I visited USC today. It was the first time I’ve been on the campus since Nick and I went for his orientation day. I sat in the lecture hall that he would’ve sat in–Room 101 in Lewis Hall, the main building for The Price School of Public Policy. I attended a guest speaker session with Councilmember José Huizar where he talked about the re-imagining of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA).
I thought about what Nick would be processing as he heard Councilmember Huizar speak and I thought about what would excite Nick most about all the projects in the works in Council District 14 that encompasses all of downtown.
I thought about Laura and her husband Ken, recently married 30-somethings who have made their first home investment in a loft in the historic Rowan Building on Spring Street. I thought about how this could have been Nick’s path in 10 years.
I wondered what Nick would’ve been thinking as he heard Huizar describe the downtown revitalization as a process of “building a city within a city” since Los Angeles itself is so vast and the downtown area is so concentrated. I thought about why Nick loved downtown and it made me realize that, if this is all done the right way, it’s about breathing life into the soul of our city and bringing it back to the vibrancy it once had… if only that could be done with our loved ones no longer with us.
Things have already started changing . The photo here was taken from our loft window looking out on 9th & Broadway. Nick never got to see this. I know he’d be proud. I can hear him saying, “See, I told you it was just going to keep getting better!” I particularly like this photo because it shows 3 great things all in one frame:
1) A bike lane
2) Tables & umbrellas for people to sit outside and connect to the city life
3) A city worker taking great care of the area –they are around all day, God bless them!
The umbrellas and tables stretch all the way north on Broadway and they’re part of Huizar’s “Bringing Back Broadway” initiative with the intent to create public spaces and construct a streetcar rail to go all the way to 1st Street where there will be a new park. There are plans to open the old theaters on Broadway as entertainment venues, attract new retailers and restaurants and convert unused upper floors of the beautiful old Broadway buildings to creative office or residential space.
And just a quarter mile away, AEG renewed their interest last week in building an NFL Stadium near Staples Center which would bring additional revenue to downtown. The overall idea is to create a city experience like New York, Chicago, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco or Seattle where people want to walk and are offered lots of reasons to traverse the city on foot discovering the flavors and nuances of different neighborhoods.
DTLA has already established its neighborhoods with The Fashion District, The Historic Core, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, The Arts District, The Bank District, South Park and even Bunker Hill where there are plans are to create a more walking-friendly route between that corridor and Disney Hall, The Music Center and the museums.
Amidst all this talk of transformation there’s also concern for the homeless and the issue of the density of the homeless population that is centered downtown. I attended a homeless solutions panel that Huizar pulled together last Monday which opened up the dialog. It also made it apparent that there are as many different perspectives on the situation as there are problems and potential solutions. Humanizing homeless individuals seems to be one very important step rather than looking at them as one collective mass all with the same problems. Nick was quite good with his outreach to homeless people –he didn’t just put a dollar in their cup — he’d buy them a water or a snack and he’d actually talk to them.
As I write this on the eve of (hopefully) signing the final escrow papers to be a home/loft owner downtown in the historic Eastern Columbia Building, I feel a passion for what DTLA has the potential to become. I know a part of me feels this way because downtown’s transformation meant something special to Nick. It’s why we decided to have Nick’s final resting place in the beautiful mausoleum in the lower level of The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Temple Street. While the Cathedral is quite modern, the mausoleum has the exquisite stained glass windows from the original St. Vibiana’s Cathedral. Each window is backlit and because they’re installed at floor level the beauty of each window’s story can be appreciated without having to look high above or wait for the sun to be in just the right spot. Our family’s permanent memorial is secured in the marble room where the window depicts the young Jesus, in a white tunic with gold sparkles, sharing wisdom with the elders.
Wisdom is the gift the young Solomon asked for in 1 Kings 3: 1-15. Wisdom is what we hope for among those who are shaping the future of our city. Kindness–a trait that was so much a part of who Nick was– is what we hope will spread across all cultures, beliefs and income levels for all who call this City of the Angels our home.