Why Warner Bros., Spotify & More Are Moving to LA's Arts District

choness/Getty Images
Downtown Los Angeles skyline.

The arts district at the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles picked up its name in the 1970s, when visual and experimental artists flocked to the once industrial area. In the ’80s and ’90s, emerging acts like Red Hot Chili PeppersNirvana and Beck performed at the legendary punk-rock venue Al’s Bar. But few have had reason to visit the area, with its excess of grit and shortage of activity, for the last 20 or so years.

Now, in what could prove to be a seismic shift for the city’s music industry and urban development map, Warner Music Group is moving from its Burbank headquarters into a former Ford Factory building on South Santa Fe Avenue (the move could come as early as March). And Spotify recently inked a lease that will put the streaming service in a massive new development located a few blocks from the label.

“The move to downtown L.A. is just one more step in the reimagining of who we are and where we are headed,” says Warner Bros. Records co-chairman/COO Tom Corson. “Being closer to arts and culture is where we belong.” Adds Warner/Chappell Music co-chair/COO Carianne Marshall: “We are all looking forward to being part of the revitalization of music culture in our new neighborhood.” (Spotify did not respond to requests for comment.)

With at least 25 commercial developments underway, many of which are luxury residences and mixed-use spaces, the area’s rapid reshaping is mirrored in real estate prices. Monthly leases now fetching $7 per square foot would have hovered at around $2.25 a decade ago, according to real estate firm Douglas Elliman.

When Jonathan Jerald, a member of Affordable Housing for Artists -- an organization lobbying the city for regulations that would provide reasonable rent for artists who qualify -- moved into the neighborhood in 1995, prices were between 50 and 75 cents per square foot, and his neighbors included Stone Temple Pilots drummer Eric Kretz. “I don’t have anything against [them] moving in,” says Jerald of Warner and Spotify. “But it’s not what it used to be. It’s a different scene altogether.”

Indeed, new retail tenants like Comme des Garçons offshoot Dover Street Market and the Japanese-inspired hi-fi bar In Sheep’s Clothing herald a changing landscape. A Soho House is on the way, too, along with a restaurant from Instagram sensation Salt Bae, the latest chef to descend upon what has become one of the city’s most adventurous culinary nooks in the seven years since chef Ori Menashe opened Bestia on East Seventh Place to critical acclaim.

A handful of smaller music entities are following the action. “It’s a burgeoning cultural quarter of Los Angeles,” says Ollie Hammett, who moved his management/publishing company, Spark Music Group, to the area last July. A main reason, he says, was the knowledge that many of his clients, who include songwriter Teddy Geiger and film composer Dan Romer, live in Eastside communities like Los Feliz and Silver Lake. “It’s important to stay close to the creative process so it’s not, ‘We’re the business side, you’re the creative.’”

Seth Cummings, who relocated his management company Bailey Blues (K.Flay, Donna Missal) from Hollywood in December, echoes that idea: “It reminds me of the energy that early Williamsburg [Brooklyn] had. For what we do, some of the traditional Beverly Hills [settings], where there’s marble and pillars, just don’t offer the same creative energy.”  

CHECK OUT (OR INTO) THE FIREHOUSE HOTEL

With his 10-room boutique hotel set to open in February across from Warner’s headquarters, manager Dustin Lancaster of Hotel Covell and L&E Oyster Bar is another newcomer to the neighborhood.

SPACE: Built in the 1920s, the former firehouse will retain its red doors and deco exterior while fitting a coffee bar and restaurant into the interior, which was designed by Sally Breer. “The building is magical, so it didn’t take much selling,” says Lancaster.

TASTE: Ashley Abodeely, previously chef de cuisine at Los Angeles’ NoMad Hotel, was tapped to oversee the restaurant. The Mediterranean-tinged menu will include elevated classics such as a chopped salad with winter citrus, grilled prawns and a signature burger.

MUSIC: The hotel’s two premium suites were conceived with Warner in mind. The oversize rooms can connect for what Lancaster envisions as a space for press junkets, with an artist and team on one side, waiting journalists on the other. (Rooms start at $295.)

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 9 issue of Billboard.