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A Los Angeles Primer: The Bonaventure Hotel and Macy’s Plaza

My day downtown began at the 7th Street Metro Center. Many do, but when I got aboveground, I did something I’d never done before: I crossed 7th and entered Macy’s Plaza, the brick-encased shopping fortress at the foot of Charles Luckman’s 33-story MCI Center. Despite having passed it countless times, I’d never given it much notice, other than as a relic of the none-too-quickly bygone era in American urban planning, when downtowns across the country gave up on their neglected streets and did the best they could with spaces fully enclosed, precisely climate-controlled, and heavily monitored. Inside, I discovered that Macy’s Plaza itself had fared even worse than the ideas behind it, having degraded in the forty years since its opening into a hobbling assembly of wan materials, retail spaces either already empty or signaling imminent emptiness, and the most depressing day-care room I’ve seen in the developed world.

Los Angeles still presents its users with occasional moments like these, encounters with places that make you simply stand there and wonder how and why things got this way. “It is odd that the center of one of the world’s great cities should be occupied by a South of the Border tourist trap,” writes architect Charles Moore of Olvera Street, another downtown destination, and it makes no no more immediate sense that, across from the city’s busiest subway station, on a piece of real estate developers would kill (or at the very least, lavishly bribe) for in other urban cores, sits a deceptively small shopping mall on the brink of surrender, whose remaining attractions include, in sight of one another, a frozen-yogurt stand and a Radio Shack. Some of its decrepitude could be explained with the very same reason I decided to make my unprecedented trip into it: Macy’s Plaza, as Angelenos have long known it, will soon vanish.

Read the whole thing at KCET Departures.

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