New Designs for L.A. State Historic Park
November 21, 2008 § 3 Comments
At a meeting this evening, California State Parks presented the latest plans for Los Angeles State Historic Park. The 32-acre site is the former Cornfield Yard – a vacant former railyard located between Chinatown and the Los Angeles River – and between Spring Street and North Broadway. There’s a temporary 14-acre park at the site today – called the “Interim Public Use” park.
Tonight’s meeting was officially the start of State Parks’ environmental review process for the Los Angeles State Historic Park Master Development Plan. They’ve issued a Notice of Preparation requesting comments on the scope of their environmental review. Scoping comments are due by December 18th and can be emailed to email@example.com
For folks who’ve been tracking the designs, they haven’t changed all that much. In fact, I am running images from the park presentations from August. The press person I spoke with tonight stated that the designs shown tonight should be available on-line – by the time you read this, they’ll probably be available on the State Parks webpage (which includes full-size versions of the images shown here.) The designs were introduced by the park’s designers from Hargreaves Associates.
The park will have a pedestrian “fountain bridge” connected to North Broadway. The bridge will echo the original trestle bridge that spanned the site historically, which enabled workers to get from Broadway to get to industrial jobs at the yard and in areas east of it. The bridge is an important connection, as currently, the bluffs and the Metro Gold Line train are barriers to access for communities west of the site, including Chinatown and Solano Canyon. At least two additional pedestrian access ways are proposed, but will depend on land not currently under State Parks control. One is a proposed at-grade connection into the heart of Chinatown. The walkway would go under the elevated Gold Line Train through what is currently a parking lot and connect to North Broadway near Gin Ling Way. Another connection would be along the Los Angeles River.
The design of the site goes from more urban at the Chinatown end to more natural at the Los Angeles River end. As one walks into the park from the Chinatown Metro Gold Line State, one first encounters an urban plaza, about 3 acres, which will include a children’s play area, fountains, and gardens. These features are configured in parallel lines recapitulating the former rail tracks. Along Spring Street will be a 3-story “welcome station” building, where the fountain bridge touches down. The building will feature rooftop views, cafe, bookstore, and electronic historical exhibits.
The designs call for a stage to be located at the site of the former railway roundhouse, with the stage featuring some portions of the now-buried roundhouse foundations (revealed in recent archaeological excavations.) The stage would be used for large events, such as concerts. Concert goers would occupy the adjacent great lawn… which is (unfortunately, in my opinion) becoming a little less great with successive designs. In Hargreaves’ original competition-winning entry, there was a 15-acres great lawn – it took up nearly half the site. Last summer it shrank to something like 11 acres… tonight it was 8 1/2. That’s still a good sized plot of grass for a park in the center of Los Angeles – I just hope it doesn’t get any smaller. I am a fan of flexible un-programmed spaces like a great lawn that can be used for a pick-up soccer game one day, then an outdoor film festival the next.
Continuing northeast, the site winds into more formalized garden spaces which reflect California’s historical landscapes. Five historical timeline paths run throughout the site, telling specific histories including water and industry. As one gets close to the river, one encounters the second building on the site, called the “ecology center,” which is surrounded by wetlands. The designers are exloring using a solar- or hydro-powered pump to import water from the adjacent Los Angeles River.
The images that actually got audience applause were a look further into the future, when the park could connect to the river. Additional parcels would need to be purchased, so it would be phase 2 (or probably phase 7+.) Concept images showed the river edge of the park extending from the North Broadway Bridge to the North Spring Street Bridge.
Audience members were generally excited about the project, though they expressed concerns including traffic and parking (reminding me that we’re still in Los Angeles), the absence of commemoration of the water wheel that was at the site, and connections between the park and the adjacent Chinatown Gold Line Station. Joe Edmiston, head of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, suggested that State Parks forego constructing any buildings on the site, and instead use funds purchase the bluff land above the park and the parcels along the river. This additional acreage would connect LASHP with the river and with Elysian Park.
Though neither the design team nor the agency staff would comment on cost estimates, my sense is that it will be at least $60-70M for just the initial park and probably double that when we really make the connections to the River and to points west of the park. State Parks has some of this money (rumored to $20-30M) set aside from past park bonds, so there are some serious funding needs to be covered before we proceed with construction. Maybe Mayor Villaraigosa get this included in President Obama’s economic stimulus package?
The final schematic design is supposed to be complete in February 2009. The earliest planned grand opening would be in 2012 and that’s likely to be phase one.