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L.A. Live: Not Quite 'Downtown's Mecca,' But Still Full of Potential

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, December 30, 2008, at 08:23PM
Menorah Ed Fuentes

A PLAZA FOR ALL SEASONS: With three days notice, Chabad organized a Chanakah celebration to be held in Nokia Plaza.

At a Menorah lighting on Sunday evening, Vic "The Brick" Jacobs claimed that "L.A. Live is Downtown's Mecca." That's a claim that would find plenty of disagreement. The highly-anticipated complex and plaza have their share of detractors, who say the space fails as a public gathering space and doesn't integrate into the community.

It's not for lack of variety. Since November, L.A. Live's Nokia Plaza has been invaded by children waiting for Santa Claus, fans waiting for Britney Spears and fans waiting to get into a Lakers, Clippers, or Kings game.

While Lakers fans passing through on Sunday were not quite sure what was going on, they stopped to look. Urban street life, after all, is about pausing to explore something you didn't expect to see.

Those in charge of the plaza are waiting to see how more of these moments might be created. According to Lisa Herzlich, Senior VP and Managing Director of L.A. Live, Nokia Plaza's culture is still a work in progress. "We want to see how the community needs to use the public space," she told blogdowntown at the foot of the 14-foot Menorah.

If done well, the plaza's programming could also make small steps in breaking a national perception of Los Angeles. On December 25, the broadcast of the Lakers-Celtics game offered a national sport audience an image of Downtown with a seasonal look. Some shots leading in and out of commercial breaks came from a camera placed high at the north end of Nokia Plaza pointed toward the Holiday Tree with Staples Center in the background.

It may have been the bright and shiny metal tree that grabbed the attention of broadcast crews afflicted with Downtown deficit disorder. Still, it was different than the typical shots of Santa Monica beach-goers and Beverly Hills shoppers used to identify Los Angeles. As a bonus, it was even the right city.

However, with the plaza empty, the towers looked ominous through the rain and mist. They were 21st century versions of HG Wells' tall multi-legged fighting machines from "War of the Worlds." They appeared heading toward Staples Center wearing video screen face guards touting the sponsors of their creators.

That just means there's work to be done. A real benchmark for L.A. Live won't be in its first 30 days. It will take more than a probation period to develop a culture that reflects the city. Maybe a year from now there will be the first L.A. Live New Year's Eve ceremony and we can see a plaza full of Angelenos sharing a countdown to 2010.

As a resolution, end hype of L.A. Live being anything Times Square. It's Los Angeles; drop the ball and countdown with an Angel.

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