I recently had the privilege of working with the DTLA Downtown Center Business Improvement District to write a special report on the Future of Urban Retail. If you haven’t noticed it yet, DTLA is quickly becoming THE place to go for restaurants, entertainment… AND NOW…SHOPPING! The report takes an in-depth look at DTLA’s 8 key districts and profiles what’s hot in DTLA retail right now along with what’s going to define the personality and excitement of these districts in the months to come. Stay tuned…the story just keeps getting better!
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.
Why does summer always tease me into thinking I’m a kid out of school with nothing but lazy days and plenty of time to figure out how I want to spend them? Don’t I wish! The M-F/ 8-7 reality means there are only so many hours to take advantage of what summer in the city has to offer. Fortunately, being in DTLA, there’s always something going on and 4th of July in Grand Park really had the city showing off its best. While it gets pretty crowded at night, we loved walking through the park mid-day and seeing the festivities getting started.
The Park, with City Hall in the background, looked beautiful.
There were two music stages, one with a DJ and one with live music starting at 4 p.m. I’m sure the night was totally happening but we were perfectly happy to roam during the peaceful, sunny early afternoon. Friends asked us to join them that evening for the long-standing tradition of fireworks at Wilshire Country Club just a few miles west on Rossmore between Beverly and Third.
A few weeks ago we got a group together on a Friday night to check out EAT, SEE, HEAR at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park. There’s a great lawn where everyone brings low beach chairs and/or blankets, tons of food trucks show up and you watch a movie on an outdoor screen. We sawThe Big Lebowski. Dogs are welcome but we left Coco home for this one.
Not great photos, but these 2 guys were dead ringers for The Dude and Walter… and, not to forget the deadest of all, Donny in the can.
Last Wednesday night we needed to pick up a few things at Urban Radish for a party Jay’s catering this weekend. Happily the shopping trip coincided with Jazz Night at Urban Radish market with the Kyle Crane Trio on the patio. There’s a different dinner menu every week– I tried the grilled trout wrapped in prosciutto and Jay had roast pork with a sweet marinade. We missed out on the full selection of sides by getting there closer to 8:00 pm but the charred romaine , soba noodles, and organic multi-hued cherry tomato salad were all delicious and since we arrived late, the portions were extra generous.
Wine tasting is also part of Jazz Night and UR has a great selection of bottles at the perfect temperature to buy and take to your patio communal seating table. These gatherings are relaxed “downtowner” get-togethers–particularly for those who live in the Arts District. A full course meal is $15 . The Curran Grenache Rosé from the Santa Ynez Valley was as good as any we’ve ever tried… described as “A very pale salmon shade. Loaded with flavors of strawberry, mango , white peaches and green apples and exotic cardamom in the nose. (A) crisp wine with a firm backbone.” at $22. And best of all, Coco was happy to be among other contented canines chilling under the tables.
Another evening we were invited to our friends’ house in Hancock Park where Jay got to be co-grillmaster–the one thing that he misses about living downtown. It was a perfect Los Angeles evening where the breeze picks up at sunset and then everything calms to a still by the time the moon rises. The lights strung across the picnic table, the pea gravel under our feet, the candles flickering, the freshness of the produce, the aroma of the grill, the fragrant trees surrounding us, and even the raccoon who ambled along the fence at one point–reminded us we’re as Mediterranean as it gets without spending 13 hours and 46 minutes en route.
And not in chronological order, but we celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary on June 30th. It was a Monday night and rather than go out, we decided sometimes the best celebrations are the ones where you just stay home. It was a beautiful night and we had the upper terrace of the Eastern Columbia Building all to ourselves. We took a picnic and set it up on the little bistro table where we could look out on the lights of the city. We grazed on cheese and crackers, sipped a Sauvignon blanc, had a salad and dipped a crusty Bread Lounge baguette into the “good” olive oil and balsamic that we usually save for company. We finished the evening off with the sweetness of strawberries and blueberries bought the day before at the Larchmont Farmers market. The sweet, simple pleasures of summer…so far.
I don’t know about you, but when I drink my coffee I want to know that the birds in the trees where the beans came from are happy. Maybe that’s why Urban Radish’s Mexico Custapec house- brand coffee tastes so good–just read the label on the air-tight silvery package. Happy brew–happy you! Maybe there’s ancient magic in these Rainforest Alliance harvested beans from the Finca Custapec coffee plantation that gets me happily fluttering through the morning. Maybe the colorful flavor comes from the way the beans are roasted–Italian-style. Maybe the fragrant aroma originates from the roots of the trees that reach deep into the fertile earth of the Finca Custapec coffee plantation established in 1911 in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, a land of ancient volcanoes. But what I do know, is that this coffee absolutely makes it worth the extra effort to get out the electric grinder every morning and enjoy this little bit of paradise in my cup. These DTLA coffee beans are custom roasted in Los Angeles for Urban Radish.
So I might as well face it, I’m addicted to soap–but I’m a discriminating addict…it’s got to be Light of Beauty soap. And I’ve created a co-dependent, Jay is right there with me. This all natural soap is created by a woman from Reseda who spent 10 years in the banking industry before discovering that she could make a living pursuing her passion making all natural soaps that clean your body and lift your spirits with their naturally intoxicating fragrances. The soaps are made in small batches using ingredients sourced from local farms. We get panicky if we are down to our last bar. But each bar does last a long time and is as effective down to its last thin use as it is when the bar is brand new. We get our fix at Urban Radish in The Arts District .