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10.30.2013
Grand Questions
Who will lead the way at Los Angeles' Grand Avenue?
Sam Lubell / AN

Back in 2004 it seemed like Downtown Los Angeles would be getting one of the largest developments in the city’s history: the $1.8 billion, 3.8 million-square-foot Grand Avenue Project. Overseen by a city/county organization called the Grand Avenue Authority and developed by the Related Companies, the mega-project proposed to insert residential, retail, hotel, and park spaces into the city’s long-struggling core.

By late September, after years of delay, it seemed like that dream was dead. The city/county agency overseeing the project, the Grand Avenue Authority, voted unanimously to reject Related’s significantly scaled down new plans, now put together now by Gensler and Robert A.M. Stern, after Gehry’s original plans were deemed too expansive, and expensive.

“There’s nothing there that lends itself in any aspect to a design that promotes any kind of pedestrian activity, any street activity or anything,” said Grand Avenue Authority chair Gloria Molina of the new proposal, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But on September 30, the authority voted to give the developer a four-month extension to adjust the plans. And while Related won’t comment on the project, according to Gehry, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect could be back in the mix.

“I think I will,” said Gehry, of his status on the project at a recent discussion sponsored by local radio station KCRW at his Walt Disney Concert Hall. “If I’m not, Eli (Broad, the philanthropist who has pushed for much of Grand Avenue’s development) will do something about it.” Molina suggested that she would support Gehry’s return to the project. “I know he can deliver a product that will be a tribute to Los Angeles,” she told KCRW.

Gehry added that the delay, and the subsequent changes in scope, could improve his original design, which was catered to the very rich before the economic downturn. “It may not be like Rodeo Drive, but it may be a better fit for the area.”

 The strange, empty streetscape around the huge project could also see much-needed improvements. Gehry has long pushed for such changes near his concert hall, most of them rebuffed by various city bureaucracies. The Broad, Eli Broad’s new art museum next to Disney, will be getting a large new park to its south, and Broad said at the KCRW event that sidewalks near the area would be widened.

It is still unclear if the Grand Avenue Project will ever move forward. The only sure things at this point for the project are the popular 16-acre Grand Park, across from The Music Center, and Arquitectonica’s 19-story residential tower, just south of The Broad, which broke ground several months ago.

Sam Lubell