By Edwin Folven, 7/19/2012
Westside Subway Extension and other factors are driving economic prosperity
The Miracle Mile has transformed into a vibrant neighborhood with a thriving business community, world-class museums and bustling retail, according to participants in an economic forum held Tuesday at the El Rey Theatre.
The future looks bright as well, according to local business leaders, who said the Miracle Mile will become an even more popular destination once the Westside Subway Extension is completed under Wilshire Boulevard.
“This is a very historic place, and it has been rejuvenated,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, who gave the keynote address. “You have great leadership in the local community, and the key is the community quarterbacks.”
The forum was organized by the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce. Dennis Zane, of the non-profit Subway to the Sea Coalition, a public transportation advocacy organization, also spoke. Zane said a tremendous amount of progress has been made in building the subway under Wilshire Boulevard, and although the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has approved the project, the key now is to secure federal funding that will put the subway on the fast track. He credited Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) for continuing to pursue funding at the federal level, and added that a key component to getting the subway built faster will be a November ballot measure asking voters to extend the Measure R sales tax increase. An extension would allow Metro to leverage future revenues and borrow funding that could enable the subway to be built in 10 years.
“The subway is not just a line, it is really an icon for restoring transit to L.A. County,” Zane said. “It will be a transformational moment when it is completed.”
Zane said the subway will transform the Miracle Mile by providing easy access to the area. Residents in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys will someday be able to take light rail lines directly to the museums on Wilshire Boulevard. Zane said it will also spur economic growth by enticing new companies to move to the Miracle Mile, creating more jobs.
“We are really in a great position to begin planning for the next decade, and to be ready for the subway and the economic infusion,” Zane added.
The forum also included a panel discussion on business in the Miracle Mile. Participants included moderator Neal Perkey, of Davis Partners; Adam Lev, of the Ratkovich Company; Adele Bayless, of Equity Office Properties; and Loc Waters, of L.E. Waters Construction. The panel expressed optimism about the commercial real estate market in the Miracle Mile, and added that the area has begun to attract new companies.
“We’ve seen an uptick in charities, and we have also seen an uptick in entertainment and technology businesses, and employment companies,” Bayless said. “It’s very, very exciting.”
Waters added that the increase in companies is likely driven by the Miracle Mile’s centralized location.
“I’m in the Miracle Mile, and in forty-five minutes I can be anywhere,” Waters said. “The ability of companies to get people to this area and then get them out again is key.”
Lev added that the addition of new restaurants, retail and other attractions has helped drive the rejuvenation, and that institutions such as LACMA and the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits continue to make the neighborhood a destination.
“There is a lot of new activity in the area,” Lev said. “It seems like this is the place to be in this city.”