Downtown Los Angeles has Come Full Circle | meetL.A.

Downtown Los Angeles has Come Full Circle

Once the region’s center for culture and business as well as its transportation hub, Downtown has reestablished itself as a major draw for leisure tourists, business travelers and locals alike, with many commercial, residential, cultural or infrastructure projects in progress.

The stunning InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown opened Summer 2017 in the $1.1 billion mixed-use Wilshire Grand Center. Situated atop the tallest U.S. building west of the Mississippi River, the 889-room hotel includes a “sky lobby” on the 70th floor and Spire 73, an outdoor bar that boasts spectacular city views.

Recent hotel openings include the  241-room NoMad Los Angeles, built out of Giannini Place in Downtown L.A.'s Historic Core. Their vintage decor and rooftop terrace with panoramic views make them a hotspot for visitors. In early 2018, Hotel Figueroa celebrated their reopening which included a decor redesign as well as the introduction of their new restaurant and poolside bar spaces. 

Upcoming hotel additions will include the 148-room Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel in the former Case Hotel building, and The Hoxton, Downtown LA, with 174 rooms, in the previous Los Angeles Railway building. Oceanwide Plaza, the mixed-use project that will be built adjacent to STAPLES Center and L.A. LIVE, will include a 184-room Park Hyatt when it opens in 2020. Adjacent to L.A. LIVE, the J.W. Marriott will be expanding by 350 rooms, welcoming even more attendees to stay directly in the heart of Downtown L.A. 

Those hotels are being built for good reason. Downtown L.A. now attracts almost 22 million visitors a year, while hotel revenue per available room (RevPAR) jumped 17% between 2015 and 2018, according to hotel-research firm STR. “A diversity of hotel brands is a good thing for convention attendees because they offer more brand loyalty programs,” said Kathy McAdams, Vice President of Convention Sales at L.A. Tourism. “Convention planners are also looking for the mid-price option for attendees with a tighter budget, and we hope to see more of that in the future.”

In true Los Angeles fashion, though, DTLA (yes, the “#DTLA” hashtag is regularly used in social media) has evolved into an amalgam of districts that complement the Convention Center, STAPLES Center, L.A. LIVE and a South Park neighborhood that continues to explode with activity. For moviegoers looking something akin to 2016’s “La La Land,” 2009’s “(500) Days of Summer” is a cinematic love letter to Downtown L.A. and a snapshot of the moment when the Historic Core started reestablishing itself as a destination for younger residents.

Since the city adopted an ordinance allowing developers to redevelop turn-of-the-(20th) century office buildings into residential projects, Downtown’s number of residential units has more than tripled since 1999 to more than 32,000 units that house a population of more than 75,000 people (or almost twice the population of Beverly Hills). And more destinations are opening to delight those residents and visitors alike.

For Bunker Hill, that means The Broad contemporary art museum, which attracted about 900,000 visitors during its first full year of operations in 2016, and Angels Flight, the historic funicular that re-opened in 2017.

For the Arts District and Downtown’s more industrial areas, that means Smorgasburg, the outdoor market/foodie party that takes over the Alameda Produce Market every Sunday. Two Bit Circus, a micro-amusement park that focuses on the future of fun, opened in late 2018 and has invited visitors to enjoy carnival and virtual reality games. The area will get another boost in activity when Warner Music Group moves its operations into the old Ford Factory building by late 2019.

For the Historic Core, that means the re-emergence of Spring Street and Grand Central Market as retail and culinary destinations as well as the Ace Hotel and the adjacent Theatre at the Ace Hotel entertainment venue.

For Little Tokyo, the draw can be something as simple as the oasis of the Kyoto Gardens at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown. For Chinatown, it’s the emergence of Far East Plaza as a culinary magnet with eateries such as Roy Choi’s Chego, Ramen Champ, Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville Hot Chicken, and Scoops ice cream.

Rendering Courtesy of George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
Rendering Courtesy of George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

And for Exposition Park, that means the recently opened Banc of California Stadium, a 22,000-seat open-air stadium home to the LAFC. It also will include the $1 billion dollar Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which was announced in early 2017 and is scheduled to open its cinematic art collection and "Star Wars" artifacts in 2021.

Additionally, unlike many other parts of the region, cars need not apply. Much of Downtown L.A. can be explored on foot, and for those looking to move things along a little quicker, there are always the options of cabs or ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber. Additionally, 2016 marked the year that Downtown was reconnected by rail to the beach, as the extension of Metro Rail’s Expo Line to Santa Monica was completed. Set to start running in 2023, the LAX people mover will transport visitors from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to various locations, including to Metro rails that can link them to Downtown's Union Station. 

“To be able to get on the subway and in a few short minutes, be able to visit the USC campus, Exposition Park, California Science Center, Museum of Natural History, California African American Museum, the Coliseum, Banc of California Stadium and soon the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, enhances the options of attractions for visitors and attendees who may not have a lot of time to explore,” said L.A. Tourism’s McAdams.