Los Angeles: Not just glitz and glamour

By Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch finds culture in the middle of the construction boom in downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles is in the middle of an ongoing construction boom. Photo / 123RF
Downtown Los Angeles is in the middle of an ongoing construction boom. Photo / 123RF

It's easy to dismiss Los Angeles as just glitz and glamour.

While the city remains the entertainment and movie capital of the world, it also has many world class museums. In fact, Los Angeles has more museums than any other city in America, with many in downtown LA. An area once dismissed as a bit of a "nothing zone" it certainly has gone through enormous change.

Local commentators attribute part of downtown's revitalization to the Staples Center; located next to the Los Angeles Convention Center. It opened in late 1999, and is one of the major sporting facilities in the Greater Los Angeles Area, but is also the revolving door to some of the biggest pop acts on the planet.

Interestingly enough, as Christchurch continues to debate the validity of a covered stadium, perhaps city officials could seek advice from those responsible for Staples Center's business plan.

The Staples Center hosts major sporting events and pop concerts. Photo / 123RF
The Staples Center hosts major sporting events and pop concerts. Photo / 123RF

Victor Matheson, an associate professor in economics at the College of the Holy Cross says in all the stadium studies he's done, Staples appears to be the only one he's come across that shows a "measurably positive impact on the Los Angeles economy."

He also points to the fact that "it was largely privately funded and a venue that is used all the time, with professional hockey with the Kings and professional basketball with the Lakers."

The ongoing construction boom backs him up. Spending on new development, remodels and room additions in Los Angeles reached $7 billion by the end of 2015, the highest it's been in three decades, according to the Department of Building and Safety. Department spokesperson Luke Zamperini told LA public radio it's the biggest construction boom he's witnessed since the 80s.

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89.3 KPCC reports the rise in construction began in 2012 after several stagnant years and is expected to continue through 2016. One big construction project permitted in late 2014 was at LAX, which included renovations and a 14,000 square foot addition estimated at $2.9 million, according to the Building and Safety Department.

LAX has a reputation for being chaotic at times, but my experience was extremely smooth sailing. Moving through airport security and customs is a frustration-free experience.

If you don't have time to experience a concert at the The Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall on Grand Avenue, it's worth at least taking a few photos of its architectural brilliance. Some commentators suggest it was this building, which opened in 2003, that really kick-started downtown's revitalization by giving the area its first major landmark alongside monumental buildings like the Museum of Contemporary Art.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in the past five years Downtown LA has seen more than 500 new restaurants, bars, nightclubs and retail shops spring up.

Jeff Koons' Tulips at the Broad Musuem. Photo / Chris Lynch
Jeff Koons' Tulips at the Broad Musuem. Photo / Chris Lynch

I was fortunate enough to visit the area's newest museum, which has been described by art lovers as one of the best in downtown LA. The Broad museum, opened in late 2015, and is home to a massive range of contemporary art.

The museum is named after philanthropist Eli Broad, who financed the $140 million building. It offers free general admission to its permanent galleries. The Broad houses a nearly 2,000-piece collection of contemporary art, featuring 200 artists, including works by Andy Warhol, and Roy Liechtenstein.

Make sure you catch the video installation by Iceland's Ragnar Kjartansson called "The Visitors." Kjartansson filmed and recorded musicians in various rooms in a New York house, all playing music projected on nine screens.
The Broad Museum: (Chris Lynch)

If you're after shopping experience with top brands but want to avoid a large indoor shopping mall, then visit the Grove and Farmers Market in Central Los Angeles.

These two destinations form a unique community, offering an amazing choice of dining and shopping. The Grove is an outdoor shopping complex, which means you don't feel so guilty shopping on a sunny Californian day! There's a charming lane which runs through the centre of the complex, which has a European feel with a touch of Disney Main Street.

Though the Farmers Market and The Grove are, in fact, two separate areas, they complement each other given their close proximity, meaning you can do both in one day.

To give you an idea of their contrasting features, The Grove still feels new, having opened in 2002, compared to the Farmers Market, which has served as an Los Angeles landmark since opening in 1934. The Grove is home to high-end brands. Make sure you stop in at Barnes & Noble, an amazing bookstore that has a broad range of adult and children's books - check out the store's schedule for special guest appearances.

Like many shopping districts in LA, The Grove makes the Christmas season feel extra special with a spectacular display of Christmas lights that line the main street. Although it may not snow in California, The Grove makes it happen with a snow show during the evenings during the holiday period.

For more information:
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- Newstalk ZB

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