David and Lisa Trulli call themselves born-again urbanists, drawn to the architecture, diversity and energy of city life. So downtown Los Angeles, which some say is going through its own rebirth, seems like a perfect fit for the couple.
"As more of our friends are having babies and taking the soccer-mom route, we're kind of not relating anymore," said David Trulli, a 41-year-old cinematographer. "We come down here, and we feel like we're more in our tribe."
The Trullis spent Saturday touring chic artists' lofts during the first Design Walk, an event to highlight redevelopment in part of the city's urban core.
The event, sponsored by L.A. Architect magazine, attracted tourists, architects, developers and city officials to the Historic District to participate in activities as varied as the area. Throughout the afternoon, visitors listened to bands at a block party, took downtown bus tours and participated in panel discussions on growth in Los Angeles.
"We kind of wanted to celebrate what's going on down here," said Jerry Levi, marketing director for the magazine. "And it hit a nerve."
During the last few years, the Historic District has been transformed from a sparse industrial area and home to empty old office buildings into what Levi called a trendy residential neighborhood. Commercial buildings have been converted into studios. Coffeehouses and furniture stores have opened, and the Architecture and Design Museum has moved into the Bradbury Building. But the biggest change, residents say, is the arrival of the Southern California Institute of Architecture, which took over the converted freight depot along Santa Fe Avenue.
"That's kind of the cornerstone of the neighborhood," said Leslie Tamaribuchi, former managing director of a theater company on Traction Avenue.
Tamaribuchi said that neighborhood--centered east of Main Street between 1st and 4th streets--is trying to attract residents and businesses and change its perception as an edgy, dirty or spooky place. There are street people who live near some of the warehouses, she said, but there are street people in Beverly Hills too.
The renovation is also extending north and west, where a spruced-up City Hall recently reopened and the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels are under construction.
City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who participated in a discussion Saturday about the future of downtown, said she believes the city is finally taking notice of the area and putting some resources into its growth.
"I'm here to say this is the place to come to live and work," she told a crowd of about 150. "This is the place to buy historic buildings and refurbish them. And this is the area for new development."
Architect Joey Shimoda moved into a live/work space on Traction Avenue less than two years ago and opened his home for the event. As visitors wandered through his spacious loft, Shimoda said downtown isn't typical of Los Angeles. There are no views, no nearby supermarkets and no places to take animals, he said. Oh, and he doesn't have heating or cooling.
"Other than that, it's perfect," he said.
The lack of conveniences is what discourages some potential residents from moving into the area.
John Glance, 38, of Santa Ana said he loves the idea of working and living in one space and being surrounded by others doing the same.
But with a 7-year-old son, Glance said it would be difficult to live somewhere so industrial. "I may have been too suburbanized," he said.
The changes to the neighborhood have not been greeted with enthusiasm by everyone.
Lili Lakich, an artist who has owned a 5,000-square-foot studio in the area for more than two decades, said the gentrification of downtown is pushing rents up and making it impossible for many artists to live there. Lakich said stockbrokers and professionals are the ones moving into her neighborhood.
"Artists are dying to buy here," she said. "But they can't afford it and they can't get loans."