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'Night on Broadway' street festival points to an area's revitalization

In the grand foyer of the Los Angeles Theatre, underneath the ornate chandeliers and near a woman dressed as a bunny on stilts, artist Rain Boe Wave watched as hundreds of people streamed through the doors of the 84-year-old theater in downtown Los Angeles.

Outside, thousands of people filled Broadway as part of a celebration of the area's ongoing revitalization.

It is a far cry from about six years ago, when Wave was forced to close her clothing store on Broadway between 5th and 6th streets. Street traffic was so pitiful, she said, hardly anybody walked through the doors.

"I think it's a great effort to revitalize Broadway," she said. "Hopefully, soon all this will be very attractive."

The free street festival, dubbed "Night on Broadway," filled Broadway between 3rd Street and Olympic Boulevard. The celebration featured access to historic theaters, music and art, marking the eighth anniversary of Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar's "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative, a 10-year plan to bring new life to the once bustling thoroughfare.

A purple-and-yellow Ferris wheel spun at 5th Street and Broadway, and at 6th Street a ring showcased two men boxing each other one round, then playing chess the next.

In front of the glowing facade of the Palace Theatre, Chuck Kovacic and friend Jane Thorpe set up easels and painted the people milling about the entrance. "It isn't easy to paint neon, but we're giving it a try," Kovacic said. "It looks great."

Not everyone was so cheery about the event. J.J. Juda, owner of J.J. the King of Wireless, an electronics shop, wasn't too keen about the street being closed all of Saturday. "It's killing my business," Juda said, noting he lost 90% of his sales for the day.

McKenzie Storey, 22, a graduate student at USC, brought her mother, Claudia Storey, to celebrate her 54th birthday.

"So we came down to the historic district," Claudia quipped.

The duo spent most of the day looking at apartments for McKenzie, who is planning moving to downtown in the coming months. She was aware of the rough reputation the area has had over the years, but she's heard nothing but good things of late.

"Everyone tells me: Go downtown, it's a great place to be," she said.

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 31, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "`Night on Broadway' a showcase for renewal - Thousands enjoy theater, music and art at a street festival that reflects the area's ongoing revitalization." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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