Hipsters know it. The savvy media trumpets it. But this tour guide wanted to see for himself. Is Downtown LA really making a great comeback? So my wonderful wife Maria and I rented an Airbnb in the belly of the beast -7th and Broadway in the Historic Core- and took off on foot to see what we could see. What followed was a wonderful urban adventure and a growing respect for a resilent but still scruffy downtown. First the facts
. This itinerary is not for luxury-lovers but for those who like historic buildings, nice restaurants and great views. Our Airbnb lodging at the tiny Rosemary Hotel was spartan, cheap ($89 per night!), and noisy, but clean and convenient. We walked everywhere and had a thoroughly stimulating time. Our verdict on downtown: definitely improving and hopefully the City can ease the homeless problem. That was the one sad aspect to the trip - destitute people lying on sidewalks or shuffling behind a crowded shopping cart.
|Maria and I stayed on the second floor right next to the venerable and tastefully remodeled|
Clifton's Cafeteria. The food is great, well-priced and enhanced by a friendly staff.
Day 1: Cruising Broadway Street - The Historic Core of LA includes Broadway, Spring and Main Streets and this was our starting point. We took off from our mini-hotel and arrived at Grand Central Market at 8 AM just as the gates were opening. This allowed us to beat the ever-present lines at Eggslut and enjoy the tasty "Fairfax" breakfast sandwich. Get the bacon add on!
|The Fairfax features scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, carmelized onions and bacon on a soft brioche roll. Yum!|
We headed east towards City Hall and visited downtown's newest building - the federal District Court Building. This 10-story floating cube at first turned me off, but I have begun to like the pleated-tempered glass surface and the way the structure sits on a stone podium allowing for a more inviting pedestrian connection between the building and the adjacent Grand Park. The new generation of skyscrapers are using a more-translucent glass which softens their visual impact on the skyline. The lobby of the courthouse is elegant and cold, but the floor-to-ceiling atrium is impressive indeed.
|Like the CitiCorp building in New York City, the new District Court floats on a stone|
podium, softening its footprint at street level.
|The elegant and spacious lobby could be softened with planting or art.|
Continuing our civic theme, Maria and I tried to visit the 1920s Beaux-Art Courthouse on Temple and Main. This massive monolith is typical of the sturdy government buildings of this era with Classical references and off-white color. Although its three-part composition - base, capital, and shaft - is somewhat muted, it is a beautiful example of period architecture.
We ended our journey eastward and City Hall and were delighted to obtain Visitor Passes to go all the way to the 28-story observation tower. This gorgeous building - completed in 1928 - combines Art Deco, Classical Revival and influences and was the tallest building allowed by the earthquake codes of the time. The 360-degree observation walkway afforded incredible views.
|Mosaic domes, stunning light fixtures and ornate columns decorate the first three floors|
of City Hall
|The Grand Park has provided much needed open space for downtown. The axial vista from|
the Walter Beckett 1960 Water and Power Building to City Hall is consistent with City
Beautiful open space principles connecting key landmarks.
|Downtown skyline from City Hall's observation deck. You can see the top of the 73-story US Bank|
Building pecking above the other skyscrapers on Bunker Hill.
Evening found us again at or near the tops of buildings. Our pre-dinner drink was 14 stories above Pershing Square at The Perch (French restaurant)upper stories. After a wonderful drink at the 14th-story rooftop bar and restaurant above Pershing Square - The Perch - we rode to the top of the second tallest building on the West Coast - the US Bank Building. The restaurant - 71 Above - has the best views of downtown not to mention delicious food and wine pairings.
|Stunning views from the restaurant 71 Above.|
Our favorite view in the Financial District is from the rooftop bar at the top of The Standard Hotel. This perspective from 12 stories high gave great views of five generations of skyscrapers.
|The skyscraper view from The Standard Hotel is my downtown favorite.|
|I'm pointing out the location of our 71st story dinner spot.|
LA's Historic Core contains two wonderful streets which are also National Register Historic Districts - Broadway and Spring. The former is famous for movie palaces with the latter known for its historic banks. As we walked down Spring Street, we noticed the many Beaux Art buildings converted to lofts along with numerous cafes, hotels and restaurants. Broadway Street has more big attractions - the Ace Hotel, the Orpheum, Los Angeles and Million Dollar Theatres; Clifton's Cafeteria and Grand Central Market. Both streets are great, and one block south at Main Street we noticed another revitalized arterial. Of course, we realized that the
|The entryway of the Eastern Colombia Building with its sunburst pattern and blue and turquoise|
terra cotta tiles make it one of LA's most spectacular Art Deco buildings.