Los Angeles has long lacked a developed downtown area, for years mostly consisting of old and neglected buildings from the 30s and 40s, existing side by side with modern glass and steel office towers, but over recent years an ongoing gentrification effort has led to a burgeoning and vital community of lofts, restaurants, and entertainment facilities, most notably the 20,000 seat Staples Center. Recently, a supermarket opened in a new loft/condo complex near Staples, so that downtown residents can buy their groceries locally, instead of having to drive several miles.
Now, a $2.5-billion project which will ultimately create a so-called Times Square West, is poised for its first opening night: Thursday, October 18, the Nokia Theatre, a 7,100-seat venue billed as one of the most acoustically sophisticated spaces anywhere, will open with a double bill featuring the Eagles, who got their start in the City of the Angels, and the Dixie Chicks. The Eagles will release their first album of new material in 29 years at the end of this month.
The Nokia is a centerpiece of an ambitious project called L.A. Live, which will focus the city's skyline to the south. Covering 4 million square feet, spreading out from Staples Center and the L.A. Convention Center, it will encompass a 54-story tower that will house condos as well as a 123-room Ritz-Carlton and a 878-room J.W. Marriott hotel, the new studios of ESPN, the Grammy museum, movie theaters, restaurants, apartments, nightclubs and a bowling alley. It will take two more years before much of that is finished, but L.A. will get its first glimpse of its promise with the premiere night at the Nokia Theatre and its 40,000-square-foot plaza.
"As far as a public gathering place and a center for a world-class entrepreneurial city, we are going from nowhere to the very best, we are going from a disaster to being a role model," says Timothy J. Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG Live, the company that owns and operates L.A. Live. "It's incredible what is happening in Los Angeles and what this project will mean."
Supporters hope that the L.A. Live structure will bring more people from around the area to eat, shop and be entertained, ultimately leading to more money and identity for downtown LA, a place that, a decade and a half ago, was a concrete ghost town at night.
One thing is clear, the Nokia Theatre brings with it the promise of a scintillating new mid-size music and entertainment venue to the second-largest city in the country.