Is Downtown Los Angeles Finally A Neighborhood?
"Ralphs Grocery got its start in downtown Los Angeles during the horse-and-buggy days. But the supermarket abandoned the city center in 1950, a symbol of the district's rapid decline in the wake of the post-World War II suburban boom.
Now, Ralphs is poised to return to the heart of the city, with a 50,000-square-foot market in the shadow of Staples Center and more than a dozen new condo towers.
The supermarket is a central part of a concerted effort by developers and urban planners to create suburban touches in one corner of downtown, an area known as South Park.
Much of downtown's renaissance so far has been focused on the rehab of buildings in the pre-World War II commercial core, where dozens of once-dilapidated office buildings have been converted into luxury lofts. Residents prize century-old brick facades and lovingly restored grand lobbies - and tolerate the sometimes grimy streets that come with them.
But just a mile away, South Park feels different.
Sparkling new steel-and-glass high rises are sprouting on the sites of former parking lots, auto dealerships and warehouses.
Developers and city officials have planned wide sidewalks and double rows of street trees, as well as pocket parks in the middle of city blocks. There's even a light-rail platform a short walk away.
This strategy has helped developers attract to South Park businesses that are more often seen in suburbia: a Cold Stone Creamery that is going in next to the Ralphs; a Starbucks at 11th Street and Grand Avenue; and bistros, markets, nail salons and other amenities to serve the well-heeled neighborhood residents.
In addition, the first phase of LA Live, a 4-million-square-foot "sports and entertainment hub," is expected to open in September. That development will include chain restaurants such as P.F. Chang's, as well as a 14-screen multiplex.
"This is a modern neighborhood," said Cynthia Heimbold, a furniture designer who moved to South Park six months ago from the historic district. "This is new construction. It's cleaner and I knew it was going to grow a lot quicker than the historic core, because they were starting from scratch.""