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Two-Minute Tour: Los Angeles

The City of Angels is experiencing a renaissance

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The Numbers
The City of Angels – home to movie stars, red carpets and Rodeo Drive – is the second-largest U.S. city with nearly 18 million people in its greater metropolitan area. Recognized as the country’s entertainment industry hub, the city also ranks seventh on the Global Economic Power Index for its dominance in finance, real estate and banking.

The Pulse
Los Angeles is in the thick of a renaissance, as former industrial and business areas such as the downtown Arts District integrate more live/work spaces and attract retail. “East Third Street is killing it with retailers like Apolis, Alchemy Works, Poketo and Hammer and Spear,” says Lindsey Kampmeier, managing director at the Los Angeles Office of Creative Agency Guild. She notes that the 182-room Ace Hotel, which opened in 2014, is leading the charge further west in the heart of downtown. “South Broadway and West Ninth Street have also seen a recent influx of retail with Oak NYC, Acne Studios, Aesop, Austere and Tanner Goods.” 

Alan Koch, a city resident for more than a decade and director of design at LA-based Otto Design Group, credits young creatives for the rebirth. “[They] can’t really afford to live in New York anymore, so they’ve been drifting west and now it’s a veritable flood of young talent to LA.” 

The Hotspots
According to Los Angeles Downtown News, there are more than 90 development projects in the works, including the 73-story Wilshire Grand Center hotel; a multi-tower project called Metropolis, which will feature residential space, a hotel and more shopping and eateries near the L.A. Live complex; the Frank Gehry-designed Grand Avenue Project, which will offer hotel and residential units and a mix of shops and restaurants; and a transformation of the enclosed Macy’s Plaza at Seventh and South Flower streets into a plein air, mixed-use space called The Bloc. “Downtown is one of the greatest underutilized pieces of massive infrastructure in the U.S.,” Koch says, “and the new metro [lines], along with Uber, have started to make it accessible in a way it never has been.” 

Obstacles/Opportunities
“What makes exciting places is a mixture of density and diversity,” Koch says. “LA has the diversity, but its infamous sprawl makes it difficult to create density anywhere if people are trying to do it everywhere at once.” And with so much development, pedestrian traffic is hard to come by. The new metro lines are helping, but as Kampmeier notes, retailers can survive in a city with little foot traffic by becoming destinations rather than discoveries. Women’s online specialty apparel brand Nasty Gal (Los Angeles), opened multiple retail locations along Melrose Avenue and on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to maximize its presence. “That’s the real challenge for brands: how to tell a story that turns you into a destination people want to talk about,” Kampmeier says.

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