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A Downtown Renaissance

Cedd Moses

Cedd Moses photographed at Seven Grand.

Cedd Moses is a native Angeleno and proprietor of 213 Ventures, which operates several Downtown bars, including The Varnish, Caña Rum Bar and Cole’s. He also sits on the board of the Los Angeles Conservancy.

“Downtown has an amazing history. It was the central and wealthiest neighborhood in the late 1880s. . . . But officials decided to move the housing out of LA and created a plan to make Downtown a commercial area that was ‘drive in and drive out.’ That’s when Downtown went into a long period of decline. In 1999 [a new ordinance made it easier to convert commercial buildings to residential use] and that’s when the rebirth of Downtown started, with the residential piece. That was the catalyst for me; I left my previous career in finance to go full-time into development. I still view Downtown as the solution for many of LA’s problems—the biggest part of the problem being the traffic.

“There’s a 14 percent surge in population expected by 2040, and Downtown is how we will be able to handle that population. Traffic is already brutal; we have a shortage in housing. Downtown is the only part of the city zoned for high rises that can support high-density living. There’s a 110-story hotel being developed along with several others.

“Downtown is also how we can finally compete on a national level, culinarily speaking; this is where restaurants turn tables more than any other neighborhood. Bottega Louie is the highest-grossing restaurant in LA. We [213 Ventures] have 11 bars and restaurants Downtown, with others in the works. Bestia opened in the arts district, where no restaurants were really going—it’s basically a loading dock space off a side street—and it’s the hardest reservation in LA and one of the most beautiful restaurants with the best cocktails. Josef Centeno opened Bäco Mercat, and within two years, he had two more restaurants around the block. There are still areas to avoid, but skid row has shrunk by 20 to 30 percent. Main Street and Spring Street used to be considered skid row, and now those are the two busiest streets in Downtown.

“Some of the best and most historic architecture is in Downtown, and that’s great bones for everything. You’ve got the arts with MOCA, the new Broad Museum that will open, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Disney Concert Hall. Art walk draws 20,000 people one Thursday every month. Chinatown, the third-largest Chinatown in the country, is having a resurgence. There’s Little Tokyo, the jewelry district, which has a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants. And there’s a big Latino population and workforce in Downtown. It’s the largest melting pot in the city. . . . Downtown is really becoming a brand in and of itself.”

As told to Tanvi Chheda

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