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View Full Version : Grand Avenue - Presentation Tuesday 22 February 2005



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Inch Blue
Jul 24, 2005, 2:08 AM
I prefer Howard Elkus to do the design over Laurie Olin(who designed Pershing Square, which I think is an eyesore). In the article it gives the impression that Elkus is no longer involved, is this correct?:dunno:

ocman
Jul 24, 2005, 5:17 AM
From the Howard Elkus website, it seems like that group has absolutely NO experience with a park. I couldn't find even 1 example of their park work on their website. I wouldn't want to put a park in the hands of someone who is doing this for the first time.

Atleast Olin has experience. Although I agree that Pershing Square failed, their other work seems competent enough, although not amazing. A lot of their work seems very closed-in, which is a huge worry.

bobcat
Aug 1, 2005, 8:54 PM
This is a heads up for anyone wanting to attend the public meetings to discuss the ongoing progress of this development. Meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, August 2 and Monday, August 22, 6pm-8pm at the LA Theater Center. Anyone here able to attend?

Go to this link to RSVP.
http://www.grandavenuecommittee.org/updates.html

colemonkee
Aug 1, 2005, 10:52 PM
^I'll try to attend. Will need a reminder, though. bobcat, can you post this again a couple of days before the meeting?

bobcat
Aug 1, 2005, 11:02 PM
^Ok, here's your reminder.


THE FIRST MEETING IS TOMORROW. DON'T FORGET!

I'll try to remember for the second meeting.:D

colemonkee
Aug 1, 2005, 11:38 PM
^Oops! Forgot to clarify. I should be able to make the 22nd, but can't make it tomorrow.

yeah215
Aug 3, 2005, 6:19 AM
So did anybody go? If so what happened?

seamus
Aug 3, 2005, 7:54 AM
I made it to the meeting tonight, it wasn't too revelatory. I did take a crappy picture of one of the display boards they had, showing the proposed elevations along 1st st, which I don't recall seeing on this forum before. The point of the gathering seemed to be "look how great our commitment to diversity is with this project"; the main speaker of the evening was Bill Witte, of Related Companies, and much was made of the degrees of affordable housing the project was to offer, the commitment to housing units being made available to anyone "regardless of their race, creed, etc. etc. etc.", vague commitments to "minority/women-owned businesses", and so forth. They made clear that design issues were not on the table at this meeting, though people did enivitably sneak a few questions in. They re-iterated that the County board still was planning to review the latest proposals within the month, and IF approved, then they could take it to the Environmental-impact and Design issues next. VERY optimistically, Phase I's redux of the County Mall could start as early as next summer (with a sloped design, newly-arranged parking entrances, and the elimination of the parking lot directly in front of City Hall), with Phase I buildings beginning late '06/early '07, with an estimated Phase I completion within 3 years of starting construction.
Also, it sounded like if Frank Gehry does end up designing any part of the parcels, it would be on "Site Q" directly across from the Concert Hall (which would include the tallest of the proposed buildings). They made clear that they're interested in more than one architect's "style" across the whole project area.

http://i.pbase.com/v3/35/413235/1/47135523.P8024072sm.jpg
http://i.pbase.com/v3/35/413235/1/47135526.P8024071sm.jpg

colemonkee
Aug 3, 2005, 5:44 PM
^Those elevations are new. And exciting! Did they say anything about the removal of the County Administration buildings?

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 3, 2005, 5:51 PM
The point of the gathering seemed to be "look how great our commitment to diversity is with this project"

I had a feeling this was going to be some sort of show presentation, rather than really informational. Still wish I could've made it though.

Thanks for the pics, seamus!

bobcat
Aug 3, 2005, 6:16 PM
Thanks for the pics, Seamus! There probably won't be too much for them to announce until Gehry finishes some of his designs.

sbocguy
Aug 3, 2005, 6:36 PM
Thanks, seamus...

I like how the mini-skyline created by this dev't has a sort of tapering effect... the aesthetic results for the DT skyline should be pleasing. I also like the "solid" look of the lowrise bldg/podium on the Q parcel... hopefully that approach can be combined with one or two walkways/paseos to keep most of the ped activity on the street, while still breaking up the bulkiness of the street frontage and keeping a measure of "human scale" on those long blocks.

I *loathe* those bridge-looking thingies over Grand and Olive, tho... as others on this forum have said before, haven't we learned anything from the failed redev't of Fig/Flower Sts? Ped bridges that keep people from mingling on the streets are rarely a major element of any of the great urban environments Grand Av. aims to draw from, unless, of course, it's over a river or something, which doesn't apply here...

seamus
Aug 3, 2005, 6:38 PM
Did they say anything about the removal of the County Administration buildings?

