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 more than $8 billion worth of commercial, residential, cultural or infrastructure projects in progress.
The stunning InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown opened this summer in the $1.1 billion mixed-use Wilshire Grand Center. Situated atop the tallest U.S. building west of the Mississippi River, the 900-room hotel includes a “sky lobby” on the 70th floor and Spire 73, an outdoor bar that boasts spectacular city views.
Upcoming hotels include the 250-room NoMad Los Angeles that’s being built out of Giannini Place in Downtown L.A.’s Historic Core. 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 late 2018. The W Los Angeles Downtown is slated to open in 2020.
Those hotels are being built for good reason. Downtown L.A. now attracts almost 20 million visitors a year, while hotel revenue per available room (RevPAR) jumped 38% between 2013 and 2016, 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 38,000 units that house a population of more than 65,000 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 on Labor Day.
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. The area will get another boost in activity when Warner Music Group moves its operations into the old Ford Factory building by late 2017.
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.
And for Exposition Park, that will mean George Lucas’s $1 billion 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.
“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, and soon the new soccer stadium, and the George Lucas Star Wars Museum, 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.