Wilshire Center, Los Angeles, California: Wikis

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Wilshire Boulevard in Wilshire Center

Wilshire Center is a district that is part of the larger Mid-Wilshire district in the City of Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 1895 by Gaylord Wilshire and is one of the oldest communities in Los Angeles. It is 3-4 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

The Wilshire Center is a Regional Commercial Center of approximately 100 acres in size and consisting of about 37 million square feet of building area. It includes a dense collection of high-rise office buildings, large hotels, mini-malls, malls, churches, night clubs, and both high-rise and low-rise apartment and condominium buildings. Wilshire Center includes three MTA Metro subway stations along Wilshire Boulevard.

Wilshire Center is sometimes referred to as Koreatown, K-Town, Mid-Wilshire and the Wilshire District. However, historically and officially, Wilshire Center is distinct. City signs designate the area as Wilshire Center. As defined by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, Wilshire Community Plan, adopted September 19, 2001, Wilshire Center “is generally bounded by 3rd Street on the north, 8th Street on the south, Hoover Street on the east, and Wilton Place on the west”, and Koreatown “is generally bounded by Eighth Street on the north, Twelfth Street on the south, Western Avenue on the west, and continues east towards Vermont Avenue.”

Wilshire Center has a rich history. The Wilshire Center Business Improvement District (WCBID) offers materials on the Wilshire Center story. The WCBID was formed in 1995 as one of the first business improvement districts [1] in Los Angeles. The WCBID has been providing community services for the Wilshire Center since 1995. There are three service teams and an administrative staff. The three teams are the security team consisting of 12 officers, a sidewalk maintenance team consisting of 6 members from Portals, and a landscape maintenance team consisting of 4 members.

Wilshire Center has a large concentration of Korean-owned businesses and a diverse residential population. Within a one-mile (1.6 km) radius of Wilshire and Normandie (the approximate geographic center), there is a residential population of about 130,000 and a workforce of about 50,000.

Contents

Geography

A typical side street in Wilshire Center

Wilshire Center is bounded by Melrose Hill on the north, Westlake on the east, Koreatown on the south, and Hancock Park on the west.

Transportation

Wilshire Center is served by city buses, including several Rapid lines, and three subway stations along Wilshire Boulevard. The LACMTA Purple Line, which begins at Union Station (Los Angeles) in downtown Los Angeles, has stations at Vermont, Normandie and Western Avenues, where it terminates. The Vermont station is also a stop on the LACMTA Red Line, which continues north through Hollywood to North Hollywood.

The main east-west thoroughfare of Mid-Wilshire is Wilshire Boulevard. The main north-south thoroughfares are Western Avenue and Vermont Avenue. Normandie, midway between them, is a secondary north-south thoroughfare with a bus line. Third Street is a major east-west thoroughfare with a bus line, and 6th and 8th Streets are minor thoroughfares that function as alternatives to Wilshire Boulevard for local driving.

The Hollywood Freeway (U.S. Route 101) runs just to the north and east of Wilshire Center. Access to Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) is about three miles (5 km) to the south.

History

Wilshire Boulevard got its name from millionaire socialist Henry Gaylord Wilshire, who in 1895 began developing 35 acres (140,000 m2) stretching westward from Westlake Park for an elite residential subdivision. Wilshire donated to the city a strip of land for a boulevard, on the conditions that it would be named for him and that railroad lines and commercial or industrial trucking would be banned.

In the early 1900s, steam-driven motorcars started sharing Wilshire Boulevard with horse-drawn carriages. At the turn of the century, Germain Pellissier raised sheep and barley between Normandie and Western Avenues. Reuben Schmidt purchased land east of Normandie for his dairy farm.

A good summary of the Wilshire Center's history is told by Jane Gilman, Larchmont Chronicle publisher, in her article Wilshire Boulevard Milestones [2]. Explore Wilshire Boulevard's history and historical buildings by Tour of Wilshire Boulevard. Take a walking tour of Wilshire Center's history and historical buildings by way of Wilshire Angels Walk LA (download guidebook and map) [3].

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Apartment buildings

The first of the area's distinguished high-rise apartment buildings and hotels were erected along Wilshire Boulevard. The lavish Ambassador Hotel was built in 1921 on 23 acres (93,000 m2) of the former site of Reuben Schmidt's dairy farm. In approximately 1929, the Academy Awards ceremony was moved from the Hollywood Roosevelt to the Ambassador Hotel. It closed in 1989 and despite efforts of historic preservationists, has been demolished. The site is owned by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is building schools and a small park on the site.

