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The Globe and Mail

Hoof around historic downtown L.A. – and see what’s new

Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) has gone through an extraordinary transformation in the past decade, with its population tripling. A high-density residential core has emerged with a population of 53,000 – mainly the 23- to 44-year-old crowd – driving a concomitant demand for commercial real estate development.

The area has a proud history as epicentre of the Wild West as well as the birthplace of Hollywood, with historic theatres along Broadway recently refurbished.

Its first commercial boom came in the 1920s and 1930s, and DTLA produced iconic skyscrapers after a 1957 ordinance lifted height restrictions on buildings.

But it fell into decline for several decades as suburban-style developments lured consumers out of the city centre. Its renaissance began in the late 1990s, with a new bylaw allowing for adaptive reuse, culminating in its current boom.

The city, whose 1970s and 1980s no man's land of empty buildings and deserted streets once heralded the death of cities, is now becoming a new model for how to densify downtown historic cores, with revitalized residential, business and arts communities at the forefront of the new DTLA.

Hadani Ditmars for The Globe and Mail

DTLA renaissance

Downtown L.A. boasts an idiosyncratic weave of mom-and-pop-style retail and gleaming office towers.

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Historic core

Clifton’s Cafeteria, where both Walt Disney and U.S. author Charles Bukowski used to dine in “themed” rooms, will soon reopen as a nightclub and eatery.

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Turquoise survivor

The majestic Eastern Columbia Building was one of the first office towers to be converted into residential units. Johnny Depp was purportedly one of the first occupants of this updated art deco beauty.

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Serving since 1924

The Original Pantry Cafe, a classic U.S. diner that opened in 1924, is a neighbourhood fixture. DTLA has rebounded since the 2008 recession with both a commercial building boom and a high-density residential core.

Hadani Ditmars for The Globe and Mail

Broadway corridor

 The iconic 1921 State Theatre is now home to a Latino evangelical church congregation. Several historic theatres have recently been refurbished along the Broadway corridor.

Hadani Ditmars for The Globe and Mail

2007 addition

The Ritz Carleton/Marriott hotel tower is part of L.A. Live – a sprawling $2.5-billion (U.S.) project with theatres, bars, eateries and hotels that helped galvanize neighbourhood renewal.

Hadani Ditmars for The Globe and Mail

United Artists

The historic United Artists building has been transformed into the 182-room Ace Hotel, which opened in early 2014.

Hadani Ditmars for The Globe and Mail

Ace Hotel

The 13-storey Ace Hotel also houses a refurbished theatre, first opened by Hollywood pioneer Mary Pickford.

Hadani Ditmars for The Globe and Mail

Bottega Louie

Popular eatery Bottega Louie occupies a former bank.

Hadani Ditmars for The Globe and Mail

New purpose

Bottega Louie helped transformed a once no-go zone into a bustling restaurant row. Since 2008, more than 600 new businesses have opened in DTLA.

Onni Group

Vancouver connection

The 1920s-era Coast Savings building has been transformed into creative office space by Vancouver developer Onni Group.

Onni Group

Olive Street project

On the parking lot next to the Coast Savings Building, Onni is building a 32-storey tower and podium project and has proposed two more. “We are catering to young workers downtown who don’t want to commute like their parents did and who are attracted to the great restaurants and nightlife,” says Chris Evans, executive vice-president of Onni.

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