The long-planned redevelopment of Downtown's Pershing Square is moving forward, but in incremental stages. This morning 14th District City Councilman José Huizar, along with representatives of the City's Bureau of Engineering and the Department of Recreation and Parks announced that the $110 million project will be built over 10 years in at least four phases.
Monday's presentation marked the first update since the summer, when the Bureau of Engineering said that the plan for implementing Agence Ter and Gruen Associates' redesign had the money only for its first phase. That itself followed no updates since 2017. This week the development team confirmed that funding has been secured for the first two phases, and set out an updated timeline for the rest of the redevelopment.
“As we thought about this and worked through the numbers, we thought that the more realistic approach would be this phasing approach that would get us to an ultimate goal, which is to implement the award-winning Agence Ter design,” Huizar said at the start of the presentation.
The project will get under way by the end of 2020 with a transformation of the park along Olive Street. An existing structure will be removed and the often-broken escalators in the roughly five-acre park will be replaced by new elevators and stairs, plus at least 20 trees. In 2022 the second phase will see similar work along Hill Street, adding at least 25 trees to the eastern side and additional escalator replacement, along with replacing the area around the park's fountain with green space. With both of those transformations, existing hardscaped surfaces will be replaced by grassy strips. The second phase is set to wrap in mid-2024.
Part of the reason for the phased approach is to not disrupt the operating parking garage underneath Pershing Square, and make sure the construction is safe, according to Michael Shull, general manager for the Department of Recreation and Parks.
The third phase will bring about the “radical flatness” of the chosen design, leveling out the park to street level with Hill and Olive streets. Renderings show the center of the park mostly covered with grass surfaces, with a shade canopy along the Olive Street side. Per the development team, the final development phase could be split into two parts of its own. The final development phase will likely finish in 2030.
Currently the first two phases are funded, with $25 million coming from Quimby fees (fees paid by developers to fund public parks and green spaces) and transfer of floor area fees. Huizar said that the money for the remaining phases has been identified in $10 million in annual Quimby and TFAR fees (fees paid for density adjustments).
The five acres that make up Pershing Square has served as a public space since 1866, but in 1910, the park was redesigned into a more traditional public space. In 1918, one week after the end of World War I, the park dropped the Los Angeles Park name in favor of Pershing Square, named after American General John J. Pershing.
The redevelopment plan is the first major update to the park since a $14.5 million project wrapped in 1994, with an emphasis on hard surfaces. Agence Ter's design for the new park was selected in 2016 after a competition was put forth. The most recent renderings, which the latest presentation still used, were put forth in 2017.