City Buys Blight Spot, Plans Park

The city paid $7.7 million for the site at First and Broadway. The long derelict site is slated to be developed into a park.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — The city has purchased a long-blighted, state-owned parcel in the Civic Center and plans to turn it into a park.

The nearly two-acre site on the northwest corner of First and Spring streets, across from City Hall, has sat derelict for decades behind an iron fence. The foundation of a state office building that was razed four decades ago remains, as does an underground parking facility.

The purchase is scheduled to be announced this morning by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he attends the opening of the Spring Street Park in the Historic Core. Villaraigosa’s office led the push to acquire the Civic Center parcel, which became available this year after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state officials to sell surplus property to help shore up state budget woes.

“The parcel at 1st and Broadway represents a prime opportunity to expand public space in the Civic Center,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “This site has long been poised to be developed to benefit the downtown community, and I’m happy the City of LA is now moving forward to turn this into much needed green space.”

The city paid $7.5 million for the property, using a mix of fees paid to the city by developers, along with funds allotted to the Department of Recreation and Parks for green space investment.

“This property has sat idle for far too long, needlessly costing taxpayers for maintenance and security,” said Fred Klass, director of the state Department of General Services, in a statement. “This sale raises revenue needed to eliminate state debt and provides the City of Los Angeles park space to be enjoyed for generations.”

The timeline for developing a park is uncertain. Funds for the creation of a park have not yet been identified, and the remaining parking facility will require demolition. Officials believe the park will take two to three years to complete.

According to Villaraigosa’s office, the Civic Center park development will occur in stages, starting with the removal of a few dozen feral cats that have been living on the site.

The nonprofit group CATS USA, Inc. is slated to rescue the animals. The city Department of Animal Services will work with local humane organizations, cat rescues and members of the public to socialize the cats and find them homes. The city has pledged that none of the cats will be euthanized, and no cats currently in shelters will be euthanized to make room for them, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

The park site is adjacent to a portion of the county-owned Grand Park.

Contact Ryan Vaillancourt at ryan@downtownnews.com.