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DOWNTOWN LIKE NEVER BEFORE

The nine neighborhoods

The area's renewed vitality ricochets from the well-established ethnic enclaves of Little Tokyo and Chinatown to the Fashion District's bustling streets lined with restaurants and stores to the Financial Core's commercial high-rises.

October 16, 2003

Artist District: A bohemian paradise in the 1970s and '80s, this brawny ex-industrial corridor still offers raw, relatively affordable spaces where you won't be afraid to spill paint on the floor.

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Chinatown: One of downtown's most complete neighborhoods is short on trendy loft conversions but long on art galleries, fortune cookies and pedestrian bustle. Most welcome newcomer: the Gold Line Metro station connecting to Pasadena.

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Civic Center: The new Caltrans building should bring more attention and pedestrian traffic to this residentially under-served area. The 135-unit Higgins Building, including a ground-floor bistro and lounge and possibly a sub-basement nightclub, could be a start.

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Fashion District: One of downtown's most lively and congested areas. Majestic movie theaters, dozens of small restaurants and electronics stores, cops, panhandlers, new art galleries. L.A.'s closet equivalent to Manhattan's 42nd Street.

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Financial Core: High-rise office workers gawk at roof-top poolside hedonists at the Standard hotel, while converted office buildings such as the Pegasus apartments provide amenities fit for a CEO. The heart of downtown white-collar business.

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Little Tokyo: East West Players, the Japanese American National Museum, MOCA's Geffen Contemporary, an Office Depot, a spa, a public library opening next to the shuttered St. Vibiana's Cathedral and all the sushi you can eat. What more do you want?

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Old Bank District: Tom Gilmore's trio of stunning Beaux Arts buildings are now complemented by Pete's, a restaurant that functions as a de facto community center, plus a coffee shop, delis, yoga studios, etc. Long-term residents and street people have learned to interact with each other amicably.

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South Park: Once the new Ralphs opens in 2005, this large district will draw foot traffic from all over downtown. Accessible to the Blue Line and great for hockey and basketball nuts: Staples Center anchors its southwestern corner.

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Toy District: Straddling Little Tokyo, the Old Bank District and skid row, this up-and-coming neighborhood offers some innovative loft-conversion developments.

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