The Bloc, Metro open new portal to downtown transit riders

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The old Macy's Plaza in downtown LA was purchased by developer Wayne Ratkovich and re-branded as The Bloc. Among the changes is the opening of a pedestrian passageway that connects directly to the busy 7th Street/Metro Center station.

This change marks an awareness on the part of retailers that transit users are people they want to welcome into their stores. Until recently in LA, unfortunately, transit riders were perceived as poor and stores and shopping centers were planned to attract car drivers.

Macy's Plaza was designed by architect Charles Luckman in the early 1970s. Ratkovich and architect Alan Pullman of Studio One Eleven describe the old plaza as a fortress, cut off from the surrounding streets, accessed only from its parking structure.

"There was a concrete wall that had been constructed when the original station was built and it's been here since that time. And there was always the hope that there would be an opening here. But the prior property owners didn't want it. We did, so we knocked the damn thing down," Ratkovich told DnA.

Metro had planned this opening back in the late 1980s and they put in knock-out panels in readiness. But until Ratkovich bought the building prior owners of Macy's did not want it opened.

Ratkovich and the architects got rid of the roof, opened it up to the sky and embarked on a partnership with Metro to open up a passageway connecting The Bloc to the street and to the 7th Street/Metro Center station, which serves four major metro rail lines: the Red, Purple, Blue and Expo lines.

The Bloc comprises a Macy's flagship store, a 33-story office building, the Sheraton Grand Hotel and a number of what the developer calls "creative-leaning tenants" -- including the architects!

There are also eateries and pop-ups like Free Market moving in and apparently an art house theater.

It's most definitely aimed at a growing downtown population. Wayne Ratkovich is one of LA's most forward-looking developers. As he reminded folks at the press conference, he bought the Oviatt back in 1977 and has invested in downtown's future back when people had given it up for dead.

The Metro/Bloc partnership signals a back to the future moment for downtown LA -- confirming the urban, pedestrian, transit-based direction it's taking.

Photo: Metro, The Bloc and Studio One Eleven officials celebrate the opening of the new pedestrian passageway directly connecting the 7th Street/Metro Center Station to The Bloc in Downtown LA. (Studio One Eleven)