John Nilsson, CCIM, CRS CalBRE #01966286 213.266.2224

About Downtown LA

Since 1999, when the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance was enacted, the estimated population of DTLA has increased almost 300%.

Between 1999 and 2013, over $17 billion has been invested in facilities for arts/entertainment, civic, residential, commercial, and retail uses in DTLA.

Downtown Los Angeles hosts over 10 million visitors per year with a median income of $90,580 per visitor.

Each business day, over 500,000 people commute into Downtown Los Angeles for their jobs. Transportation hassles are a major factor spurring the growth of DTLA residential development.

A (Very) Brief History of Downtown Los Angeles

By John Nilsson (with help from and Wikipedia)
El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles was founded on September 4, 1781 by a group of 44 settlers who trekked north from Mexico following exploration by Father Juan Crespi, a Spanish Missionary who was charged with finding spots for Catholic Missions. In 1769 Father Juan noted that the region had “all the requisites for a large settlement”. The settlement was established a little north of the current downtown area. Many of the original buildings of El Pueblo can still be visited along Olivera Street, just west of Union Station. The little pueblo outpost on the Los Angeles River survived for the next 70 years, first as a vineyard and then as a center of commerce.
By 1840, Los Angeles was the largest town in California. With the opening of the West and migration in force of from the Eastern US and Asia in the 1850’s the town’s growth began to accelerate. By the late 1880’s land speculation fueled by the arrival of the railroads, cheap transportation, and huge tracts of available land and thousands of Mid Westerners eager for opportunity and warmer weather fueled a population explosion and the city saw population increase from 11,000 people in 1880 to almost 100,000 in 1896. Los Angeles had become a major center of West Coast and Asia commerce rivaling that of San Francisco.
By the end of the 1800’s, the city began to expand to the south into the area now known as the Historic Core. While few examples remain, this period saw the construction of new “high rise” (up to 13 story) buildings in the area between 1st and 3rd and Broadway and Spring Streets. The Bradbury Building (1893) is the best remaining example of this era. From 1910 to 1930, downtown Los Angeles witnessed an unprecedented building boom which resulted in most of the current landmarks of the Spring Street Financial District and the Broadway shopping and entertainment district. Over a dozen theater and movie palaces were built on Broadway during this period as Downtown Los Angeles reigned as the entertainment capital of the West. By this time Los Angeles had the most extensive rail and streetcar system of any city in the US.
By the late 1930’s however, the siren song of the suburbs stunted the growth of the city as population moved out to new areas to the west and south west such as Hollywood and Santa Monica. Historians place the beginning of the decline of Downtown at the completion of the monumental new Union Station which opened in May of 1939 just in time for the decline of the railroads. It was built on a grand scale and would be one of the last of the “Great Railway Stations”. Blight and decay soon started to appear in Downtown Los Angeles marking the end of a truly storybook era for the city. The years following the end of World War II saw a continuation of decline for downtown as the era of freeways, shopping centers, increased automobile ownership and Southern California suburbs took it’s toll.
In an effort to reverse the decline of downtown, in 1955 the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project, a massive clearing and redevelopment effort that resulted in LA’s new financial and business district and laid the base for LA’s exciting current skyline. This was the turning point for Downtown Los Angeles but the following 50 years continued to be unkind to the historic neighborhoods along Broadway, Spring and Main which continued to be vacant, boarded up blight areas.
In 1999, the City Council past the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance which essentially allowed new residential uses for the abandoned business buildings in the Historic Core and Broadway Entertainment districts. This ordinance has been instrumental in the development of thousands of living units in exciting historic Beaux Arts and Art Deco office, civic and retail buildings and has transformed a blighted area into a vibrant, exciting and hip community. The influx of residents has resulted in new retail and restaurant and entertainment establishments that in turn have acted as magnets for more new residents.

The cycle has started anew.

Downtown LA Map

Residential, Hotel, Residential, and Office

Published July, 2014 by Downtown Center Business Improvement District

Downtown LA is blessed to have the dedicated folks at The Downtown Center Business Improvement District to look after and document the amazing growth of Downtown Los Angeles. What follows is the latest demographic and economic report prepared by DCBID. This report is the most comprehensive and informative product on this subject currently available.

Downtown LA Economic Forecast
Downtown LA Financial District

Financial District

The Downtown LA Financial District was originally located in the area between 3rd and 8th Avenues and Broadway and Main. However, in 1955 the city fathers, in an effort to bring life back into the declining city, decided to redevelop Bunker Hill into a new corporate and banking center. To accomplish this, the high promontory overlooking the Historic Core was cleared of old abandoned and neglected Victorian buildings and the new corporate skyscrapers that now make up LA’s famous skyline began to appear. New buildings popped up yearly during the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s until office vacancy rates became unsustainable and building fell off. Since 2001, new commercial construction has begun again in earnest. The most notable Financial District architectural statements in recent years have been the dramatic Disney Center for the Performing arts and the brand new Grant Park which now connects the Financial District to Civic Center and City Hall several block to the east.

Historic and Entertainment District

This district is comprised of the original Historic Core between Hill and Main and 3rd and 8th Avenues (the original Banking and Financial District) and the Broadway Entertainment area between 2nd and 18th Avenue which, in its heyday, was the West Coast’s undisputed center of Show Biz with as many 16 world class theater and Vaudeville venues. This District grew to prominence from the late 1800’s through the years just before the 2nd World War and contains most of the historic buildings that give Downtown Los Angeles its character. The District has, in recent years, become the center of exciting new redevelopment and life as the rush to the suburbs has reversed its flow back into the city center. Primary to the redevelopment of this district has been the visionary Adaptive Reuse Initiative enacted by the LA City Council in 1999.

Downtown LA Historical and Entertainment District
Downtown South Park District

South Park

The South Park District is essentially located between the Financial District and LA Live from the 110 Freeway on the west to Spring Street on the East. Once part of a non-descript jumble of unrelated businesses, parking lots, manufacturing plants and abandoned office buildings, South Park has become the center for the housing boom that has resulted in the explosive re-growth of Downtown LA. At last estimate, over 4,000 new apartment units are either just recently completed, under construction, or planned for South Park. This new population center has resulted in new bars, restaurants and clubs opening monthly in this area and is also feeing the rapid growth of the adjacent Historic and Entertainment Districts.

LA Live

LA Live is an exciting entertainment complex adjacent to the LA Convention Center and the Staples Center Sports Arena, home of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings. Developed and a cost of over $2.5 Billion by Anschultz Entertainment Group and others, the facility incorporates over 5,600,000 square feet of ballrooms, bars, concert venues, restaurants and movie theaters as well as a Marriott Hotel and a 54 story Ritz Carlton condominium project. LA Live has become the convention, sports and entertainment hub of the entire Los Angeles area.

LA Live
Downtown LA Arts District

Arts District

The Los Angeles Arts District developed in an area just east and west of the Downtown Civic Center between the Historic Core and the Los Angeles River in blocks of abandoned and neglected industrial warehouses and manufacturing plants. The local artist community was attracted to the area due to its low rents. In recent years the area has seen rapid gentrification and rapid expansion in residential and commercial development. New and exciting restaurants and bars coffee shops and art galleries and working studios now abound in this area which has taken on an almost “Soho” like flavor.