L.A. Live passes a milestone this week as five businesses open at the $2.5-billion downtown real estate project, with more coming online before the end of the year.

As such, L.A. Live, which stretches along the east side of the Harbor (110) Freeway between Olympic and Venice boulevards, is now less of a construction site and more of a destination for residents.

AEG, which owns and operates L.A. Live, sees it as a place where offices, restaurants, condos and a bowling alley exist in an environment with lots of sports as played in Staples Center and live shows as staged in the Nokia Theatre and smaller venues in L.A. Live.

"There will be more live entertainment and sports content created on this 4 million-square-foot campus than anywhere in the country," said Michael Roth, spokesman for developer AEG.

L.A. Live is so big and varied that it has been opening in phases. Nokia Theatre opened 13 months ago, and the nearby hotel-condo tower won't open for more than a year. That hotel-condo tower is expected to help lure conventioneers to the city's struggling Convention Center.

But there's a flurry of smaller openings this week. By Saturday, AEG will open ESPN Zone, a two-floor sports bar; the four-level Grammy Museum; the celebrity-owned Conga Room nightclub; a New Zealand Natural Ice Cream eatery; and a Starbucks coffee shop.

These entries join not only the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre but the L.A. Live night spot Club Nokia, and the Lucky Strike bowling alley as up-and-running destinations in the project so far.

Later in December, AEG will open four more restaurants on the premises: Farm of Beverly Hills, Fleming's, Yard House and Lawry's Carvery.

But several important pieces of the L.A. Live puzzle will remain unfinished: Besides the hotel-condo tower, there's a multiplex and office space in the offing. That means today's restaurants must wait more than a year before they get a permanent day-and-night customer base.

They could be challenged in this slow economy, but AEG executives believe the project will attract plenty of potential patrons in the interim. That's because the Staples Center, which AEG owns and considers the core attraction of L.A. Live, brings more than 4 million visitors downtown every year.

"And besides Staples Center as the anchor, you have Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising right down the block with thousands of students and USC a short distance away with tens of thousands of students," said Lisa Herzlich, managing director of L.A. Live.


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