When the last few aircraft factories close, we will have witnessed the complete deindustrialization of major plants in Los Angeles. Big steel, auto, tires, and glass are all gone. In their place are retail centers, big box distribution, a smattering of public buildings, and new urbanist housing.
Smaller factories continue to disappear. Some factory owners just tire out. Chinese industry out-produces many others. The threatened closure of the Los Angeles Air Force base in El Segundo will be devastating to many of the local aerospace contractors. The end of the WTO apparel quotas will finally destroy all garment manufacturers that are not considered fashion. What’s slightly different about this current wave of closures is that new uses need to be found for the existing building stock. These buildings are not “tear downs”, because the marginal value of the improvements still exceeds the land value. The good news is that vacancies are low and different tenancies are being found.
Large parts of the Westside, Hollywood, and Downtown are now a software, internet, gaming, video, and media convergence. Many areas in the old industrial core have been reborn as an extension of Mexico and Latin America with their own stores, shops, factories, and cultural institutions. Fields of warehouses cover the plains of Carson, Industry, Commerce, Ontario, and points farther east. Scattered about are a few remaining production facilities that are either too specialized or too small to go overseas.
Post industrial Los Angeles will see many smaller enterprises as they learn to operate in a networked world. Many businesses will focus on ethnic niches to remind large immigration populations of home. New housing and its related amenities will appear in industrial areas as the need for housing overwhelms the stigma of old industrial property. Industrial buildings with visibility, public transportation, parking, and human dimensions will be easy to convert to newer uses. Those buildings located in distant industrial parks far away from residential areas will find limited new uses unless they can be converted to distribution.
Real estate decisions are also different in post industrial Los Angeles. Finding the best deal will be secondary to neighborhood demographics, local amenities, and cultural differences. Light rail and bus transportation will play a greater role in site location. Workplaces will incorporate the lifestyle of employees and owners. New users will want flexibility in the buildings they occupy much different than the original designed use. Important things to look at are the shell, placement on the lot, and naturally, location.