Downtown’s Grand Park named a Great Public Space for 2013

An overview of Grand Park from the top of City Hall in downtown L.A.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic

As of Friday morning, even as the larger redevelopment project on Bunker Hill faces fresh uncertainty, downtown L.A.’s Grand Park has a new feather in its cap: a place on the American Planning Assn.’s 2013 list of Great Public Spaces in America.

The APA praised the park, which opened in July last year, for moving “an aspirational vision of a civic and cultural center for downtown Los Angeles” closer to reality.

“Grand Park not only is one of Los Angeles’s most popular places for daily exercises, lunch breaks, and family activities,” the group said, “it also is a hub for surrounding communities of historic Chinatown, Little Tokyo, El Pueblo, and the Old Bank district.”

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Grand Park, designed by the Los Angeles firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios, replaced a tired and rather anonymous county park wedged on a hill between the Music Center and City Hall. It was financed by the developer Related Cos. as part of its deal with the city and county to build retail and residential complexes on Bunker Hill.

It was not an easy park to design: A significant chunk of its $56-million budget was spent removing or mitigating the presence of a series of concrete ramps leading to underground parking garages. In reviewing Grand Park when it opened last summer, I wrote that it marked “an attempt, imperfect but encouraging, to chip away at the rigid infrastructure of the car-dominated city” and in the process “make a private city a little more public.”

The APA’s list of worthy public spaces, part of the group’s annual Great Places in America program, also includes Forest Park in St. Louis and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage, Alaska.



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