An Idea to Help Spur L.A.’s Cleantech Revolution

City officials and leaders are considering an adaptive reuse ordinance for industrial buildings, modeled on the one that helped spark downtown L.A.’s residential boom, to help push forward the sputtering vision of a "CleanTech Corridor."
October 19, 2012, 11am PDT | Jessica Hsu
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For years, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles business leaders, along with the city's now defunct redevelopment agency, have been pushing to "transform the eastern edge of Downtown into a hub for green jobs and clean technology companies." The area has "a significant stock of old warehouses and factory buildings that haven't seen heavy manufacturing operations in decades," which have leaders salivating at the thought of the city's next manufacturing revolution. One small problem stands in the way, reports Ryan Vallaincourt: "[b]ringing those century-old industrial edifices up to current codes, however, looms over property owners like a dollar sign-shaped storm cloud."

"The sheer labor and cost it would take to go ahead and repurpose those buildings, to bring them up to current codes and adaptability to the type of machinery we were looking at, didn't make sense," said Erick Johnson, president and CEO of Greneker Solutions, who were looking to invest $1 million in creating a facility to manufacture countertops out of recycled materials. This challenge has prompted local leaders to consider an adaptive reuse ordinance, similar to the one that spurred downtown's wave of condo conversions, that "would in theory reduce red tape, ease strict code regulations and lower costs" and kick start the vision of the CleanTech Corridor.

Vallaincourt warns that adaptive reuse will not be an easy solution. "A new ordinance would have to minimize parking requirements, and it might have to coincide with a separate push for more mass transit infrastructure in the area," suggests Brad Cox, senior managing director of Trammell Crow. However, "the land use challenges facing the Cleantech Corridor are likely to get attention at City Hall in the future," notes Vallaincourt, "if only because they city has already invested in the cleantech vision, though not always with success."

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Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 in Los Angeles Downtown News
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