The debate over what to do with the the Parker Center, the famous former LAPD headquarters building, (Raze it? Save part or all of it?) is still dragging on and on, but now it's jumpstarted a movement to start reconsidering all of Downtown LA's weird Civic Center. Councilmember Jose Huizar has begun to push for a new master plan for the entire area—now home to a lot of city-owned properties that aren't being used to their fullest possible extent (like the one-third vacant Los Angeles Mall)—and to have it include more than just office space, reports the Downtown News.
Downtown's boom has not passed over the Civic Center. The huge new Grand Park, the renovated Hall of Justice, and an under-construction federal courthouse are already changing this pocket of the city, but city workers still "remain scattered" throughout Downtown.
The city owns enough land to build new structures to move its workers closer together, but then there's the question of whether or not these theoretical new buildings should be full of only pure office space. With a housing crunch and a desperate need for more residential units, some experts feel that any new buildings here should incorporate residential and public uses too. (Which would handily let city workers live and recreate near their offices.)
Meanwhile, some existing structures, like that ghost-town Los Angeles Mall and the old federal courthouse (built in 1940) could be much better used in new ways, but each presents its own barriers to reuse or demolition. The Los Angeles Mall would be tricky to build on top of because of its big underground parking garage, but hard to reuse because it's only set up for commercial space; the courthouse is a designated historic landmark, but its windowless courtrooms are just one of the barriers to a makeover.
The last Civic Center Master Plan was completed in 1997, before the Downtown renaissance, and suggested something called the "10-Minute Diamond," which would have placed city and government workers so that they were always a 10-minute-maximum walk away from City Hall; it was imagined this would improve communication between departments and boost pedestrian activity. The diamond also connected the Civic Center to many other neighborhoods in DTLA: Little Tokyo, Bunker Hill, Union Station. "In a sense, the Civic Center is the glue that holds everything together," says a member of the team that created the 1997 plan in a June interview with the Planning Report.
A May motion from Huizar asked city staffers to explore possibilities beyond office space at the Parker Center, the LA Mall, and other properties the city owns.
· Parker Center, the L.A. Mall and the Future of the Civic Center [DN]
· Parker Center [Curbed LA]