In 1921, Gaylord Wilshire built the 14-story Apartment Hotel (now the Gaylord Apartments) facing the Ambassador. The area nearby became the site of elegant New York-style apartment buildings such as the Asbury, the Langham, the Fox Normandie, the Picadilly, the Talmadge (after Norma Talmadge), and the Windsor. Many film stars lived in these buildings.

A recent building boom has increased the supply of apartments and condominiums in the area, and older office buildings have been converted into apartments and condos. Large apartment buildings have been constructed at the Metro stops at Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/Vermont.

Commercial

Gloria Swanson's husband, Herbert Somborn, opened the Brown Derby Restaurant, a hat-shaped building at Wilshire and Alexandria in 1926. The hat now sits on top of a restaurant in a mini-mall.

In 1929, the elegant Art-Deco Bullocks Wilshire was built at Wilshire and Westmoreland as the city's first branch department store in the suburbs. It closed in 1993 and now houses the library of Southwestern Law School.

A section of Germain Pellessier's sheep farm became the site of the Pellessier Building and Wiltern Theatre, which began construction at the corner of Wilshire and Western in 1929. The theater, operated by Warner Brothers, opened in 1931.

In 1929, the Chapman Market drew motorcars to the world's first drive-through grocery store at Sixth St. and Alexandria.

I. Magnin's opened in 1939 at Wilshire and New Hampshire.

Office buildings

In 1952, on the driving range on the south side of Wilshire between Mariposa and Normandie the first three 12-story Tishman Plaza buildings were built in 1952 (they're now known as Central Plaza), designed by Claude Beelman.

Insurance companies began locating their west coast headquarters in Wilshire Center because of tax incentives provided by the state. Some 22 high-rise office buildings were erected on Wilshire Boulevard from 1966 to 1976, to provide office space for such companies as Getty Oil Co., Ahmanson Financial Co., Beneficial Standard Life Insurance, Wausau and Equitable Life Insurance. The Chapman Park Hotel, built in 1936, was torn down to make way for the 34-story Equitable Plaza office building erected in 1969. By 1970, firms such as CNA, Pacific Indemnity and Pierce National Life were starting construction of their own high-rise buildings. Southwestern University School of Law moved from its downtown location of 50 years to a four-story campus just south of Wilshire Boulevard on Westmoreland in 1973.

In the 1970s and 1980s commerce moved to the City's less congested Westside as well as the San Fernando Valley, and businesses and affluent residents eventually followed. I. Magnin closed, while Bullocks Wilshire held out until 1993. Rental rates in office buildings plummeted from an average of $1.65/sq ft. to a dollar between 1991 and 1996; property values dropped from a high of $120/sq ft. to $30 or $40 per foot in 1998.

Wilshire Center lost most of its remaining original glitter following the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Subsequently, the Wilshire Center Streetscape Project [4] used federal funds to rejuvenate Wilshire Boulevard. It was one of the most ambitious and significant urban rehabilitation projects found anywhere in America and in 1999 was awarded the Lady Bird Johnson Award from The National Arbor Day Foundation. New buildings include the Aroma Center on Wilshire, which is topped by a digital billboard, and a retail building on the former parking lot of the Equitable Building.

Billboard district

As of 2009, the city of Los Angeles is considering a sign ordinance that would increase the number of billboards and allow more digital billboards in Wilshire Center in the area that includes Wilshire Boulevard, with the following boundaries:

East: Park View St.
West: Wilton Place
North: W. 6th St.
South: W. 7th St.

Religious buildings

Wilshire Christian Church was the first church on Wilshire Boulevard in 1911. The church property at Wilshire and Normandie was donated by the Chapman Brothers, owners of Chapman Market, whose historic building remains nearby on Sixth Street.

The area is rich in grand religious buildings:

There are many smaller churches in the area, as well as Korean Buddhist temples.

Community organizations

Education and services

Berendo Middle School

Wilshire Center is zoned to the Los Angeles Unified School District. All areas are zoned to Los Angeles High School.

Schools include:

  • Los Angeles Elementary School.
  • Wilton Place Elementary School [7].
  • Berendo Middle School
  • Burroughs Middle School

Private schools include Wilshire Private School Wilshire Private School (a K-6 academy sponsored by the Korean Institute of Southern California)about 2 miles (3.2 km) west on the western border of Hancock Park.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles is planning to build a small, full-service facility at Third and Oxford Streets[8].

There are no city parks in Wilshire Center. and only small parks in the surrounding communities. This is one of the most park-poor areas of the city.

Gallery

References


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