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'Bringing Back Broadway' Plan Aimed At 'Stringent' Downtown LA Building Code

Downtown Film Festival Screening Of "In Search Of A Midnight Kiss"
(Photo credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment)

LOS ANGELES ( — City officials and local real estate experts unveiled a plan Thursday to revitalize historic buildings on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.

Councilmember José Huizar is spearheading the "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative, a 10-year "vision" expected to infuse the neighborhood between 2nd Street and Olympic Boulevard with millions of dollars in additional investments while ensuring that Broadway's historic buildings are reactivated and preserved.

The heart of the plan includes a policy change to the city's Historic Commercial Reuse Guidelines (PDF) designed to activate dormant historic buildings and fill more than one million square feet of empty upper-floor space on the historic corridor, Huizar told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO.

"We predict that with this policy, we're gonna have many of these building structures on Broadway and the Historic Core of downtown LA be put back to use and brought back to life," said Huizar.

The city's Historic Core neighborhood, which features 12 theaters within nine city blocks and was once considered the retail capital of the United States, stretches from Hill and Main streets on the west and east, and 3rd and 9th streets on the north and south.

In addition to providing for fire and life safety, the new guidelines give clarity to developers and business owners on compliance triggers for current building codes while also offering "significant flexibility and streamlining" for reactivating the Core's historic buildings.

Huizar said the Department of Building and Safety will work as part of the effort to ensure merchants who are struggling with ground floor vacancy rates between 15 to 20 percent won't be lured away to other municipalities.

"Many of these buildings have sat empty because the city has been asking them to use very stringent, modern codes that really makes it prohibitive for them, on a cost basis, to open them up," Huizar said, who added the city is also taking steps to make sure that the more flexible code requirements do not compromise safety.

Some of the city's most recognizable landmarks reside in the Historic Core, including:

  • the Hotel Alexandria, which once hosted three presidents and dignitaries from around the world and now houses loft-style residences;
  • the Orpheum Theater on South Broadway, which first opened in 1926 and featured performances by Will Rogers, the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, and Lena Horne;
  • the May Company building on 8th Street, once considered the largest department store in the West; and
  • the United Artists Theatre, which was built under Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford and is the site of the famous neon "Jesus Saves" sign.

After its implementation, Huizar said he anticipates the Broadway pilot policy could be used to revitalize other historic buildings downtown and throughout the city.

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