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Parking Lots to Park Space at the Civic Center

March 12, 2009

parkToday, city officials will unveil a proposal for a 16 acre park, stretching from the northwest side of City Hall to the fountain at the Music Center. This park will create a “pedestrian friendly oasis” in Downtown’s Civic Center, inspired by parks in Chicago and Portland. And fortunately, the majority of the park’s $56 million price tag has been covered by the otherwise troubled Grand Avenue Project, who had to pay up for the rights to build skyscrapers a block south.

downtown-parkHowever, the Times’s own architecture critic (isn’t it nice that they have an architecture critic?) is underwhelmed by the project, and many others remain ambivalent as well. It should be noted that much of the land designated to become part of this park is already park-like open space. However, some of the future park area is part of a parking lot, and it will be nice to see that converted to park space. In addition, the park-like open areas are currently cold war era concrete monstrosities and could do with some cleaning up. Despite the Times’s claim that the park will unite civic and cultural areas of the city, the fact is that the park will be dominated by the somber vibe of the government buildings that make up the vast majority of the park’s borders. Thus, modeling the park after examples such as Chicago’s Millennium Park may prove misleading, since that park is surrounded by more vibrant residential and commercial neighborhoods. The best course of action for park planners is not to try to single handedly build a vibrant neighborhood but to build a park that is pleasant to visit and integrates with other nearby elements, the sum of which is an improved urban environment. As county Supervisor Gloria Molina pointed out, we don’t want another Pershing Square.

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