September 13, 2018

Committee Work Helps Architectural Historian Guide Downtown Los Angeles’ Vision

Downtown Los Angeles

GPA’s Emerging Professionals: Audrey von Ahrens


Downtown Los Angeles is experiencing a Renaissance. Its ongoing transformation is adapting once dilapidated commercial and industrial districts into thriving mixed-used spaces to live and work, and turning congested roadways into “complete” streets accommodating all modes of transportation.


To help guide this positive change is the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC), certified as an approved City Neighborhood Council in 2002. More specifically, the DLANC’s Planning and Land Use Committee. The committee’s goal is to encourage “smart” growth and development, says Audrey von Ahrens, an architectural historian at GPA Consulting. Audrey took a public seat on the committee six months ago. “What happens in Downtown is of interest to me,” she says.


Audrey, who works in GPA Consulting’s Downtown Los Angeles office, was introduced to the neighborhood council about a year ago, soon after moving to the city’s Historic Core and starting work with GPA. What interested her most about the committee, as someone who lives and works in Downtown LA, is she can be part of the decision-making process as a community member. As redevelopment can have significant impacts on residents and workers, as well as visitors, it is the Planning and Land Use Planning Committee’s goal to encourage innovative and responsible land use planning. The committee promotes sustainable and innovative design, as well as those projects that adaptively reuse the historic fabric, preserving the unique character of Downtown’s various neighborhoods.

Downtown LA is widely known as the City’s commercial center—more than 200,000 people work there. It’s home to the world-famous Los Angeles Flower Market, and the center of the City’s fashion and financial industry, not to mention the governing seat for both the City and LA County. To many, Downtown is not really known as a residential area—not with sprawling suburbs in all directions. However, there are more than an estimated 70,000 people who call Downtown LA home as of 2018. And the vision is to increase the number of people living in the boundaries to 100,000 by 2025. This means the area needs to transform amid a plethora of cultural and historic resources that must also be preserved.


“It’s about balance,” says the architectural historian.


When the committee reviews commercial projects, members like Audrey want to know how they will interact with current and future residents as well as other stakeholders such as businesses, workers, and the City as a whole. “It’s important [for developers] to know that there are diverse residents who live here and many neighborhoods, each with their own character. Our responsibility is to think about pedestrian safety and how land use will best improve Downtown for all.”


Audrey von Ahrens has been an architectural historian for nearly two years. She has master’s degrees in historic preservation and city planning, and bachelor’s degrees in architectural studies and urban studies. The DLANC’s Planning and Land Use Committee and her work at GPA fuse her personal and professional passion.