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DTLA Reimagined: Downtown Los Angeles Is Evolving From 9-To-5 District To 24/7 Neighborhood


Downtown LA, like most downtowns across the country, is at a turning point as people rethink the ebb and flow of their daily lives. To better understand the future of this rapidly changing area, the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, an organization that has been at the forefront of DTLA’s renaissance over the past 20 years, is releasing its 2023 DTLA Outlook & Insights report.

The 2023 DTLA Outlook & Insights Report is an annual state of downtown assessment, which combines the DCBID’s signature survey of Downtown residents, workers and visitors with detailed economic and demographic data to paint a comprehensive picture of DTLA as a market and community. The goal of the report is to position DTLA in the context of the city of Los Angeles, the Southern California region, the nation and the globe.

DCBID Executive Director Nick Griffin told Bisnow the report is arriving at a critical moment. As coronavirus states of emergency lift, post-pandemic realities continue to emerge, colored by change and uncertainty — particularly for central business districts that have been upended by significant shifts in the nature of office work and the interrelated effects the pandemic has had across all sectors.

“To understand DTLA, particularly in this current moment, you need to know it is no longer just a 9-to-5 business district,” Griffin said. “It’s a 24/7 mixed-use area with a residential population of over 90,000 people, making it one of the largest residential neighborhoods in the city.”

Griffin said DTLA now welcomes more than 17.4 million visitors every year due to its vibrant cultural and nightlife scenes. 

“DTLA boasts a world-class cultural district of museums, concert halls, theaters and a vibrant culinary, nightlife and entertainment scene, making it one of the region’s most important tourist destinations,” he said. “The growth of the residential, hospitality and cultural sectors over the last two decades have reshaped Downtown’s identity, and the current shifts underway in the office sector will likely impact its evolution further.”

The DCBID’s quarterly market statistics show some sectors of Downtown’s economy recovering well — with residential occupancy topping pre-pandemic levels and hospitality nearing them. Overall visitation numbers clearly show people returning to DTLA. 

On the residential front, there’s new inventory under construction and in the pipeline to meet strong demand as the residential population grows. 

“That population is increasingly shaping DTLA’s identity, and it was critical to weathering the pandemic in the absence of our normally huge population of office workers,” Griffin said.

He added that he was pleasantly surprised at how quickly DTLA’s hospitality sector recovered. He said that occupancy and revenue per available room were close to pre-Covid levels and food and beverage are performing particularly well, with over 30 new restaurant openings in the last year.

The exception, of course, is the office sector, where uncertainty around the shifting nature of hybrid and remote office work and what those changes might mean for Downtown’s vitality is the top concern. But while the office market has been slower to recover, the report also shows there is reason for hope with 81% of office workers saying their employers have expressed plans for them to be in the office at least half the workweek.

“This data shows that there’s good reason to believe in the long-term viability of the office market,” Griffin said. 

In counterpoint to the market stats in this report are the survey results of 2,000-plus respondents, which, when compared to the halcyon days before the pandemic, present a significantly reduced sense of optimism about the future. Whether on general questions about Downtown’s direction or specific ones regarding issues such as public safety, the responses express concern and frustration at what seem to be intractable problems and a perceived lack of progress in addressing them.

Griffin said he hopes that the survey will be a call to action to DTLA’s civic and community leaders to help produce more tangible results to combat these issues and produce positive results. 

“We believe that the survey will provide a baseline against which we can assess their progress in our DTLA 2024 Outlook & Insights Report,” he said. 

With all the changes Downtown is facing, the DCBID has been more active than ever, creating programs to address both challenges and opportunities, Griffin said. The organization created a DTLA Virtual tour platform to showcase downtown and create more interest from investors and potential tenants. It also built a DTLA Augmented app, allowing visitors and locals to engage with Downtown’s cutting-edge culture. 

Griffin said his marketing team has developed new initiatives to promote local businesses, such as DTLA Coffee Trail, Food Hall Favorites and Holiday Scavenger Hunts. To help entice office workers back Downtown, it has also supported big events like the Pershing Square Ice Rink with special lunchtime skating sessions. This has increased engagement and created a more fun and lively downtown for workers, residents and visitors, he said.

DCBID’s primary focus is reimagining DTLA and how it will evolve in the coming years.

“Engaging the local community and activating the public realm with art, events and other programming are some of the ways we are revitalizing Downtown and bringing that reimagined DTLA to life,” Griffin said. “Downtowns across the nation are in a state of transformation, and while that is rife with challenge, it’s also ripe with opportunity.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and the Downtown Center Business Improvement District. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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