Downtown Los Angeles is no longer synonymous with perpetual traffic jams and segregated neighbourhoods. Trendy restaurants, art deco buildings and hip hop bling in LA downtown is now easy accessible on bike or by foot.
The friendly and well-trained waiter at Café Gratitude which exclusively serves organic vegetarian food takes our order with dishes all named with different adjectives. For example, I need to say words like humble, turned and incredible when I order a smoothie with kale and a taco dish with bean and chocolate sauce. The restaurant’s concept can be dismissed as Californian fuzzy, but Café Gratitude is one of many places in Downtown where you briefly step into an impressively thought-out concept . You can now walk around an entire weekend in this town, between rooftop swimming in the Art Deco buildings, luxury shops, art galleries and creative culinary fast food trucks. The latest addition is both fun and inspiring.
People say that Downtown Los Angeles is now a district called the new Brooklyn and is appointed as the next cool American city. 15 000 apartments have been built since 1999, almost half of them in beautiful historic Art Deco buildings. The population of people living here is expected to increase to 50 000 people during the next couple of years.
Actor Johnny Depp was early buying a loft in the ghostly town and Comme des Garçons opened a guerilla store in the area already in 2008. However, it is during the last two years the area has become a shopping destination where fashion companies such as Acne , APC and Urban Outfitters moved into the legendary buildings along the main street Broadway.
It is a city within a city. The attraction is that everything is open 24-hours a day. Man can live and work here and have an enriching experience in the city, because you can get around on foot or by bicycle.
San Francisco’s techies are expected to be the next group to move to this changing scenery of Los Angeles Downtown. Skid Row district, which has the largest concentration of homeless in the country, remain only two blocks away from Broadway. Eccentrics on BMX bikes as well as people with household possessions in shopping carts circulate on the shopping streets. Diamond District with its over 5000 jewellers also give the area an interesting touch. Storefront after storefront is decorated with hip hop bling and for all who dream of diamonds, it is a bargain.
Saturday morning it’s time for a guided tour of the Art Deco theme. We meet at the orange trees in Pershing Square . It sizzles, more precisely 36 degrees. Wizard Anne, who is a talkative middle-aged woman wearing a panama hat , begins the tour by saying that no one usually die under her guidance.
The small group of ten people then travels across magnificent buildings decorated with zigzag motifs, Egyptian influence and 20’s kitsch, while Anne tells about the area´s spotlight days in the 1920s and 30s.
Downtown was once Los Angeles cultural and entertainment center with Chaplin premieres before the car culture transformed the town into a ghost town. A building we visit is Southern California Edison Building, which is decorated with a beautiful chequered marble floor .
Another one is the Oviatt building whose wooden restaurant, among other things, is familiar from “Pretty Woman”, in the scene where Julia Roberts tussle with cutlery problems.
After the tour, it’s time to independently travel to the next destination. Grand Central Market has existed since 1917 and here you can find German curry sausage, spices and dried chilli . The market is located opposite the Bradbury Building recognizable from the movie “Blade Runner” . The clientele is a mix of trend-hungry tourists, older men in cowboy hats and policemen who buy tacos for lunch. Here is Eggslut, which started as a small eatery and is now located at the Grand Central market’s best place towards the street. Their long bar counter made of steel is inviting and we got five eggs lined up on top of each other and a plate with bacon slices. The queue is long to get a taste of their famous sandwiches and Fairfax – which consists of caramelized onions, scrambled eggs, cheddar and spicy mayonnaise on a brioche – got me to return twice during my days in Downtown.
In the Spanish-Gothic United Artist – building a few blocks away is the Ace Hotel which marked Downtown’s trend transformation when it opened just over a year ago. Via the stylish brasserie L.A. Chapter on the ground floor is the elevator to the hotel’s rooftop pool . Saturday night, waiting for the sunset, the terrace is filled with professional designers looking over the area’s magnificent skyscrapers.
I order a home made soft serve with toasted coconut, but most people sip on one of the bar’s cocktails. They have names like “Holiday Abroad” and “Sorry, Not Sorry” and served by pleasant waiters. All guests are wearing sunglasses, even those far from the pool, and the evening sun makes everyone a little fancier. The seats are made of stumps and at my table sits an artist who negotiates with his record label producer for the next album.
Next year a functioning tram system will connect downtown’s various parts. In addition, more bike lanes will be built and sidewalks will be widened. A glamorous circle being concluded, although downtown is about to get a whole different kind of entertainment center than it once was .