A striking cathedral, hot restaurants, and a stylish hotel bring glamour and inspiration to downtown L.A.

Most of downtown is not as fully realized as the emergingarts acropolis along Grand. But with a growingpopulation―many moving into converted lofts in historicbuildings―the area’s ongoing evolution is apparent.Improbably, it has even become cool.

At the Downtown L.A. Standard hotel, the big draw is the bar andpool scene at the Rooftop―but the rooms are stylish and rangein size and price. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, its24-hour lemon-colored retro coffee shop called the Restaurantserves up a great burger and a fine breakfast.

One good way to explore is to do what we did and take one of thenew guided walks offered by Red Line Tours. Suitably, the companyhas its small office in a true downtown landmark―the 1893Bradbury Building, famed for its light-washed lobby and ornateironwork.

Outfitted with headsets that enabled us to hear his narrationover traffic noise, we followed guide Philip Ferentinos. Westrolled down Broadway―alive with shoppers and the thumpingbass oompah of norteño music―before reaching the modernface of downtown, Bunker Hill.

Once an area of Victorian buildings that many likened to SanFrancisco, Bunker Hill’s homes were razed by redevelopment thatbegan in the 1950s. A loss, but Ferentinos ably guided us to placesof surprising beauty set within the shadows of the glass-and-steeltowers that now stand there.

Public art abounds: there’s a massive Frank Stella mural, not tomention a Calder stabile as well as a Robert Rauschenberg mural. Atthe Music Center, another sculpture by Graham, an open bronze door,frames city hall like a formal portrait.

We stopped for a look at the $274 million Walt Disney ConcertHall, which will open next fall as the new home of the Los AngelesPhilharmonic. Even while under construction, the performancecenter―like the cathedral―has become a symbol ofdowntown’s renewed spirit.

The hall’s stainless steel panels curve against the cloudlessblue horizon. Across the street, a couple studies the structure.The man’s arms move like a conductor’s as he traces the concerthall’s lines in the air, sketching, too, the outline of downtownL.A.’s future.

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