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Proposed CleanTech Corridor in downtown L.A. gets boost

Land use experts from the Urban Land Institute issue recommendations for the area envisioned as a hot spot for environmentally sustainable companies.

May 22, 2010|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times

The four-mile stretch of land adjacent to the Los Angeles River in the city's downtown is rife with deteriorating buildings, crumbling sidewalks and potholed streets.

But a cleanup crew and the presence of creative, green-minded businesses could freshen up the strip and help transform it into a major clean technology district, a panel of land use experts said Friday.

The city's much-touted plan to turn the dilapidating industrial area into the proposed CleanTech Corridor got a boost when 10 land use and real estate professionals from the nonprofit Urban Land Institute unveiled their recommendations for revitalizing the area.

The panel said the city needed to spruce up the "underperforming" area by scaling back manufacturing activity while recruiting smaller start-up companies.

The section is being envisioned as a clean-tech incubator and industrial park that would draw jobs to the city, burnishing its profile as a hot spot for environmentally sustainable companies.

But the ambitious project has hit some rough patches — organizers originally hoped to see a CleanTech Manufacturing Center anchoring the south end of the strip this year or next. A push from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office last year to secure Italian rail manufacturer AnsaldoBreda as a tenant fell through.

The volunteer panel, sponsored by the city Community Redevelopment Agency and the L.A. Department of Water and Power, spent five days in Los Angeles touring the area.

The strip, they concluded, could someday model itself after the SoMa quarter of San Francisco or the Pearl District in Portland, Ore. — both areas that were known as decaying warehouse and industrial centers before being revamped with artsy, cutting-edge businesses.

The land institute group focused on the middle portion of a corridor that stretches roughly four miles long and one mile wide along the river and east of Alameda Street. More than a quarter of the jobs in the area are in manufacturing, and most residents are renters whose median income is $17,769, nearly $30,000 below the city's median.

The neighborhood also has problems with lax garbage removal and illegal parking, panelists reported.

But the area, with its historic, multi-use buildings and its concentration of small companies, is attractive to high-tech firms, the panelists said. The city also could draw young entrepreneurs and creative companies by publicizing Los Angeles' urban lifestyle and its proximity to universities, Asian and Mexican markets, and the garment and crafts districts.

Innovators and boutiques that can make prototypes and custom goods such as Pixar Animation Studios and West Coast Choppers fit the bill, the panel said. So do a solar firm, electric-car manufacturers and even a garment recycling business that have already expressed interest.

Panelists also proposed an extended Metro system to boost access to the area, with three new stations and an outdoor art park near the river. Railways would be moved underground and greenery would be planted.

Buildings, panelists said, could embody eco-friendly ideals with rooftop gardens full of native plants, storm water recycling systems and alternative energy generators.

City officials also plan to offer employment and investment tax credits, permit expediting assistance, workforce recruitment and training, utility rebates and other financial incentives.

"To delay may mean that others cherry-pick on our target," said panelist Sharon E. Pandak, an attorney from Virginia. "L.A. can benefit by getting there first."

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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