If you’d visited the heart of Los Angeles’ Arts District in the mid-19th century, you would have found acres of vineyards planted by Jean-Louis Vignes, adventurer and vintner. Three-quarters of a century later, the manufacturing boom and transcontinental railroad spurred growth and development, cementing L.A. as a major logistics hub on the West Coast.
Today, the buzzed-about district continues to change the face of downtown L.A., bringing in colorful companies and exciting projects sure to increase the area’s already hot reputation in the market. Attendees at NAIOP’s O.CON: The Office Conference this week in Los Angeles explored exciting projects and gained a glimpse into the future of the downtown L.A. landscape on project tours in the area.
ROW DTLA’s four-building complex – originally built in the 1910s and ‘20s along the Southern Pacific Railroad – is experiencing a second life as a sprawling mixed-use hub, featuring 1.3 million square feet of office space and 200,000 square feet of retail space, with large walkable areas and unique views of the iconic downtown L.A. skyline. Keeping with the location’s roots as a major hub for produce distribution across the region, a back lot on the property serves as host to the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, where a large portion of the country’s produce moves through each day. The accompanying parking structure looms large with 5,000 spaces – the second-largest in Southern California. ROW DTLA favors boutique tenants instead of typical chain retailers and features pop-up retail shops and special events, keeping in line with their philosophy of offering a unique experience with an element of discovery. Buildings keep the bulk of their original character, with high ceilings, sandblasted walls and restored windows.
Just down the street from ROW DTLA stands another piece of Los Angeles history: The Ford Factory. Built in 1914 to manufacture Ford Model T automobiles, the poured-concrete and block building is designated as a historical structure and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Henry Ford correctly assumed that the warm California weather would lead to a lot of driving, and auto sales shortly after the facility was built were off the charts. Now instead of assembling auto chassis, the sprawling space serves as the future West Coast home for Warner Music Group. The adaptive reuse project includes room for the company to use as event and creative office space, including 15,000 feet of outdoor space with green features, rooftop amenity deck with lounge areas and more. The restoration incorporates recycled materials from the original building, including steel window frames and skylights.
Third in the tour of the revitalized Arts District was At Mateo, a former industrial site being redeveloped into a creative office and open-air retail hub. The 3.5 acres was mostly dirt just over two years ago, and originally planned to include retail tenants only. After realizing the opportunities for creative office in the area, leaders on the project adapted it to include 50,000 square feet of modern, creative office space. The construction features 20-foot ceilings that bring in ample natural light, and nearly 130,000 square feet of space for first-tier restaurants, high-end apparel retail and more. Three paseos (public walking paths) connect the project to the southern end of the Arts District and help to alleviate congestion. The 2,500 square foot rooftop deck is shared among office tenants with potential for a future restaurant.
As the Arts District continues to attract new residential and commercial development, the region is helping to bring new life to the historical industrial area and reshape downtown Los Angeles.