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Why Downtown Loves Streetcar
July 2, 2013

Why Downtown
Loves Streetcars

You can't ride a streetcar in Downtown LA just yet, but there's a lot riding on it, like economic development and quality of life. Last week, Alston & Bird partner Shiraz Tangri moderated the streetcar panel at our Evolution of Downtown event. (His other day job: general counsel for LA Streetcar Inc.)

Executive director Jessica Wethington McLean says councilman José Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway initiative (of which the streetcar is a major component) is public policy that helps private investment make sense. Buildings that were gathering dust are being sold, a creative office market on the upper floors has emerged, and a streetscape plan and sign district are moving forward. Half of the 12 once-vacant theaters on Broadway will be operating as entertainment venues. Broadway also continues to attract new retail and restaurants, including Urban Outfitters, which is renovating the Rialto Theatre, and Swedish fashion label Acne—set to open its only US location outside of NYC's SoHo.BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 062Rich Cherry, deputy director of The Broad Art Foundation, gave the streetcar project the nod due to the line's potential impact on the institution's accessibility and parking issues. (Our photographer seems to have added a work of art to the bottom right here.)
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BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 073Williams & Dame Development is developing a 400-room Marriott Residence Inn/Courtyard near LA Live. Chairman Homer Williams is particularly bullish on the streetcar. In the '90s, his Portland-based company participated in the country's first new streetcar system in 50 years, not realizing the economic engine it would become. (All the best ideas come from Portland. Want to improve Hollywood? Put a bird on it.) One thing the company learned about urban development: Connections are most important. Your neighborhood won't be the two blocks you live in, but the length and breadth of the streetcar line.

BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 083AC Martin COO Paul Coleman, whose firm is working on the Wilshire Grand project, says the streetcar line will get you to all the major places you need to be within a five-minute walk and start to create that connective tissue.

BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 068The Ace Hotel on Broadway is under construction at the United Artists Building. GM Jason Dibler says it's a chance to open a property in an area that's undergoing a resurgence—much like Ace did in Palm Springs.

BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 079Colliers International EVP Mark Tarczynski expects the streetcar to be a boon for Broadway especially. Right now, folks coming into the city for events at Staples Center or Nokia Theater are a captive audience who have to take a cab to Broadway. According to Mark, the street is about to undergo fundamental change equal to the change Broadway went through in the early '20s when most of its buildings were built.

BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 018We couldn't put on events like this without our great sponsors. Kudos to W.E. O'Neil Construction, ably represented by Daniel Spickard and Shaun Guertin. The contractor built out our venue at Alameda Square on behalf of owner EVOQ Properties.

BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 007Christopher McKenzie tells us Kastle Systems is a managed security services firm that provides high-tech solutions like web-based cameras and access control.

BISNOW LA EVOLUTION OF DOWNTOWN 6-25-13 017We found Ryan LLC's Nancy McNeill and Steve Buck, whose firm helps property owners appeal increases in their assessed value. Steve says owners who received property tax relief in the downturn need to be aware that county assessors will be aggressively restoring those values this year.

I don't want realism. I want magic! And for you to send your story ideas to julie@bisnow.com.

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