It's been more than a decade since planning started on the giant Grand Avenue Project--which is supposed to bring new retail, residential, restaurants, and more to several large parcels on Bunker Hill--and things have barely moved (one building has broken ground; the completed Grand Park is also part of the project). But there's some major new momentum today as developer Related Cos. has officially submitted brand new plans by beloved local starchitect Frank Gehry that would bring huge changes to the whole area; Gehry designed the original, very different-looking project years ago, but most recently Related had been working with Gensler and Robert AM Stern (the joint powers authority that manages the project rejected a plan by those firms earlier this year, calling it "uninspired"). The new plans for Parcel Q, the three-acre site across Grand Avenue from Gehry's Disney Hall, include "a stacked collection of shops and restaurants forming a U-shaped plaza," topped with a pair of towers, as LA Times archicritic Christopher Hawthorne describes. And it turns out those rumors we heard last week about the trendy SLS Hotel chain opening on Bunker Hill were very true--one tower (at First and Grand) will house the 300-room hotel, the other (at Second and Olive) will have condos and apartments.
Hawthorne calls the new Gehry designs "significantly more exuberant and suggestive of L.A. culture" than the Stern/Gensler project and echoes earlier reports that it has a much friendlier street level, both on Grand and Olive: "A generous connection through the project down to Olive Street — a crucial element in the project's links to the base of Bunker Hill and the rest of a revived downtown — would allow pedestrians along Olive to look up through the complex, as if through a picture window, and see Disney Hall." Gehry is also considering adding a pedestrian bridge from the apartment tower across to Disney's second-level garden, rejiggering Disney's lobby and ground-level spaces (possibly bringing the cafe out onto Grand), redesigning the paving pattern of Grand itself, stringing lights above the street, and projecting Disney concerts onto the new complex.
Related hopes to start work in 2015 and finish up by 2019.
· Frank Gehry's Grand vision to go before project committee [LAT]