Last week I wrote about how our Q1 Market Report showed DTLA becoming a city unto itself. From an urbanism perspective, this is both an expansion of its modern role as LA’s Downtown, and a return to its historic origins as the birthplace of the City of Los Angeles.
From a people perspective it means the ongoing expansion of a vibrant, diverse, engaged and passionate community. With almost 70,000 now calling it home, Downtown’s population has grown 30% just since 2015 – triple what it was in 1999 – and is projected to double again over the next decade. This rise puts Downtown LA on par with many mid-sized US cities, albeit at the heart of the nation’s second largest metropolitan area.
My organization, The Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID) conducts a biennial survey of Downtown residents, workers and visitors that has chronicled and quantified the Downtown Renaissance over the last 20 years. This year’s report captures DTLA at an inflection point, with the residential population reaching a critical mass to support a full range of retail and service amenities, and the office sector expanding beyond its traditional industries. This potent mix of creative people and innovative industries is creating a virtuous cycle, expanding the realm of professional opportunity and drawing more top talent, which also expands the customer base and demand for all of those cool restaurants and bars, unique retail, and compelling entertainment.
On the residential front, the survey identifies both the excitement behind the growth – with 66% of residents saying they are passionate about DTLA – and some of the reasons for that enthusiasm – with 88% saying it is important to them to be part of a community. That sense of belonging is one of the key factors in its increasing appeal, not just for the newcomers, but for the growing number – 40% of respondents – who have been in Downtown for 5 years or more.
The survey also illuminates the impact of a new generation of growth industries driven by a younger, highly educated residential population. Industries like technology and media, fashion, and marketing are redefining the local culture and economy. Arts & Entertainment is the #1 industry of employment for Downtown residents, at 18%. Attracting and supporting these industries are local residents, 72% of which are between 18-44 and 80% of whom have completed 4 years of college or higher.
Like any great city, the strength of Downtown’s economy is in great measure the product of its breadth and diversity. DTLA boasts a relatively high proportion of entrepreneurs, freelancers and independents, but also a solid contingent of senior management, executives, and professionals. While Downtown’s younger residents are more likely to work in the newer creative industries, its older workforce tends to be employed in more established industries like finance, insurance, and real estate.
Another key indicator of DTLA becoming its own city is the number of people choosing to both live and work here, one of Downtown’s fastest growing and most dynamic segments. This cohort is the youngest and highest earning overall, and the most likely to be an entrepreneur or self-employed. And it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of these people are opting out of commuting and choosing to embrace the urban lifestyle that DTLA offers. 62% of those who live and work in Downtown walk to work, and it’s clear that the lifestyle is catching on, with 36% of current Downtown workers indicating they would consider living here as well.
Proximity to everything DTLA itself has to offer is an increasingly desirable benefit of being Downtown. Convenience ranks near the top - along with community and culture - of reasons individuals and companies choose DTLA, with 92% saying they like the convenience of shopping near where they live, and 73% saying it is important for them to live close to where they work.
A final note about the people in Downtown: it’s not just Downtowners! An increasing number of visitors – local and regional, as well as national and international tourists and business travelers – come to DTLA for all it has to offer as a destination itself, but also as a centrally-located home base from which to explore the rest of Los Angeles. It is striking to note that 56% of visitors said they are passionate about Downtown. 33% even said they felt like part of the Downtown community, and 49% said they would consider living here. Like the residents and workers who already have, these folks are adopting our motto: DTLA, Make It Yours!'
Read the full results of the 2018 Downtown LA Survey here.