How Historic South Broadway Became Cool Again
Another neglected area of Downtown LA is making a comeback, as developers adapt the Historic Core’s architecturally significant structures along South Broadway to modern uses. Here are some of the top moves.
JLL managing director Carl Muhlstein credits the Ace Hotel's developer, Chicago-based Greenfield Partners, for pioneering the area’s commercial redevelopment. He tells Bisnow Greenfield “hit it out of the ballpark” on that deal. The 182-room, 4-star boutique hotel was fashioned out of the 12-story United Artists Theatre building at 929 S Broadway.
The Ace’s success caused other commercial developers to sit up and take notice of South Broadway’s location and the architectural potential offered by the area’s stunning Beaux Arts, Art Deco, Revival-style and Spanish Renaissance buildings.
Just a few blocks down the street, newly formed Proper Hospitality, a division of locally based Kor Group, is converting the 13-story Case Hotel at South Broadway and 11th Street to the 148-room Proper Hotel, another 4-star boutique.
Across the street from the Proper Hotel, a partnership of New York developer Georgetown Co and Hearst Corp is repositioning the century-old Herald Examiner building as creative office space. Designed by the famed 20th century female architect Julia Morgan, the 1914 Spanish Colonial Revival structure offers 15-foot ceilings, large floor plates, lots of skylights and generous parking.
Gensler is in charge of the building’s restoration and upgrades, which include converting the lobby to ground-level retail, creating a new lobby, and retrofitting the structure for seismic safety and sustainability. As lead leasing broker for the $40M project, Carl is already in talks with potential tenants and expects the 90k SF building to be leased to three or four tenants within 12 months of beginning construction. He says creative users are attracted to Broadway because it's the region’s last treasure trove of historic buildings and borders on South Park and the Fashion District, where lots of residential development is underway.
Carl says South Broadway also has a substantial residential community, which began in the late 1990s when local developer Tom Gilmore started developing in Downtown by converting historic office buildings to housing. And retail is improving as well, as Carl recently scored leases on South Broadway for The Gap Outlet, Urban Outfitters and European fashion retailer Acne.
The neighborhood got a boost when LA Councilmember José Huizar launched the Bringing Back Broadway initiative in 2008, which included a master streetscape plan that provided new pedestrian-oriented amenities, artistic pavement treatments and other cosmetic and safety improvements along a strip of South Broadway from 2nd Street to Olympic. The plan also calls for a four-mile, urban streetcar system, which is scheduled for completion in 2020.
The city also reconfigured South Broadway from 3rd to 11th streets from four to three lanes, to claim more sidewalk space for pedestrians and retail space. Street enhancements rebooted Grand Central Market, a 30k SF shopping arcade with 40 vendors.
Other big changes include renovating seven of the district’s 12 historic theaters, which once hosted acts by vaudeville comedians like the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny and Charlie Chaplin. One of those is the United Artists Theatre at the Ace Hotel, which offers a regular schedule of unique entertainment.