DTWX

For more than a decade, Downtown Works (DTWX), the nonprofit arm of Central City Association (CCA), has sought to enhance the vibrancy of Los Angeles and improve Angelinos’ quality of life.

In a newly released report, DTWX found that LA ranked 71 out of 100 cities when it comes to park access, investment, acreage, amenities and equity, citing a lack of signature urban parks and open spaces in the city center.

“Downtown’s public realm, its walkability, restaurants and energizing culture all draw people to the neighborhoods, but parks and open spaces are unfortunately still missing from the equation,” said Jessica Lall, DTWX board chair and CEO of CCA.

DTWX was founded to conduct research by pulling from proven models and applying them back into DTLA. To conduct the nonprofit’s first report, titled “Creating Vibrant Urban Parks and Open Spaces through Public-Private Partnerships: Lessons for Downtown Los Angeles,” DTWX analyzed examples of 10 urban parks in other cities across the country, such as Chicago’s Millennium Park, Cincinnati’s Fountain Square and New York’s The High Line.

DTWX found that only 64% of Angelos have a 10-minute walk to a park, compared to 99% of New York City residents and 98% of Chicago residents. The report also predicted that the need for open spaces will only increase over time due to DTLA’s rapid population growth, with the number of the city’s housing units quadrupling since 1999 and the population projected to reach 250,000 people by 2040.

“Everyone, from families with children to older adults to tourists and workers, needs space to gather, to get fresh air, exercise, play and relax,” Lall explained.

The report, which can be accessed at dtwx.org, raised concerns over potential barriers that have impeded progress in the past, namely the redesign of Pershing Square and First and Broadway Park. According to DTWX, both projects were stalled due to a lack of financial and human resources, and that political term limits can also interfere with project timelines.

“Los Angeles has ambitious plans for parks that make communities more equitable and livable. Unfortunately, our government departments face many challenges like rising costs and competing priorities that can delay project deliveries,” said Michael Shull, former general manager of the LA City Department of Recreation and Parks. “Working more collaboratively with our private and non-profit sector partners would go a long way in delivering the parks that Angelenos in Downtown and elsewhere deserve.”

The report called for an increase in public-private partnerships (P3s) to help create and enhance parks projects throughout DTLA. Through collaboration with the private sector, DTWX expressed that the city government could provide improvements to the city’s public realm.

As an example of how P3s can be coordinated and implemented in DTLA, the report referenced Grand Park in its case studies. Grand Park is managed by the Music Center, a nonprofit entity whose budget is aided by the LA County government’s budget. Last year, Grand Park, the Music Center and County of Los Angeles entered into a new 30-year Operating Agreement, extending their partnership until 2051.

DTWX has expressed that public-private collaboration projects like this could not only better the lives of DTLA residents, but also set a gold standard for other Downtown areas across the country.

“It’s exciting to think about the beautiful, world-class parks and open spaces that Angelenos could enjoy if we had stronger partnerships across the public and private sectors,” Lall said. “Our report lays out best practices used to build and operate excellent urban parks around the country. Now we have the opportunity to apply those lessons to our parks projects.

“We hope that our report jumpstarts new collaboration and partnerships between our government, local businesses, philanthropy and community partners to bring excellent park spaces to Downtown and across the city.”