Downtown’s future growth is on the fringe opinion ladowntownnews.com gas explosion in texas

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DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – Take a drive or a stroll through the heart of Downtown and you’ll see construction happening everywhere. As Los Angeles Downtown News has reported, the projects run the gamut. There is the 75-story replacement for the Wilshire Grand Hotel at Seventh and Figueroa streets and a clutch of seven-story housing developments planned along Olympic Boulevard in South Park. Both market-rate and low-income residential projects are proceeding in the Historic Core, and some huge governmental buildings, including a $400 million federal courthouse, are underway in the Civic Center.

These and other projects are changing the composition of Downtown Los Angeles. The heart of the community is becoming more densely developed. The roster of nightlife and entertainment options is expanding. New work spaces, and in particular a surge in creative office space, means more area residents will be able to walk or bike to their jobs. In five years Downtown will be much fuller and even more active.

That said, the work happening in the heart of the community is only the start. If you understand the arc and scope of development, and can take a bird’s eye view of the proceedings, then it becomes clear that Downtown’s future expansion lies in what today might be called the fringe.

The communities of City West and Chinatown are beginning to see new investment, and it stands to reason that activity will pick up there quickly, particularly on the residential front. It is the same situation on the eastern edge of the Arts District, including along the Los Angeles River. It may take longer for a shift in the areas south and east of South Park and the Financial District, but again, the seeds have been planted.

Yet, this shift requires preparation, and demands that planners and power players recognize where things are going. No doubt that savvy local leaders glimpse the early developments and are paying attention, knowing that others will follow. Far-sighted planners are factoring in the coming demands in Downtown for water, electricity and sewage system capacity. Transportation officials will also need to expand the work done to date to make the area increasingly navigable for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Focusing on the fringe may sound pie in the sky to some, especially when the Central City contains some lingering slow zones. Still, the jobs-housing imbalance in Downtown is the greatest argument for the boom in all its forms to continue. More and more people want to ditch the car and live near where they work.

History shows that pioneer projects can stand lonely for a time, only to emerge in the center of a thriving community. Just consider the initial housing projects in the Historic Core or South Park. Though developers there seemed like mavericks 10 or 15 years ago, now they appear prescient.

West: Housing has been trickling onto a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard just west of the 110 Freeway for years, and developer Holland Partner Group just broke ground on a 648-apartment project. Expect this to be a tipping point, and to create the residential base that attracts restaurants, bars and even more housing. If you make it easy for people to live here and walk to their jobs, they will.

East: Investors are already swarming the Arts District, and the frantic pace will only increase. The soon-to-open One Santa Fe, with 438 apartments, is a residential beachhead. The $1 billion effort to revitalize the Los Angeles River, mainly north of Downtown, will bleed into the communities on its banks. Metro has discussed building light rail stations in the community. The pieces for the next surge are in place.

North: Chinatown is being remade. The 280-unit Jia Apartments opened in the spring and the ongoing Blossom Plaza project will make it easy to walk from the Gold Line station to the heart of the community. Developers are already sniffing around old buildings, some parcels have changed hands and a new mega-project, College Station, was recently proposed. Concerns about the community’s heritage and unique look will prevent any full-scale change, but as Little Tokyo saw a wave of investment, so will Chinatown.

South: The first phase of the City Market project in the Produce District could open next year, and plans were recently unveiled for housing near the L.A. Mart. This area sprawls and a transformation here will take longer than in other neighborhoods, but relatively cheap land will draw speculators.