translucency, the units are intended to provide a Manhattan feel in Downtown Los Angeles, said Walter Eeds, CEO of Newport Beach-based developer Greystone Group. Architect Brenda Levin took the original structure – a 1960s office building – down to the studs and added a top floor, removed material for the interior courtyard and made room for 10,000 square feet of retail space. Six restaurants are currently on the first floor, including Wolfgang Puck’s Gourmet Express and Mitaki Sushi. Recently opened is the Library Bar. B7
Opened in late October, the Chinese restaurant at 108 W. Second St. features a contemporary Asian interior with a split-level dining room and 20-foot ceilings. It is run by Lili Ya and is the latest offering from a family that owns several restaurants. Neon lights enliven the burgeoning residential and commercial strip. D5
In December nightclub impresario Mark Fleischman opened the $1.5 million Tatou Restaurant and Supper Club at 333 S. Boylston St., on the western edge of Downtown (in Prince’s former Glam Slam club). Dotted with four 15-foot palm trees and draped with nearly $70,000 in fabric, Tatou features a 40-foot stage, two dance floors, multiple levels and bars, a smoking patio and 30 plasma screens. A second phase is planned that will include a sleek rooftop restaurant and lounge with skyline views. Chef Michael Wray, a winner of TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” designed the Cal-Asian-Latin menu. A6
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