Why Everyone Should Stay in Downtown L.A.
The long-neglected heart of L.A. is coming back to life.
For the last several decades, Downtown Los Angeles was never a part of L.A. where visitors would linger. People would typically go there to go to work, or to stop at city hall, or to grab a bite before a Dodger game, and then get out.
But thanks to an influx of exciting restaurants and bars, as well as the arrival of L.A. Live—an entertainment district across from the Staples Center arena that’s filled with popular eateries, the Nokia theater, and the Grammy Museum—Downtown L.A., affectionately called DTLA, is becoming a must-visit neighborhood in Los Angeles, even for Angelenos.
Brigham Yen, a downtown resident who chronicles the daily changes to the neighborhood on his site, DTLA Rising, told Condé Nast Traveler,“In cities all across the country, downtown districts are usually the center of cultural activities, shopping, and entertaining. We are finally putting all those elements into place in L.A.,” he says. “Retail is coming back. Restaurants are huge attractions. Sidewalks that used to close up after 5 p.m. are now open to people coming downtown to eat and go to the bars and lounges.”
Next, several hotel brands—big and small—are expected to arrive in downtown in the coming years.
Last month, W Hotels announced the W Los Angeles Downtown at Figueroa and 11th Street, across from L.A. Live. Set to open in 2019, the hotel will have 250 guests rooms, a 5,000-square-foot spa, and an outdoor pool deck.
In 2017, InterContinental Hotel Group is planning to open the largest InterContinental Hotel in the Americas inside the forthcoming Wilshire Grand project. The hotel will have 900 rooms and a sky lobby on the 70th floor. The building, which is being built by Korean Air, will also have offices, retail space, an observation deck, and the distinction of being the tallest building in the western United States. Elsewhere in DTLA, InterContinental Hotel Group will open a 350-room Hotel Indigo at the end of next year.
Marriott International, who doubled down with a Ritz-Carlton and a J.W. Marriott Hotel at L.A. Live in 2010, have since opened a Courtyard by Marriott and a Residence Inn within a shared building across the street. Plans are in the works to add another tower to the J.W. Marriott with 755 new guestrooms.
Even fashion designer Roberto Cavalli will make his mark on DTLA with a five-star, 183-room hotel within a massive tri-tower complex across from the Staples Center.
And, perhaps in the epitome of a lifestyle hotel, Equinox fitness gyms will open an Equinox Hotel in a new mixed-used project designed by architect Frank Gehry, across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, also designed by Gehry.
But it’s not just shiny and soaring new towers that will open here. The city’s historic buildings, an array of pristinely preserved Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance and Art Deco styles rarely seen elsewhere in L.A., are also re-emerging as boutique hotels. Ace Hotels were the first indie hotel brand to make the leap to downtown last year when they opened their hotel in the historic 1927 United Artists theater building on a somewhat downtrodden block of Broadway. Despite the location, the hotel’s rooftop lounge and L.A. Chapter restaurant are consistently busy.
Now, New York’s NoMad Hotel will open a 250-room L.A. outpost in the neoclassical 1923 Giannini Place building, which originally opened as the Bank of Italy. The Freehand, a hybrid hostel-hotel concept that debuted in Miami and recently opened in Chicago, will take over the Commercial Exchange Building, at 8th and Olive Streets with 200 rooms. The building first opened in 1924 and was once home to the publishing company of Tarzancreator Edgar Rice Burroughs . Both the Freehand and Nomad are being developed by the Sydell Group, which also opened the Line Hotel in L.A.’s Koreatown.
“As a company, we’ve always been really attracted to historic buildings and adaptive reuse,” Andrew Zobler, founder and CEO of Sydell Group, explained to Condé Nast Traveler.“There’s not a lot of building stock that falls into that category in L.A. except in downtown. Along with finding the kind of buildings we really like, now we’re seeing Downtown L.A. become more interesting, and more viable. Visitors are taking L.A. seriously as an urban, cultural destination.”
Proper Hospitality, a new hotel group formed earlier this year by the founders of Viceroy Hotels, will also make their debut in Los Angeles at 11th and Olive Streets in a 1924 building that once housed the YMCA. The Proper Los Angeles will have 148 rooms.
Another exciting development for Downtown L.A. will happen this weekend when The Broad, a stunning new contemporary art museum, will open. Eli and Edythe Broad, the benefactors and collectors behind the museum—the artwork displayed is from their private collection—had once considered the well-trafficked cities of Beverly Hills or Santa Monica as a possible location. Instead they chose a spot in the heart of the Grand Avenue corridor in downtown.
But perhaps the biggest sign that Downtown L.A. has officially arrived, again, is that the city is working to finish the Expo Line, a light-rail transit route that will make it possible to go back and forth from Santa Monica to downtown without getting on the notoriously congested freeways. That means visitors won’t have to sacrifice one neighborhood for the other during their visits.