Downtown Los Angeles

From Academic Kids

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The Bunker Hill district of Downtown Los Angeles as seen from USC, which makes up most of Downtown's skyline.

Downtown Los Angeles is the center of the metropolis of Los Angeles, California, if not necessarily its heart. The sprawling mega-city is so large that its downtown is, in many ways, a district like Hollywood, as much as the leading area of the city. It is home to the city and county's government, many of the city's major arts institutions and sports facilities, a variety of skyscrapers and associated large corporations and an array of public art, unique shopping opportunities and the hub of the city's freeway and public transportation networks. Downtown Los Angeles is generally thought to be bounded by the Los Angeles River on the east, the 101 freeway on the north, the 10 freeway on the south and the 110 freeway on the west.


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Downtown Los Angeles as seen at street level.

Most major upscale department stores once operated in downtown Los Angeles. However, many of them were shuttered in the 1970s and 1980s and most moved into newer more modern office, hotel and shopping complexes in the Financial District. Macy's Plaza and Robinson's May are just two prime examples.

Unlike Manhattan, downtown Los Angeles was void of any nightlife until recent years as the residential population increased. (What little nightlife existed was concentrated in Little Tokyo.) Several developers discovered around 2000 that there was a latent market in Los Angeles for renovated lofts and well-secured luxury apartment complexes among commuters who were sick and tired of commuting from the suburbs. Another sign of the fledgling downtown renaissance is that the Ralphs supermarket chain recently agreed to open its first downtown store; the opening has been pushed back to be opened in the summer of 2006 (according to the Los Angeles Downtown News issue on December 9, 2004).


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Waiting room in Union Station
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U.S. Bank Tower in Downtown Los Angeles is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

The Downtown core is comprised of larger city blocks than most cities of the United States, in distinct contrast to the smaller residential lot sizes of the residential areas of the city. The buildings date from the early 1900s, with the topmost floors of most of the office buildings at mostly 14 and 15 stories. This was enforced because of the earthquake risk; thus, the Los Angeles City Hall was the tallest building for decades at 454 ft., until the development of Century City, in the western part of the Los Angeles basin. One unique building, the Bradbury building, was the largest cast iron structure at the turn of the century, with a lacy, airy interior. The Grand Central Market somehow captures an early 1900s feel, with customs in distinct contrast to the current supermarkets of the U.S. The former Ambassador Hotel, now closed, sits at the edge of the Downtown core, next to the new financial district.

  • South of the Downtown core, the Nickel contains large eateries, again, distinctly reminiscent of the early 1900s.
  • Next to the Downtown core, the bustling Union Station is an example of the massive buildings, on a heroic scale, that served a vanished rail passenger market until during the 1990s when a subway line and six commuter rail lines began taking passengers there; adjacent to Union Station is the historic center of the city, enshrined for local consumption as Olvera Street.
  • The Old Bank District is the center of the loft movement downtown. A number of developers have purchased old buildings and are converting them into residential lofts.

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