Civic Park of the Mind


The new Civic Park stretches from City Hall to the Rose Chandler Music Hall in Downtown.
Courtesy Rios Clementi Hale

New designs for Civic Park, the recreational area linked to the $3.1 billion Grand Avenue development in downtown LA, were presented to the public on March 11. The project, a re-working of three concretized, LA County lots that link the Dorothy Chandler Music Center to Los Angeles City Hall, has been cited by Los Angeles politicians as a key benefit to the Grand Avenue project, which will receive millions of dollars in public subsidies.

The refined design is the newest go-round by landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH). In April 2008, the firm presented two different schemes for the park: A “base scheme” that brought the design within the park’s $56 million budget and served to tie the three blocks, interrupted by streets and parking ramps, together. The second, an “enhanced scheme,” could be filled with more esoteric components—like a community pavilion indicated by colorful sunshades—as additional funds became available.

One of the greatest changes to the new plan is in the park’s center block, with its "Court of Flags."
The 1960s Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain will become a centerpiece of the new park.
Ample lawns will replace acres of concrete.
All images COURTESY Rios Clementi Hale

The firm’s alteration of the base park adds more softscape to a project whose earlier iteration had been criticized for preserving too much paving. The most significant change comes to the park’s center block, which lies between Hill Street and Broadway, and currently features the “Court of Flags.” RCH now offers a broad walkway cutting through the center of the block, flanked by bands of community-like gardens on either side.

To represent LA’s ethnic diversity, the designers have proposed a 30,000-square-foot patchwork of varied mini-garden plots here.Terming this section of the park a “condensed Huntington Gardens,” RCH project manager Tony Paradowski sited a range of botanical species from Asian to African countries. The Court’s flags will be relocated to a group of steps and platforms overlooking Broadway to the south. The new design scheme also includes grow boxes throughout this terraced area, to add a hint of the natural environment to the previously barren steps.

According to Paradowski, the firm also added softscape to a “performance lawn” situated in the segment of Civic Park that lies between Hill Street and Grand Avenue, removing pathways that had cut through the area in a previous scheme. Gone, too, is trestle work that the firm had previously employed to disguise two intrusive ramps leading to an underground parking garage. Instead, more landscaping will be added between the park and the ramps.

Other new elements will include rows of olive trees sprouting from a hardscape court that forms a new “gathering space” on the west side of the performance lawn. The new scheme also more deeply engages the 1960s-era Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, creating a pool that incorporates a wading area and pop-up jets, if the budget will allow. The firm will also reduce the depth of the water to make the fountain more efficient.

The new designs for the park were presented to the LA Community Redevelopment Agency on April 2 and the Board of Supervisors on April 7. The County Board of Supervisors initially designated $56 million for the park. An additional $27.1 million in state funds, coming from California’s Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act, is on hold because that money is tied to construction of phase 1 of the delayed Grand Avenue project.

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