If all goes according to plan, construction on the long-gestating First and Broadway Park could begin next year, and could lead to a facility with extensive food options, open pathways and a seamless connection to the adjacent Grand Park.
On Monday, July 29, city officials and designers revealed the latest update for a project now expected to cost $28 million. Previous designs for the two-acre attraction have been tweaked, with the addition of more trees and green space, as well as a more accessible plaza and a plan that links the park to the greater Civic Center.
The updated proposal includes a third floor for a restaurant on the northwest corner of the plot. Plans call for a bar, rooftop patio and dining terrace on the second floor, as well as a coffee shop on the ground level with outdoor dining.
Joella Hopkins, Downtown director for the office of 14th District City Councilman José Huizar, said that designers took into consideration future Civic Center development, as outlined by the Civic Center Master Plan. The document provides an outline to completely overhaul the area with new office buildings, retail and residential towers by 2032.
“The intention is to have folks come out of the Regional Connector, and come straight through that property onto First and Broadway Park and into the Civic Center,” Hopkins said.
Nate Heyward, senior project coordinator at the Department of Recreation and Parks, said the updated design reflects a future with more workers and residents in the neighborhood. That also takes into account a major mixed-use project planned for the former headquarters of the Los Angeles Times, immediately south of the park site.
“We need to think that we’re not building anything in the city for today,” Heyward said. “We’re trying to re-envision how we think about our city.”
The park will rise on what is now a dirt lot on First Street between Spring Street and Broadway. The site once held a 13-story state office building, which was severely damaged in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake and demolished five years later. Portions of the foundation remained, and though fenced off, the site became a destination for skateboarders and graffiti taggers.
The city bought the property in 2013, and a year later cleared the site and began looking for a designer. In 2016, Studio MLA (formerly Mia Lehrer + Associates) was selected for the job.
The initial design included a two-story building with an amphitheater with seating underneath the second floor overhang, as well as a hardscape central plaza with smaller segments of greenery and permanent seating.
The building has since added a level. The design team also proposed more shade trees, widening the open space and reducing the hardscape by adding decomposed granite. A series of metallic, shade-providing canopies dot the park.
A proposed new addition is a sculpture called “Wings of Mexico” by Mexican artist Jorge Marin. The piece, with angel wings similar to the painted wings found on buildings around Downtown Los Angeles, was donated to the city by the Mexican consulate.
“People can come, take a photo with it and really try to bond with this sense of shared culture found around the world,” said Ben Feldmann, a principal with Studio MLA.
The park will include more to-be-determined public art. Attendees of the meeting were asked to weigh in on where art should be installed.
Searching for Money
The park is estimated to cost $28 million, including land acquisition. According to a representative for the city Department of Public Works, nearly $19.5 million for the project has come through Quimby funds, which are charged to developers to aid in park creation.
The city hopes to cover the remainder through Proposition 68 allocations. The ballot measure was approved by California voters last November to provide funding for parks and recreation opportunities in underserved communities. Heyward said the city will learn by December if its application for the money has been approved.
The First and Broadway Park has suffered numerous delays. At a 2017 community meeting, park representatives said it would break ground in early 2018 and be completed by early 2020. That date came and went, and now a 2019 groundbreaking will also be missed.
“We have every intent to fully fund this project,” Heyward said. “If we don’t get the funding in December, yes it could hold us up maybe a couple of months, but we don’t see a substantial delay due to that.”
Last week city officials said they expect a groundbreaking next spring, with completion by winter 2022.
People who attended the meeting posed questions and expressed concerns. Alex Sasayama, who lives near Fifth and Hill streets, said he is worried that the park will rely too heavily on special events.
“Special events are great and we have a lot of them across the city, but we as residents in the neighborhood need places that function daily for us,” Sasayama said. “The failure of some of our biggest parks in the neighborhood is that they are not places that we can really use on a daily basis unless it is a special event.”
Hal Bastian, a business consultant and longtime Downtown resident, questioned why the bulk of the restaurant’s rooftop patio seating seems to face City Hall, while turning its back on Grand Avenue.
“The views looking westward are fabulous. It’s the federal courthouse, it’s going to be The Grand, and Walt Disney Concert Hall,” Bastian said. “Looking at that, it doesn’t seem like you are going to be able to see that at all.”
Representatives for the Bureau of Engineering said that another community meeting will not be held before the groundbreaking.