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‘Big Changes Are Coming’: LA Arts District Poised For More Office, Multifamily Development

One Santa Fe in the Arts District

The Arts District, once an industrial hub, has been building momentum for years as an office and residential neighborhood. Now, as the entire city tries to claw its way back from pandemic-related slowdowns and setbacks, the Arts District is barreling toward major changes. 

New development, in the pipeline and under construction, has a dramatic influx of office space and a significant crop of multifamily units planned for the market in the approximately 55-block neighborhood roughly bounded by the Los Angeles River and First, Seventh and Alameda streets. Infrastructure projects, including the Sixth Street Bridge and a station on the new Regional Connector subway route, will play a role, too, in shepherding in a new stage in the neighborhood’s evolution. 

As the neighborhood grows, developers and commercial real estate professionals working in the Arts District say the neighborhood’s well-established character will help it maintain its appeal through all the change, though it might not be easy now that there are so many players eyeing the area. 

The Arts District, which drew big-name tenants like Warner Music and Honey before the coronavirus pandemic, is lined up to continue to be quite the office hub. Cushman & Wakefield Vice Chairman Mike Condon, speaking on a panel at Bisnow’s State of the Arts District event, estimated that there is 1.8M SF of Class-A creative office space in the neighborhood currently, with another 3.5M SF in the pipeline now. 

More than just a neighborhood where people work, the area is also a place where people live, with 900 units of multifamily under construction now and another 3,500 in the pipeline, Condon estimated. 

“Big changes are coming,” Condon said. 

Linear City Development's Yuval Bar-Zemer, Cushman & Wakefield's McKenna Gaskill, Boulevard Partners' Scott Ginsburg, Greystar's Vince Manzenberger and Rios' Sebastian Salvadó.

Panelists at the event said that a big part of the appeal of the neighborhood, both for those who live there and those who work there, is its walkability. Even though the coronavirus pandemic relegated would-be office tenants to working from home, the promise of less time spent in a car getting to work or any destination is a huge draw, panelists said. 

Linear City Development Managing Partner and co-founder Yuval Bar-Zemer, who lives in the Arts District, said that many of his neighbors have gotten rid of their cars because of their ability to get around the neighborhood without one. There are very few neighborhoods in LA where you can do that, he said. 

But he noted that now that the neighborhood is getting so much attention from developers, it is increasingly more difficult to blend the many different visions of what the neighborhood needs.

“It’s not easy to keep the balance between the right amount of housing, of businesses,” Bar-Zemer said. “These are evolving questions, and no one really has the answer.” 

Another huge driver of change in the neighborhood is in the form of public projects, including the $588M Sixth Street Bridge that is under construction now. The viaduct will cross the Los Angeles River, connecting the Arts District with Boyle Heights, and will have a 12-acre park running beneath it. 

Cushman & Wakefield associate McKenna Gaskill said that the park would be another walkable destination for residents of the Arts District, adding to what people already like about the Arts District.

“People are going to be able to bring their dogs there, their children there. [The Arts District] is going to continue to have that neighborhood feel,” Gaskill said. 

The Arts District is also getting a new rail station at First and Alameda. The station will serve the Regional Connector, a subway that will make it possible to take a one-seat ride from East LA to Santa Monica or Azusa to Long Beach. 

“It’s really going to change the dynamic of how people are accessing this community,” Boulevard Partners Managing Partner Scott Ginsburg said.  

Greystar Senior Director of Development Vince Manzenberger spoke on the panel with Bar-Zemer, Gaskill and Ginsburg. It was moderated by Rios Creative Director Sebastian Salvadó. Condon spoke on a separate panel.