Downtown's historic core is at once both the past and future of Los Angeles.


The neighborhood was the heart of downtown before the modern high rises of Bunker Hill went up in the 1970s, resulting in an exodus of businesses and the emergence of a major homeless population in the 1980s.


With its Jewelry District and Broadway retail strip, the area was never abandoned entirely.


Now, with developers building lofts at prices that would have seemed unlikely just a couple of years ago, the area is making a comeback, although it still retains far more of its telltale signs of its past.


Consider one of the primary landowners: L & R; Investment, the vehicle used by parking king Joe Lumer to control three acres of key property in the core, bounded by Second and Ninth streets to the north and south and by Los Angeles and Hill streets to the east and west.


It's property that Lumer and his family picked up as businesses fled to Bunker Hill and residents fled to the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. Lumer now owns 10,000 parking spaces throughout downtown, about 10 percent of all parking private and public.


And his undeveloped surface lots in the Historic Core are worth as much as $300 per square foot alone. It's property that the Lumer family has not wanted to let go, though that's now changing as the area develops.


"The changing paradigm has probably served to compel the Lumers to re-evaluate their real estate holdings," said Tom Gilmore, chief executive of Gilmore Associates, a leading downtown developer. "They recognize a business opportunity and they are smart people."


Lumer has said he plans to develop some multi-story parking structures on surface lots to address the growing demand for parking created by the residential developments.


Last year he sold 120,000 square feet of parking spaces at the corner of Fourth and Main streets to a developer planning a pair of 21-story condominium towers with street-level retail.


Other big landowners are planning similar developments.


Ocean Blue Investments LLC, which own eight properties totaling nearly 4 acres in the neighborhood, plans a mixed-use development for its property. The partnership is controlled by two Los Angeles families.


Meanwhile, Mideb Nominees Inc./Fifth Street Fund, the third largest owner in the Downtown Core, is in the midst of upgrading 143 apartments at the Spring Arcade Building. The partnership, controlled by Australian family trusts, also plans fa & #231;ade improvements at other nearby buildings it owns.


Greg Martin, general manager of the partnership, said there is increasing interest by chain stores to rent in the area, but he complained that the pace of the neighborhood's improvement is slower than what the partnership would like.


The area is still home to Skid Row and the region's largest concentration of homeless.

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