Q+A> Is Los Angeles' Arts District As Hot As We Think?

Q+A> Is Los Angeles' Arts District As Hot As We Think?

Shimoda Design’s rendering of Alameda Square (Shimoda Design Group)

Last week, AN reported on the development of Alameda Square in Los Angeles, the 1.5-million-square-foot mixed use project being designed at the old American Apparel factory site on the southwest edge of LA’s Arts District. Movement on projects like this beg the question: Just how hot is LA’s Arts District? AN‘s West Coast Editor Sam Lubell sat down for a short chat with James Sattler, a Vice President of Acquisitions at JP Morgan Asset Management, to find out.

American Apparel site as it looks now. (Sam Lubell/ AN)

The Architect’s Newspaper: What potential do you see in the LA Arts District? Do you see it as one of the major development areas of the city?

James Sattler: Clearly there is a lot of development activity in the area, and this mirrors the pattern we are seeing in many parts of Downtown. I think the Arts District has the potential to become a terrific example of LA’s current wave of post-industrial urban renewal and can ultimately mature into a veritable live/work/play neighborhood with a deeper array of housing, office, and retail uses.

Why is it such a major draw for real estate investment?

I think the residents, artists, and businesses here today are attracted to the Arts District because it is such a truly authentic urban environment that is connected to the energy and grittiness of Downtown but with a very approachable, pedestrian-friendly scale. Access to a rapidly improving public transport system is also a big plus. It’s hard to find this combination of characteristics in a neighborhood here in Southern California, yet people appear increasingly drawn to the type of urban lifestyle that the Arts District offers. Investors are drawn here for similar reasons.

 Are there any particular projects in the area that you see as transformative?

I think the LA MTA’s Regional Connector project will be huge. When complete it will provide much more convenient access from the Little Tokyo/Arts District station to the rest of the Metro Rail system which will ultimately link to other parts of LA County like downtown Santa Monica, and potentially LAX and UCLA. I also think that the city’s plan to revitalize the LA River corridor, which runs along the east side of the Arts District, will have a big positive impact.

Some people call this the next Meat Packing District, ala Manhattan. Do you agree?

While I think there are some parallels in terms of an industrial neighborhood in transition, I think it’s too facile to compare them like that. I think one of the reasons for the success of the Meat Packing District is that the city took a very active role in developing the High Line and helping to preserve historical elements of the neighborhood that create its unique sense of place. Time will tell if the Arts District evolves similarly in LA.