Over the whirring of construction noise, 14th District Councilman José Huizar told a small crowd gathered at Pershing Square on Tuesday morning that building playgrounds will attract more families to Downtown, and, ultimately, create a diverse park ‘ecosystem’.
Representatives from the city Department of Recreation and Parks, the Pershing Square Park Advisory Board and the Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050 Campaign joined Huizar to commemorate the groundbreaking of two new children’s playgrounds. The price tag for the two brightly colored play areas, one for 2- to 5-year-olds and the other for kids ages 5-12, is $500,000.
“Along with good schools, families also need appropriate spaces to recreate. Adding a playground to this space adds one more amenity that will make it that much more attractive to move Downtown, and to call this urban environment their home,” Huizar said.
The new amenities at the southern end of the park at 532 S. Olive St. are expected to open by the end of June. Their construction, which includes the removal of a wall along Sixth Street between Olive and Hill streets, to improve sight lines into the facility, comes amid an overall, and still unfunded, effort to upgrade Pershing Square. The park is often criticized for its concrete fortress-like design. Last month, representatives from Pershing Square Renew, the nonprofit organization charged with overseeing changes to the park, and the Project for Public Spaces collected ideas from people about what they want to see at the park in the future.
Rec and Parks General Manager Mike Shull noted at the event that Downtown needs more playgrounds. Currently, there are a few: The children’s play area at Grand Park, which opened last November, the playground on the northeast side of Spring Street Park and one at Grand Hope Park next to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. It is every child’s birthright to have a community play area within walking distance of their home, Shull said.
“You’re going to start to see a playground emerge with color and hopefully families using it on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “Wonderful things are happening here.”
The playgrounds and wall removal are partly funded by the $2 million that Pershing Square Renew secured in September. The city Department of Recreation and Parks pledged $1 million to the nonprofit for infrastructure improvements and amenities, while MacFarlane Partners, a developer building a large project on the block north of the square, kicked in another $1 million.
The Park Advisory Board also secured a $100,000 grant through the Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050 initiative, which supports social innovation and improvements throughout Los Angeles. Goldhirsh selected Pershing Square from among 300 grant applications the Foundation received last summer, said Senior Policy Director Matthew Sharp.