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As Downtown Los Angeles Changes, Developers Build For The Future

Angels Landing Partners, a joint venture of three minority owned real estate developers, wins the rights to manage the development of the Angels Landing site in Los Angeles.
A rendering of the proposed $1.2B Angels Landing development in downtown Los Angeles

When Ricardo Pagan set out to find a site for his next big project, he wanted to find a place that would support an evolving city. The founder of Claridge Properties settled on 2.24 acres in the Bunker Hill area of downtown LA. The proposed Angels Landing site, at Fourth and Hill streets, would provide the development team an opportunity to re-establish a neighborhood and build a community, all with an eye toward the future. 

The revival of downtown Los Angeles tells a story of comeback. Once a neighborhood full of life and culture, many of downtown Los Angeles' residents flocked to the suburbs after World War II. Now, the area is picking back up. The city invested $24B into rejuvenation efforts between 1999 and 2015. Vacancy rates are increasing, and growth is not expected to slow down anytime soon. To support this revival, several developers are building properties that attract a growing population by incorporating urban trends, including autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing, walkability and experiential real estate. 

“We have the opportunity to create an experience,” Pagan said. “Our goal is to make Angels Landing a 24/7 operation. We have done this in New York, and were looking to bring that experience to LA.” 

The $1.2B mixed-use development will have 425 apartments, 250 condominiums, an elementary school, 45K SF of retail space, a food hall and 50K SF of park space. The property will only offer 465 parking spaces, but that is by design. The team behind Angels Landing recognizes that Los Angeles is headed in a direction that will require less need for parking, and it is moving full speed ahead to get there. 

“The story is very clear. We are looking to drop it to a point to force people to use the [other] systems instead,” Pagan said. “There will be access to public transportation and designated Uber and Lyft pickup and drop-off sections. We’re doing this so there will not be leftover parking spaces when we get to a point in the future when we no longer need them.” 

As Downtown Los Angeles Changes, Developers Build For The Future
Claridge Partners' Ricardo Pagan, Sweetgreen’s Eric Beegun, Watry Design’s Michael Pendergrass, RYDA’s Daniel Neman, Omgivning's Karin Liljegren and Industry Partners' Carle Pierose

This concept may have spurred controversy in years past, but it could be exactly what the city needs to eliminate traffic congestion and support alternative transportation options such as buses, trains and ride-sharing. Fewer parking spaces could also mean fostering a culture of walkability and shared space. 

But nurturing a sense of community through development does not happen overnight. To draw people in, mixed-use developers need to be strategic about the services they offer. A combination of hospitality, retail and multifamily at Angels Landing will provide an opportunity to foster experiences for tenants and visitors. 

Development firm RYDA has introduced a similar sense of community with the renovation of the historic Pettebone Buiding. A creative office space atop ground-floor retail, the renovated property aims to preserve downtown Los Angeles' historic core while preparing the neighborhood for innovation. The space will feature creative concepts like exposed-brick walls and a rooftop deck area. 

"We are creating a modern, open-space setting — catering to the future of emerging companies and the new generation of collaborative office space," RYDA principal Daniel Neman said to UrbanizeLA

While developers in downtown Los Angeles are building communities for the future, they are also thinking about how they can use their resources to give back. 

Fast-casual food company Sweetgreen, which has nine brick-and-mortar stores across Los Angeles, is investing in the future of the city through a partnership with a school downtown. Through the program, Sweetgreen brings in employees to educate children about farming and the value of food and provides cooking classes for families in low-income neighborhoods. 

“We believe decisions that are made earlier in life set the tone for where you’re going to go,” Sweetgreen’s Eric Beegun said. “At a certain point, we can serve the community that’s been built, but we also know there is the next generation. If we don’t teach the next generation about the value of food and eating healthy, it’s going to be a perpetual problem."

The issue of homelessness continues to cause friction for the downtown Los Angeles community, Pagan said. Enacting housing initiatives and programs can be the first step toward reaching a smart solution. Pagan has shifted his focus toward integrating affordable housing initiatives into his developments to support the city's economic future. 

“We need to work with city planning organizations and local and state government to solve this problem,” Pagan said. "The first solution is where to house them. This requires a combination [of] supportive housing programs and activating public land.”

There remains plenty of work to be done in downtown Los Angeles, but the neighborhood is reinventing itself through development. By looking toward the future, developers are redefining the downtown experience.