Fault Lines: Downtown’s Spring Arcade Building

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Uli Nasibova and Ryan Vaillancourt run Gelateria Uli in the Spring Arcade Building, Downtown Los Angeles.

Downtown Los Angeles is on the way up. GQ magazine recently called it the coolest downtown in America, and the New York Times announced that it was one of the 52 places to visit in 2014. To which we here in Los Angeles reply: duh. Cool restaurants, hip bars, fresh art galleries… What’s not to love?

Not so long ago, downtown looked a whole lot different. And even still, downtown’s got one of the lowest median incomes in the city. But with new, more affluent residents moving in, the neighborhood’s on the upswing.

Look no further than the Spring Arcade Building for evidence. The gorgeous, Beaux-Arts shopping arcade was built in 1924 as an answer to the Parisian commerce cathedrals of the day. It’s got a sparkling glass atrium and ornate storefronts that bustled with shoulder-to-shoulder patrons back in the 20s. But times got tough downtown – businesses in the arcade catering to middle-class and high-end customers were replaced with swap-meet-style stalls with people hocking discount clothing, knock-off purses and cheap toys.

But just as the Spring Arcade Building tracked the down times, signs of downtown’s resurgence are popping up in the arcade. Click below to hear from a young couple opening a gelato shop and from one of the last swap meet holdouts in the building.