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07.19.2013
Urban Backyard
Spring Street Park opens in downtown Los Angeles.
Courtesy Lehrer Architects

Downtown LA’s Historic Core finally has the backyard its booming residential population sorely needs. Spring Street Park opened last month on the former site of a surface parking lot between several high-rise residential buildings.

The process of transforming the plot into a park began when the Bureau of Recreation and Parks purchased the site in 2009 using Quimby Fees—paid by developers to fund public open spaces and parks. Rec and Parks then hired the Architectural Division of the city’s Bureau of Engineering as project managers, and Los Angeles-based Lehrer Architects as its design collaborator. The Architectural Division led a public outreach process, which revealed that the community wanted the park to be a sophisticated, outdoor urban space with something for everyone.  

   
 

The 0.7-acre, $8 million park makes efficient use of its L-shaped parcel. A diagonally oriented grassy ellipse crosses the northern end, where the majority of sunlight falls throughout the year. A water feature doubles as a fence in the northwestern corner, and a children’s playground occupies the northeastern corner. A long plaza occupies the southern end of the park, which may one day be home to an outdoor café.

Spaces throughout the park encourage private uses by one person or small groups. Urban serenity is also available on a circumnavigating path, which provides a circuit for people and strollers. A diagonal walkway bisects the site, providing a potential future passage between the northern and southern ends and connecting the rear alley to Spring Street. An adjacent driveway could also become space for al fresco dining for a soon-to-open restaurant.

 

Live bamboo rings the park. As it grows it will provide a screen, increasing the backyard feel of the space. The bamboo motif is continued in the pattern of the aluminum chairs found throughout the site. The patterns change in different light conditions, adding to the feeling of flexibility and convertibility.

City officials gathered at the park’s opening to celebrate it as a “jewel in the crown” of a changing Los Angeles. It is number 16 in former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s “50 Park” initiative, which has seen small green spaces go up around the city. At the opening, Rec and Parks Commission President Barry Sanders said the number of parks that the initiative will eventually achieve will be even higher: 53, or a 20 percent increase in the total number of public green spaces in the city.

James Brasuell