For over three years, Angelenos have anxiously awaited the reopening of Los Angeles State Historic Park, an expansive 34-acre park in Chinatown, at the edge of Downtown. Saturday is the day—it will reopen even bigger, prettier, and grassier than before.
Although the parklands, which everyone will probably still call the Cornfield, were technically transferred into the hands of California State Parks in 2001, the park remained suspended in a kind of temporary limbo state for over a dozen years. In 2014, the park closed while a $20 million renovation sculpted new paths, picnic areas, wetlands, and a stunning pedestrian walkway. Two permanent structures, a ranger station and a welcome center, with new, very handsome bathrooms, were also added.
The park will reopen April 22 with a full day of events starting at 10 a.m., including remarks from Mayor Eric Garcetti and Governor Jerry Brown, but we got to take a tour today—check out our video preview on Facebook.
Los Angeles State Historic Park reopens tomorrow!Posted by Curbed LA on Friday, April 21, 2017
As you enter the park from the south (just steps from the Chinatown Gold Line station), you’ll encounter a lovely new entrance lined with historic cobblestones that date to the 1880s.
Some are in their original positions and others were discovered while excavating the park grounds. They made up the roads serving LA’s first rail depot, which occupied this site until 1901.
The first thing you’ll likely notice on what’s forecasted to be a hot, sunny weekend is the lack of shade. There are plenty of trees planted in the park, including a charming public fruit orchard of citrus trees planted by Fallen Fruit, but they’re still fairly small. The new structures provide some shelter, but, for now, it may be best to plan your visits to avoid the hottest hours of the day, at least in summer.
The two buildings were designed in-house by California State Parks and have nifty sustainability features. The concave roofs act like rainwater catchment systems, sending water over the edge to be collected into rock-covered cisterns in the ground that flow into a nearby arroyo.
As Stephanie Campbell, a park and recreation specialist for California State Parks told Curbed, during the last storms, rain cascaded over the roof in waterfalls and turned the arroyo into a full-on creek.
For the best views—and to get the only true sense of how big this space is—climb the pedestrian walkway, which is situated over the former rail depot’s roundhouse, located in the center of the park, to gaze at grassy knolls dotted with bright-orange poppies. This walkway doesn’t connect to Broadway, which runs along the western side of the park, but it was designed in a way to anticipate this move when more funds are available.
On the programming side, expect fewer concerts and festivals in the park and more cultural events. The park’s extensive outreach program—formed out of a stunning 65 community meetings—created a local park ambassadors group named the Promotoras. This team will shape the programming and educational events, including the interpretive history exhibitions about the site and the neighborhood that will open soon at the welcome center, according to Marissa Llanes of Community Nature Connection.
Perhaps the most exciting addition to the neighborhood is not yet installed—a restaurant will be landing in the park by June. It’s being fabricated off-site right now using shipping containers. The restaurant will be located in the southern corner of the park and, yes, it will have drinks, so expect to be spending your summer evenings here in the beer garden, gazing at the Los Angeles skyline.