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Dream Team Assembled For LA River Piggyback Yard Project

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Michael Maltzan Architecture, Perkins+Will, Chee Salette Architecture Office, landscape architect Mia Lehrer, and the Friends of the Los Angeles have combined powers, and thankfully it's for good. They want to turn 130 acres on the east side of the LA River in Downtown, roughly bounded by Mission Road, the 5 Freeway, the Brewery Arts Colony, and the River, into a public park/flood detention basin. The site is nicknamed Piggyback Yard, because the Union Pacific Railroad currently uses it for transferring shipping containers (the FoLAR says it's underused in this capacity). The group now known as the PBy Collaborative first got together in 2009, and over the course of several months put together a conceptual master plan for the site that centers on four themes--water, open space, connectivity, and community. According to the New York Times, "The idea is that on a few days each year, the river would overflow into the yard. The rest of the year, the land would be a park" with a great lawn, sports fields, paths and trails, assorted gardens, playgrounds, fountains, and "large, earth-formed gathering spaces such as a small stadium or amphitheater."

The master plan also includes several development opportunities. The group wants to see Mission Road turned into a "major boulevard" and mixed-use neighborhood, with a rail branch; residential, retail, and office space; and industrial use on the south side of the street to dovetail into the city's CleanTech Corridor. North of the site, there are plans for a Brewery Arts Colony-adjacent Arts Campus with live/work studios, exhibition space, and sculpture courtyards. Other ideas include a pedestrian bridge across the river toward the Cornfield and a cultural facility at the Cesar Chavez crossing. The group also "anticipates that the naturalized river bed and its revitalized, accessible banks will allow crossing on foot during a large portion of the year." (And let's not forget a potential high-speed rail connection.)

The director of the Bureau of Engineering's Los Angeles River Project Office tells the NYT she loves the plans, but there's gotta be a catch, right? Oh, yes. The Union Pacific "has no plans to give up the site."
· In the Heart of Los Angeles, a Vision of a Park Beside a Restored River [NYT]
· Piggyback Yard [Official Site]