Downtown L.A. park to open this summer


As Downtown L.A. has seen a boom in residential and commercial development in the last decade, one complaint is heard over and over: There is not enough green space in the heart of the city.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County officials announced that is about to change. A 12-acre park stretching from the steps of City Hall to the top of Bunker Hill will open this summer. It will be downtown’s largest park and its completion marks the first step in an ambitious effort to revitalize the civic center and surrounding areas.

The so-called Grand Park runs between 1st and Temple streets from Grand Avenue to Spring Street. The hillside will include two large lawns, a renovated fountain, a three-quarter mile promenade, gardens and groves, officials said. Events will be coordinated by the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, which also oversees the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum.

Crews have been working on the park over the last two years from behind screened fences. And residents like Anna Chen can’t wait to see the results.

As she took her 1-year-old pitbull mix, Maddy, for a walk on Spring Street near City Hall on Tuesday, Chen said she and her neighbors needed a place to get away from downtown’s traffic and noise.

“I love people watching, being in a central space where everyone can gather and socialize,” said Chen, 27, who lives in a loft on 5th and Spring streets and works at Metro, the transit agency. “It would be really cool for L.A. to finally have that.”

County Supervisor Gloria Molina, one of several officials overseeing the project, described the park as a “true public treasure” for downtown, where the residential population has jumped 50% between 2000 and 2010, from 26,000 to almost 39,000.

“I’m elated, I’m just so excited it’s going to happen,” Molina said. “Here’s going to be a nice venue where people can enjoy a stroll. It’s something that’s been unheard of in Downtown L.A.”

The $56-million park construction, which began in the summer of 2010, is part of the larger Grand Avenue Project, a decade-long effort to redevelop the Civic Center into a cultural hub of the city. Other phases of the project have remained stalled amid the recession, but the park moved forward thanks to a special agreement between the joint powers authority overseeing the project and its developer, the Related Companies.

Bill Witte, president of Related California, an affiliate of the Related Companies, said that construction on the park would be finished next month but that its opening date was undecided. A spokeswoman for Molina’s office said officials wanted to wait a few weeks until the grass has grown in.

Once the park is open, Molina said, the space would be perfect for a variety of events, such as concerts, farmers markets, readings and festivals. She said the park was her top priority in the Grand Avenue Project, which originally included hundreds of luxury condos, upscale retail outlets and a tower designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Grand Park will “add amenities that everyone needs, not just high-end needs,” she said. “For the first time, we’re going to have a real green portion of downtown.”

Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry was also hopeful about the park, saying it would bring a dramatic change to the Civic Center.

“It will be yet another uptick for the city of L.A.,” she said. “I expect it to be used very heavily.”

Downtown resident Danny Mendoza, 34, said he now has to trek to Chinatown to the Los Angeles State Historic Park if he wants some open space. He’s excited about the change.

“I don’t have a car and I try to stay local,” said Mendoza, a 34-year-old salesman. “We definitely need more parks downtown.”