Someone did ask about that, and they made clear that those buildings weren't in the area of the JPA's authority. When asked "what if the county decides to tear them down, maybe even to use them also for the park?", they said whatever would happen would be independent of their county mall redux. They've heard that the county considers them to be near the end of their productive life, but that hasn't spurred any kind of pre-planning in conjunction with the Grand Ave project. In other words, their "centralized authority" only goes so far, even when most people would consider what lines a park as just as important as the park itself. The whole project is a MESS of jurisdictional issues, for example some parts of the lot across from City Hall are joint County/State land, while other parcels of the project are just County, and only certain parts of these areas have been approved for modifications. Take "streetscapes"--the only area approved right now for major improvements is Grand Avenue between about 5th and Temple. Even though parts of 1st, 2nd, Olive, Hill, etc. also cross through the project area. There are intentions to improve pedestrian-crossing at the points where roads break up the county mall (Broadway, Spring, & Hill streets), but that has not yet been approved by the various entities connected (L.A. city owns the streets, the JPA everything abutting it, caltrans handles the road issues, etc.). They did also mention, though, that they might make those sections of street closable on weekends.

colemonkee
Aug 3, 2005, 6:49 PM
^Shit, that's what I thought. Getting those county buildings torn down will turn into a quagmire of burearocracy. At least the county recognizes that they are nearing their productive life, and perhaps can be integrated into the park later.

BrighamYen
Aug 3, 2005, 7:06 PM
There will be a meeting of the County Board on 8/9/05. This is a time to go voice your opinion about the County Buildings!

http://bos.co.la.ca.us/calendar/cfscripts/calendar.cfm?CFID=32353&CFTOKEN=50437243

colemonkee
Aug 3, 2005, 11:29 PM
^Bah! I'll be at work then. Can anybody go and represent the SSP? I'll see if anyone from my building is going.

citywatch
Aug 5, 2005, 9:07 AM
and the elimination of the parking lot directly in front of City Hall),

I've wanted that to be done for yrs & yrs. It's been decades since most of the land north of 1st from Grand to Broadway was converted into the mall, while the space between Broadway & Spring has remained a wasteland parking lot.

I know LAB & others really hate the fugly old county bldgs farther west along the mall, but I've long disliked that damn parking lot on Spring St even more. I'm just happy that another old deadzone parking lot that once existed in the hood, or the site where the Our Lady cathedral now stands, finally was axed several yrs ago.

LAMetroGuy
Aug 5, 2005, 9:14 PM
can someone tell me what is wrong with this article?

http://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article17879.html

DJM19
Aug 5, 2005, 9:23 PM
can someone tell me what is wrong with this article?

http://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article17879.html

Umm...SF doesnt have a Gran Ave. Project (and maybe not even a grand ave?)

And Related is only doing one grand ave. project.

So W might be the hotel, eh?

POLA
Aug 5, 2005, 9:28 PM
Wow, that's some really bad reporting.

LAMetroGuy
Aug 5, 2005, 10:59 PM
Ha! That is too funny

bobcat
Aug 6, 2005, 1:56 AM
First they take the Stem Cell HQ, now they steal the Grand Ave project. Those BASTARDS!!!:laugh:

citywatch
Aug 8, 2005, 10:51 AM
Bloomberg News, August 7, 2005

Los Angeles Taps Architect Gehry for 'Champs-Elysees'

By Nadja Brandt

Architect Frank Gehry, who designed the curved, stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, has something more conventional in mind for the nearby downtown redevelopment project.

There won't be "another Disney Hall in front of Disney Hall,'' Gehry said in an interview.

A Los Angeles resident, Gehry was hired in July by the developer of downtown's Grand Avenue Project, Related Cos., for the $1.8 billion project after Disney Hall won positive reviews from architecture critics who compared it to a silver galleon.
Gehry, who also created the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, will design most of the buildings in the $500 million first phase of the project, which aims to transform downtown into a residential and retail hub. Redevelopment officials are trading on the celebrity of Gehry's name to press for project approvals and redefine the character of the neighborhood.

"The initial dream was to have it be our Champs-Elysees,'' Dan Ross, chairman of the University of Southern California's Lusk Center for Real Estate, said in an interview. "Gehry could fulfill that.''

The Grand Avenue Project will test Gehry's penchant for designing fantastical buildings with the practical need to create an area that functions as a neighborhood, said Harrison Fraker, dean of the College of Environmental Design at University of California, Berkeley."What you're looking for is good housing, good retail and good mixed-use,'' Fraker said. "How many icons can you have before they start competing with each other?''

Revival

The project will continue a revival of Los Angeles that began with the 1999 opening of the Staples Center sports arena. Since then, about 3,760 apartment and condominium units have been built downtown in the second-biggest U.S. city.

"Downtown is coming back,'' said Jack Kyser, executive director of the nonprofit Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. "Private sector jobs are growing. Office vacancies are going down. It's an outright boom in residential development.''

