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Adaptive Reuse & the Downtown Renaissance

“During the 20-year period following the ARO’s adoption in 1999, over 12,000 new housing units, more than 30 percent of the total 37,000 units added in Downtown LA over that time, were created through adaptive reuse.”

Central City Association
White Paper on Adaptive Reuse, 2021

DTLA Renaissance—1999 to 2020 75,000 new residents Over 1,000 new bars and restaurants Almost 6,000 new hotel rooms New attractions, venues, and retail

Adaptive reuse is in DTLA’s DNA, having played a key role in the evolution of Downtown from a traditional business district into a dynamic 24/7 destination over the past two decades. This reinvention did not happen by accident. Along with strategic investments, such as Staples Center, it was fueled by the 1999 Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, championed by key local stakeholders such as Carol Schatz, President & CEO of the Central City Association.+ The new ordinance kick-started a residential development boom in Downtown by encouraging the conversion of vacant or underutilized commercial buildings to residential lofts via tax incentives, relaxed development requirements, and streamlined processes.

DTLA Renaissance: Before & After

Bottega Louie

Opening in 2006, Bottega Louie set a new standard for DTLA dining

Eastern Columbia

An architectural gem returned to glory through adaptive reuse

The Downtown Skyline

A wave of new investment filled in what was once a barren skyline

Revitalizing and repopulating these vintage properties made the area more vibrant and appealing, attracting Angelenos seeking a more urban lifestyle. These new residents brought a new energy and spirit to Downtown, creating a vibrant community and distinct culture that transformed the character of the neighborhood and led to a wave of new commercial opportunities as well.

Adaptive Reuse Projects

Eastern Columbia
Gas Company Tower
Gas Company Tower
Douglass Building Lofts
Grand Lofts
Metro 417
Metro 417
Pegasus Apartments
Pegasus Apartments
San Fernando Building
The Chapman
The Chapman
Roosevelt Lofts
Roosevelt Lofts
Pacific Electric Lofts
Pacific Electric Lofts
Brockman Lofts
The Freehand

Video: Interview with Carol Schatz, President of the Central City Association, 1995-2016

Carol Schatz, key champion for the passage of the 1999 Adaptive Reuse Ordinance

New restaurants, retailers, and art galleries were attracted by the growing residential population, and Downtown quickly became a nightlife hotspot. In addition to the new residents, office workers who previously had rarely left their building, were going out for lunch, staying after work, and engaging with the area in a way they had never done before.

New Retail

Ralphs Fresh Fare - 2007
Urth Caffe – 2008
City Target - 2012
Ross Dress For Less - 2013
Urban Outfitters - 2013
Zara - 2014
Whole Foods Market – 2015
Uniqlo – 2018
Alamo Drafthouse - 2019
Vans - 2020
Apple Tower Theatre – 2020
Sephora - 2021

New Attractions

While adaptive reuse was not the only catalyst for the Downtown Renaissance, it was arguably the most impactful in terms of fostering the growth and cultivating the unique character of DTLA, through the rapid expansion of the residential population.

The lesson for today is that adaptive reuse can serve as a catalyst to further growth and change. It is not just about changing a building from one use to another. It is about the spirit of adaptability and reinvention. Arena – 1999
Walt Disney Concert Hall – 2003
LA Live – 2005
Grand Park – 2012
The Broad - 2015
DTLA 2023 Outlook & Insights Report
“Downtown remains vital to the strength of the LA region - not only as its primary core of commercial activity and most significant job base, but also as a vibrant local community of over 90,000 residents; a dynamic global center of arts, culture and entertainment; and the critical hub of its regional mass transit system.”
Download the Report