Downtown LA comes alive

By Lia Zhu | | Updated: 2017-05-20 01:54
Downtown LA comes alive

Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing its largest construction boom in modern times, and foreign investment, especially from Chinese developers, is adding thousands of residences and construction jobs, as well as restaurants, retail stores and entertainment venues, reports Lia Zhu from Los Angeles.

It can be seen in the numbers: At least 20 skyscrapers are being built; more than 5,000 condos are under construction; and 46,000 new jobs are expected from 2015 to 2020 in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing a rejuvenation, and Chinese property developers are playing a major role.

Not only is the new construction reshaping the city's skyline, it's also redefining the urban living style by creating a vibrant new shopping, dining and entertainment destination. The foot traffic in downtown Los Angeles is steady, young adults and families are opting for an urban lifestyle and new restaurants, stores and entertainment venues are taking advantage of the scene.

Five years ago, downtown Los Angeles was a place you didn't want to go at night, said Robert, an Uber driver who gave only his first name. "It was empty at night and weekends. People didn't really live down here."

Robert said he used to avoid driving through the downtown area at night, but now he has many passengers going to downtown restaurants and night clubs. "It has totally changed face," he said.

K. Allen Anderson, senior vice-president and general counsel of Greenland USA, said, "Los Angeles downtown wasn't at all the kind of downtown you see in other international cities, or even other major cities in the US.''

Exodus to suburbs

"For various reasons, cultural and land restriction reasons, for many years, buildings could not be taller than the city hall, which is about 20-storyies high," he said. "So you never had the inner city growth. People grew out into the suburbs."

That started to change 15 years ago when the Staples Center and Ritz Carlton and JW Marriot hotels came to Los Angeles, and "that's been really accelerated by Chinese developers," said Anderson.

Now those developers, such as Greenland, Oceanwide, Shenzhen Hazens and Lifan, are pumping billions of dollars into the city, adding thousands of new residential units in high-rise towers.

Stephen Cheung, president of World Trade Center Los Angeles, said Los Angeles is going through a renaissance that "we haven't seen in decades". "Looking at the population and the industry growing, you start seeing a new vibe that we haven't experienced before," he added.

In the last 15 years, investment in downtown has exceeded $15 billion, and the weekday population has expanded to more than 500,000. More than 700 new restaurants, bars, retail and nightlife venues opened from 2008 to 2014, according to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District.

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