Magazine article Reason

Downtown Wars

Magazine article Reason

Downtown Wars

Article excerpt

Downtown Los Angeles is primarily a grimy economic ghost town, with a few fancy corporate headquarters, some government buildings, and thousands of homeless and poor. It doesn't attract too many new businesses--not legitimate ones, anyway. So you'd expect the area's stewards to be pleased to find paying tenants for its many vacant buildings.

Not if those customers are telecommunications companies. For about three years, telecoms have been taking over decrepit buildings and filling them with switching equipment and skeleton work crews to keep things running smoothly. At present, they occupy 3.4 million square feet of space, about 8 percent of downtown's total commercial real estate.

Urban enthusiasts like Tom Gilmore, a developer who has converted several downtown buildings into loft apartments, have lobbied hard for an ordinance to limit telecom space, particularly in the five-block swath of streets designated the neighborhood's "historic core." Because these companies fill buildings with more machinery than people, Gilmore and others see them as anathema to their vision of downtown as a mini-Manhattan, with latte shops, restaurants, trendy apartments, and 24-hour bustle.

But whether or not downtown L.A. becomes Tribeca West, telecoms may not deliver the kiss of death that their detractors imagine. According to a study published by the consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle, telecoms could in fact provide the seeds for real economic growth. …

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