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Latest Civic Park Designs, Everyone Weighs In

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The latest design of downtown's Civic Park, a 12-acre, Rios Clementi Studio-designed park that'll connect City Hall and the Music Center, was displayed to the public last night at an events space on 5th Street. The $50 plus million project, part of Related Cos’ over all Grand Avenue development, is continuing forward despite delays in the Frank Gehry-designed mixed-use component. If the initial schematic designs presented last April drew lukewarm reviews, downtowner leaders said they are happier with this latest design. “I think it’s radically designed for the better,” Russell Brown, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Council, told us last night. “The last design had too many tasks, it was overbuilt. It looked old and dated—even though it wasn’t even built yet...They really listened to the community's comments." The biggest changes in this version: There's less pavement, more greenery, a new fountain area (seen above) and a new multi-cultural garden. "It's more of a garden in city [concept]," said Tony Paradowski, senior associate at Rios Clementi Studios. But LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne isn't entirely won over. While there are "significant refinements to an initial scheme" it's too "conceptually weak to stand on its own," he writes in today's paper. But go peer at the tiny trees and tiny people yourself: Blogdowntown has a set of all the images (last four images courtesy of).

An update on what’s changed. And these aren't all the changes, but just a few/the bigger ones...below is what we wrote back in April 2008 about the four parcels that make up the park and what follows is the update on each parcel:

1) Fountain Plaza:

1. OLD MODEL: The politically untouchable fountain will be nonetheless be reworked as a "more interactive, programmed" piece with upgraded infrastructure and a new pedestrian bridge over the water. Walls will be removed and a restaurant/cafe option is being explored.

2. NEW MODEL: The fountain has been completely overhauled. “Our idea was that people couldn’t come into contact with the fountain [before],” said Paradowski. To that effect, the fountain has essentially been stretched out, adding a large shallow area or "membrane" (also a place where kids can play). Additionally, the water level will be significantly lowered in the fountain itself. There is also space for a planned restaurant or café in this block. Restrooms are also planned.

2) Civic Garden:

1. OLD MODEL: Parking ramps will be covered by a "vine trellis," giving the park a larger presence on Hill Street. Barrier walls will be removed and a performance lawn will be created.

2. NEW MODEL: The vine trellis has been removed. There are also more pedestrian entrances in this area.

3) Community Terrace:

1. OLD MODEL: More usable space will be made available at the Court of Flags, with the flags being moved to the edges of the parcel. The current stairway is slated for demolition and will become a broader terraced staircase with improved accessibility. Multi-colored movable shaders would frame views of City Hall, creating an "outdoor living room" for public dinners, galas, fundraisers and so forth.

2. NEW MODEL: This area has undergone significant change. The Court of Flags has been relocated, but still is in this block. There is now a multi-cultural garden and the event pavilion is gone. More description from Paradowski on the multi-cultural garden: "It's a series of drought-tolerant plants, but may include gardens and plants from around the world." There is more green paving in this area, as well as more pedestrian access. It’s thought of as being more open-air. The terraced stairway is now being envisioned as being used by the public as a sort of sitting or resting area (in addition to being used as a stairway).

4) The Green:

1. OLD MODEL: Award for most dramatically changed parcel goes to the Green, a large events lawn at the foot of City Hall that's replacing a parking lot. A "viewing bridge" will span Broadway, leading to a multi-use marketplace for more farmers' markets and a restaurant at the end of the Green.

2. NEW MODEL: The viewing bridge is gone. There is also significantly more green paving in the fourth area. Space for a farmer market and a cafe remain.


----Some other notable things and random bits about the park:

1. One consideration by designers: Music (right now classical music) may be piped into the upper part of the park. Hmmm. At last night's event, Brown suggested that music from Disney Hall events could be piped over. That idea seems interesting, but let's hope that the music doesn't make for a Grove-like theme park.

2. In terms of criticism: One saving grace, perhaps, was pointed out last night by Brown. True, funding for a more grand design isn't available, but he said this current model includes placeholders for future items ie there will platforms where sculptures could go and there are areas slated for flea markets ie MORE MIGHT COME IN THE FUTURE.

3. One example of pedestrian improvement can be seen on the walkway between the County Building and the Hall of Administration. That area has been tightened up, made more pedestrian-friendly with trees.

4. Paradowski addressed the way that the park is continually cut by the streets and had some suggestions about ways that the area could retain its pedestrian-friendliness. For example, Broadway and Spring could be shut down for street festivals, he said.

6. Construction on the park would start spring 2010.

Grand Park

S. Grand Ave. & W. First St., Los Angeles, CA