The Los Angeles Arts District is a story of fortitude. A lifetime ago stood a vineyard – once the largest producer of wine in all of California. By the end of the 18th Century, industry had gained momentum and the district housed the Western epicenter for produce distribution. And home to three transnational railways, there was a constant buzz of production.
As industry sprawled, the buzz began to fade. The densely situated plots discouraged expansion and forced corporations to seek land elsewhere. The hive of commerce dried out into a hollow shell. The neighborhood was left in the periphery as the rest of LA swarmed. When vacancies became few and far between in the new metropolis, the decaying district gained wandering eyes.
Though not legal, regulated or maintained, artists began renting the empty cells of what once was, to work and to live. They hid from the occasional inspector and lived minimally to pursue their craft. When the district was once again recognized, the artist-in-residence ordinance was passed, which allowed the individuals to live in their studios without fear of the law.
The following decades left tumultuous scars from a booming 80’s art scene, a cocaine epidemic, the shadow of an intersection of 11 major freeways and a final blow during the economic downturn in the early 90s. Amidst the grime, the city acknowledged the area’s historical significance and it was thus named the Arts District.
Slowly at first, the hive began to hum again. A hotel, a storefront, a restaurant and now, a swarm. Within a ten-minute walk from Union Station, the magnificent relics of the past juxtaposed against sleek steel and concrete infill construction exhibit the respect to detail the neighborhood holds. The meticulously-preserved Santa Fe Freight Depot has been home to Sci-Arc, an internationally renowned architecture school, since 2001. A short trek under the 4th Street Bridge welcomes you into Hollywood’s ultimate façade; actors and film crews building sets and filming scenes as construction continues around them.
One of the buildings that is currently being refreshed and revived is over 100 years old. The thirty-three-thousand square foot conglomerate of concrete and steel at 1325 Palmetto Street prominently displays classic icons of the French urban street artist, Space Invader. The artist donned the façade with four ceramic mosaic ghosts above the main entrance. Originally built as a produce distribution facility, it is now the address for a growing workforce that is completely independent of physical resources – all except technology.
Union Cowork signed a lease for the building and is planning to develop office space, shared work space, filming studios and a number of micro-retail units. As a California-centric and neighborhood-centric company, the decision to select the Arts District as the home for their newest location was an easy one.
“Los Angeles is a thriving metropolis with some of the most diversely educated humans on the planet,” Founder and CEO, Jamie Miller said. “The Palmetto (Arts District) building is a ten-minute walk to Union Station and is a walkable, bike-friendly location for tens of thousands of people who want to live near where they work. The days of driving to destination-centric workspace is over.” The newest space in LA will be the company’s 7th, with a goal of building 50 communities within the state of California.
“[Humans] are relationship driven, convenience driven and have this innate want to be close to home,” Jamie said. “Even more so in Los Angeles; technology has now provided the fundamental confidence necessary for this to be reality. I’m really excited to see hundreds of local people developing themselves in this space soon.” As for the building, Jamie also mentioned it being a ‘no brainer.’ “1325 Palmetto is a historic concrete structure that pays homage to productivity and human capital, in and of itself. I can’t imagine a better building or neighborhood to base our Los Angeles growth from.”
If there is a symbiotic relationship between a building and its function, there could not be a more exciting way to see this developed as an adaptive re-use of space. It is also evident there couldn’t be a better match for Union Cowork and the Arts District during this time of change.