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Our Public Places : Downtown L.A. : Building On a Success Story

The rebuilt Los Angeles Central Library is more than the city’s treasury of books and literature: Along with the adjacent Robert F. Maguire Gardens and nearby Spanish Steps, it is considered a “catalytic” project--one that can accelerate improvements in an area--in this case, rejuvenating the heart of Downtown. The library strategy serves as a model for 16 catalytic projects aimed at improving other parts of the city’s central core included in the Downtown Strategic Plan adopted by the City Council Aug. 2. The strategic plan is the result of five years of work by 60 public officials, business leaders, architects, planners, economists and housing and social service providers. Charged with creating a vision of what Downtown will be like in 2020, the plan attempts to retain and attract business, while balancing needs for open space, social welfare, a homeless policy, housing, transportation and historic preservation.

STEPHANOS POLYZOIDES

Lead consultant on Downtown Strategic Plan, Moule & Polyzoides Architects & Urbanists

“How do you make a city? We suggest catalytic projects. You begin from the place that’s most complete and extend out from there. The project for the expanded Central Library with the Maguire Gardens and the Spanish Steps was a kind of consolidation. It reinforced pedestrian use, connected Bunker Hill southward to the redesigned Pershing Square and has been wildly successful. You can walk to a museum and the Music Center and the Civic Center is five minutes away.

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“In the Downtown Strategic Plan, we reinforce the idea that buildings make streets and propose projects that reinforce the notion of walking supported by transit. Public spaces have to be formed along with buildings. Whether it’s Paris, New York, Mexico City or Tokyo, the character of cities has less to do with buildings and more to do with the nature of open space.”

Jane Spiller welcomes suggestions for favorite places that are publicly accessible and free. Contact her c/o Voices.


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