How does a city composed of 88 municipalities resonate as one? If you’re L.A., you start by taking care of your heart. Long a hollowed-out afterthought for visitors preferring sunscreen to street life, Downtown Los Angeles is doing the unthinkable: creating acres of culturally dense streetscapes meant for walking. The city is steadily climbing the ladder of our Product category as a result, coming in at #21 globally, including an impressive #22 ranking in the world for Museums.
Powering the ascent is art—though not of the cinematic variety. The new Broad museum is the biggest cultural opening in decades, with its free admission, Instagrammable architecture and some of the highest profile post-war art collections on the continent.
Also opening this year is the photography, painting and sculpture-rich (and also free) Marciano Art Foundation near Koreatown. This fall, the former Santa Monica Museum of Art reopens in the Downtown Arts District—across the street from The Broad—as the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. And with L.A. being a place where image is everything, no museum revolution would be complete without an ode to visual storytelling, which is exactly what George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art, set to open in Downtown’s Exposition Park in 2021, will deliver.
Appropriately, early renderings look like a Star Destroyer touched down for a Trojans game.
L.A. is also a cultural hotbed, scoring #14 on the planet in our Culture category that measures the number of quality culture and performing arts experiences recommended by locals and visitors.
All that cultural investment is being complemented by roaring development that’s also fueled by art. Taste-making pioneers Standard Hotel and the Ace Hotel have been joined by no less than $3 billion of new hotel and residential projects, with the Arts District being the most coveted. Local developer SunCal is writing the likely script for L.A.’s transformation: aging nondescript distribution warehouses that sprawled over city blocks redeveloped as high-design public space bazaars, with street-level retail and office space anchored by 50-plus story residential and hotel towers.
Placemaking projects are no less impressive. Grand Park, opened in 2012 at the foot of iconic Bunker Hill, now draws as many people as the latest artist exhibition. Even the neglected Los Angeles River is being redeveloped in the next few years by none other than Frank Gehry.
Of course, the sun and Pacific still shine bright, with the City of Angels finishing seventh-best in the world for Weather and #30 for Parks and Outdoor Activities. Water quality in the shimmering (but long neglected) Pacific Ocean is militantly monitored, with more locals and visitors paying attention to the blue bounty at L.A.’s front door. Expanding park space—ranging from Santa Monica’s new Tongva Park (a reclaimed parking lot featuring a playground, waterfalls, paths and Pacific views) to downtown’s bustling five-year-old Grand Park—is slowly but surely turning L.A. into a place where hitting the trails trumps hitting the gas.