My Downtown: Before the Curve and Riding the Boom
Originally Published in the Los Angeles Downtown News
DTLA -My husband Brennan and I are both Los Angeles natives. I grew up in Atwater Village and he was raised in Porter Ranch, and we still hang with the friends who knew us when we had buck teeth and raced each other on the schoolyard (that is, unless it was a “smog day” and we had to stay in the classroom playing Heads-Up Seven-Up).
So why did two true Angelenos decide to live in the work-in-progress that is Downtown Los Angeles?
It’s a good question.
When I was a student at Loyola Marymount, I took a California History class. I recall comparing Los Angeles’ Downtown with other major cities’ downtowns. At the time, our Downtown was pretty much a ghost town after 5:30 p.m.
I knew this from personal experience. As a child, the only reason my parents would take my brothers and I to Downtown was to see a performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum or the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts. More often we went to other parts of L.A.: Century City, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Hollywood and Universal City.
For me a turning point was, literally, the last day of the last millennium. Staples Center opened in 1999, and on New Year’s Eve The Eagles and I rang in Y2K. I loved the vibe, I loved the feel and at that moment, I loved DTLA, even if it was more than a decade until anyone would use those four letters.
Three years later the Flower Street Lofts opened, and I took the plunge and moved to South Park. Those of us who decided to take a leap of faith in buying a home in a converted UPS building from the 1930s became close friends. We were very early adopters — the first part of L.A. Live wouldn’t arrive until 2007 — and people called us nuts for buying in Downtown.
As soon as a year later, however, we started to get a different reaction. Not from everyone, but some people would ask, “Do you have a cool loft in Downtown?”
Again, it was early in the community’s evolution. There were no restaurants open on Sunday nights and the only breakfast place was IHOP. We would text each other if we were at Costco, Whole Foods or Target to help each other out, and my pug’s only grassy area was in front of the Convention Center. There was a grim Laemmle movie complex beneath the old Marriott on Figueroa and Third streets.
Thirteen years later, what is South Park? Sure, it’s touristy with Staples Center, the Microsoft Theater, the Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotels, the Regal theaters and the amazing restaurants. But it is also a place where I can walk to my local grocery stores — that’s plural, as we have Ralphs and Whole Foods — after sweating in a spin class at YAS. It is a place where we can jog over to the South Park dog park with our pugs and find all the local dogs and their owners, and where the bartenders at Bottlerock and The Palm know our names.
The options are mindboggling these days. On some recent cold, rainy Saturdays I’d get a creamy hot chocolate at Impresso while my husband would run over and order the warm, freshly made ham and cheese croissants at Hygge. It is great that I don’t just see my hairstylist Jared from Salon 11 and my manicurist/pedicurist Kally and Danny (Hope Nails) on my appointment days, but also when I walk past them in their salons. Or I run into them and other friends at the Coco Fresh Boba shop or somewhere else.
The point is, South Park these days has a great sense of community. Running into my chiropractor, Dr. Derek from Prime Performance, at The Palm is not just a coincidence, but a part of our neighborhood that we cherish.
Many of Downtown’s districts have their own Business Improvement District that provide a clean and safe team. The South Park BID is fabulous in cleaning up graffiti and broken glass and just making us feel safe. They work like clockwork and are friendly and professional as they handle the difficulties that come with drunken party boys after the games or taggers who vandalize the walls.
As members of the Young Literati, we partake in many Aloud programs at the Los Angeles Public Library, and I also volunteer as a tutor at the Adult Literacy Program at the Central Library. We also enjoy walking over to see our Lakers and Kings at the Staples Center. The Metro is right below us, and we use it to head south to USC football games or take off northeast to enjoy a renegade fair at Grand Park.
In a city where everyone complains about traffic, it’s fun to be able to walk, Uber or Metro and not have to worry about traffic or parking.
It’s a pretty crazy turnaround for two kids from L.A.
By: Priscilla Naiman