It looks like not even the COVID-19 pandemic can keep the downtown Los Angeles development and construction industries down for very long.
In its fourth quarter and year-end 2020 report, the Los Angeles Downtown Center Business Improvement District said that even novel coronavirus victims like the retail sector were making a comeback and that work marches on for the large projects that, to a large degree, have been driving the transformation of downtown into a thriving urban center. Perhaps most important, the report said, those committed to life in downtown Los Angeles haven't abandoned it during the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.
"Downtown continues to be attractive largely because it now has a vibrant 85,000-strong residential community in addition to its long-standing position as the economic and cultural heart of the region," said Nicholas Griffin, executive director of the Downtown Center BID.
In particular, he said, downtown's draw has created a "very strong and resilient market" for large-scale projects like the $1 billion Frank Gehry-designed The Grand, which, when complete, will provide downtown with 436 residential units, 176,000 square feet of retail space and a 20-story Equinox Hotel with more than 300 rooms, 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space and other amenities.
The Grand, which The Related Cos. is developing, will also include restaurants, a movie theater and a public plaza, which are expected to be a draw for those living within and near downtown. AECOM is the general contractor for that project.
Big projects underway
Other major developments that either continued or started construction during 2020 include:
- Fig+Pico: Owned by developer Lightstone and designed by Gensler, Suffolk is the general contractor for this mixed-use project with three hotels next to the Los Angeles Convention Center. One tower will rise 37 stories and house two hotels with a total of 727 rooms. The other 27-story tower will host a third hotel. Between the towers, the complex will offer restaurants, retail, a rooftop pool deck and other amenities.
- 520 Mateo: This project, which will be the first high rise in the Arts District, is being developed by Carmel Partners. It will feature 475 apartments, 105,000 square feet of office space and 55,000 square feet of open spaces, according to designer SCB.
- Produce LA: Pankow Builders is the general contractor for this project in the Arts District. The 114,000-square-foot building will include office space, restaurants, ground-floor retail and a 4,200-square-foot rooftop deck.
Projects under construction throughout the BID at the end of 2020 were:
- 20 residential (4,829 units)
- Seven hotels (3,021 rooms)
- 14 office and retail (3.1 million square feet of office space and 1.1 million square feet of retail).
Downtown activity hasn't been all upside, though.
Pandemic lockdowns saw "empty streets" for much of the year, according to Griffin, and one major downtown project, the $1 billion mixed-use Oceanwide Plaza complex, stopped construction about two years ago because of the developer's money problems.
Looking ahead, however, downtown Los Angeles’s development pipeline is robust, Griffin told Construction Dive, boosted by a consensus that the economy is going to come "roaring back" after the health crisis is over and that the basic appeal of living, working and playing in downtown is still there. In fact, proposed for the area are more than:
- 29,000 new residential units.
- 7,600 hotel rooms.
- 2.79 million square feet of office space.
- 2 million square feet of retail.
"What we have to offer — the world-class culinary scene, arts and culture, nightlife and entertainment — is exactly what people are so eagerly craving right now," Griffin said. "We expect people will return to downtown in droves as health concerns subside, and DTLA will continue on its exciting upward trajectory. "