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Music Center plaza reopens after $41M makeover

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“This plaza has been transformed”

An aerial photo of a pair of low-rise civic buildings with an open outdoor plaza between them.
The Music Center’s new plaza between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Mark Taper Forum.
All photos by Tim Street-Porter

A renovated Music Center plaza reopened today on Downtown’s Bunker Hill with a literal bang from drummers and percussionists in the Futa Tora West African Dance Ensemble.

The plaza was closed for 20 months for its $41 million makeover, which added a host of new features, including glass-covered elevators on both sides of the main staircase off Grand Avenue, a wine bar, a welcome center, a coffee shop, and permanent restrooms. The makeover also flattened and widened the space, doubling its capacity for events from 2,500 to 5,000.

Previously, the plaza had been fairly cut-off from Grand Avenue visually and, with its sunken central floor area, required visitors to tread carefully.

“This plaza has been transformed,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes the Music Center.

The redesign, spearheaded by Rios Clementi Hale Studios, also lifted up a previously sunken area of the plaza and relocated the “Peace on Earth” sculpture from the plaza’s fountain to a spot on Hope Street. The fountain, which sits in the center of the plaza, was reconfigured and now includes 140 colored lights.

With the new improvements, the plaza is now, finally, “a unified, universally accessible space,” said Bob Hale of Rios Clementi Hale Studios. The new entry off Grand Avenue, he said, was like a new front door to the plaza. The escalators that come up from the plaza had been redirected to surface at Grand, “so everyone enters [the plaza] the same way.”

A flat open outdoor plaza with seating at scattered tables. Eight young trees are also on the plaza. In the background is the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a modern building with a concrete skeleton and a flat white roof.
The new, flattened plaza.

Music Center CEO Rachel Moore said that post-reboot, the open space was now “a plaza for all” that is much better equipped to host the largely no-cost or low-cost public programming that the Music Center plans to present here.

The Music Center also announced that it had secured $14 million to go toward public programs in the new plaza, thanks in large part to a private gift.

The 55-year-old outdoor space sits between the Mark Taper Forum and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Music Center complex, which also includes the Ahmanson Theater and, across the street, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Ahmanson, the Mark Taper, and the Dorothy Chandler were all designed by Welton Becket, architect of the Capitol Records building and the Cinerama Dome. Becket worked with landscape architecture firm Cornell, Bridgers and Troller on the design for the original plaza.

A photo of two women walking up a large outdoor staircase. On either side of them are glass structures covering two escalators.
The staircase as seen from Grand Avenue.
A large, open area with two escalators on either side. The escalators are covered by glass structures. In the background, LA City Hall is visible.
The new “front door” of the plaza, seen from the plaza looking toward Grand Avenue, Grand Park, and City Hall.

This plaza is “yet another jewel added to Grand Avenue,” said Solis. There are more to come: The Music Center’s reimagined plaza is just one of many new spaces underway on Grand Avenue. A block away, just east of the Disney Concert Hall, a Frank Gehry-designed, block-sized project called The Grand is under construction now.

Developed by Related and CORE US, The Grand will bring a 20-story Equinox hotel, 176,000 square feet of shops and restaurant space, a 39-story residential tower, and 436 housing units to the intersection of Grand and First Street. It’s slated to open in 2021.

Also nearby is the in-progress Regional Connector project, a subway project that will connect the Metro Expo, Blue, and Gold lines. The Regional Connector will include a stop at Second Street and Hope, with an elevator up to Grand Avenue behind the Broad Museum. Right now it is a giant hole, but it’s expected to be up and running by mid-2022.

A photo of a small bar with an all-glass front wall and a long, black bar cutting across most of the width of the space.
The wine bar, which opens August 29.

The Music Center

135 North Grand Avenue, , CA 90012 Visit Website