The Grand Avenue project is planned to coincide with the creation of a $50 million, 16-acre park that would connect Los Angeles City Hall and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building. The plan proposed by Related Cos. hugs the park, which would run the length of four city blocks.

"They are trying to make Grand Avenue a more friendly street for all hours, which it currently isn't,'' Gehry, 76, said. "This project is just one step toward doing that.''

The Architect

The five-member Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority, comprised of city and county officials, voted unanimously to back New York-based Related's plan for the site in August, choosing the closely held company over Forest City Enterprises Inc.

"It was kind of known that Related had picked Gehry to design the project,'' Councilwoman Jan Perry, a Grand Avenue Authority board member, said in an interview. "It may have impacted the approval.''

The project, which will include two-to-four story retail pavillions and a hotel-condominium tower, is scheduled to take about seven years to complete. Gehry, a Toronto native who moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s, said he will try to instill the "friendly, inviting'' feel of Disney Hall in his designs, making downtown "more open and accessible.'' Gehry's pro bono record of helping redesign areas of downtown for at least 10 years helped convince Related Cos. that he was the right planner, company president Bill Witte said.

Portfolio

"We said we should swing to the fences with this project and with Gehry we can do this,'' Witte said. "Of the number of architects that would be perceived to have that kind of creativity, very few of them are from L.A., so if you put all of the factors together, Gehry was the logical choice.''

Disney Hall, which architecture writer Marcus Binney said was "a brilliant contrast'' to the rest of downtown Los Angeles in a 2003 London Times article, was Gehry's first major public commission in his home town and took about 16 years to complete.

Gehry, who won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1989, said he began studying architecture at night when he was 18, driving a truck during the day to support himself. He got his degree in 1954 from the University of Southern California and studied city planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design before establishing his first office in Los Angeles in 1963. Included in his portfolio are the DZ Bank Building in Berlin, the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi, and the Millennium Park Music Pavilion and Great Lawn in Chicago. Other projects include the American Center in Paris.

"Downtown is not a hopeless case,'' Gehry said.

Bernd
Aug 8, 2005, 3:40 PM
This quote:

"It was kind of known that Related had picked Gehry to design the project,'' Councilwoman Jan Perry, a Grand Avenue Authority board member, said in an interview. "It may have impacted the approval.''

Doesn't jibe. When Related was chosen for Grand Ave., wasn't Gehry linked to the competition? I don't remember hearing any names associated with Related's bid except Thom Mayne.

DJM19
Aug 8, 2005, 7:34 PM
Im glad hes going to be more conventional

ocman
Aug 8, 2005, 8:29 PM
This quote:



Doesn't jibe. When Related was chosed for Grand Ave., wasn't Gehry linked to the competition? I don't remember hearing any names associated with Related's bid except Thom Mayne.

That was an extremely fishy thing for her to say. I'm pretty sure good design was never in the equation when they chose the 2 finalists.

citywatch
Aug 8, 2005, 11:26 PM
This quote: Doesn't jibe. When Related was chosed for Grand Ave., wasn't Gehry linked to the competition? I don't remember hearing any names associated with Related's bid except Thom Mayne.

That was an extremely fishy thing for her to say. I'm pretty sure good design was never in the equation when they chose the 2 finalists.

I also wondered about her quote regarding Gehry being involved with Related, certainly before the public found out that the other architects had been publicly released from the group. Assuming Perry isn't confusing Related's bid with the one from the group that Gehry originally was affilated with, my guess is she got some inside info that Related really wanted to work with someone better than Skidmore Owings, which is the architectural firm responsible for the newest version of the tower in NYC that's going to replace the WTC.

ryanist
Aug 9, 2005, 7:43 AM
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/los_angeles_metro/la-me-grand9aug09,1,1369795,full.story?coll=la-commun-los_angeles_metro

Aid but No Subsidy for Grand Ave.
Downtown deal relies on government help, while questions remain about financial return. County supervisors will vote on the plan today.

By Cara Mia DiMassa
Times Staff Writer

August 9, 2005

When a proposal was unveiled to develop 25 acres of public land around Disney Concert Hall into a cluster of high-rise towers, parks, shopping centers and entertainment venues, civic leaders touted the public-private partnership as a model for getting things accomplished without costing taxpayers a dime.

Philanthropist Eli Broad boasted that the $1.8-billion project could be completed "without using one dollar of general fund money from the city or the county."

With the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors set to vote on the Grand Avenue project today, a close examination of the financing suggests that statement, while literally true, may understate the complexity of the deal.

If the project goes forward, the city and county governments will be doing much to help the development along, especially in the early stages. How much, if anything, taxpayers will receive in return depends heavily on whether the downtown Los Angeles real estate boom continues: The money that would flow back to the city and county is tied to how well the project does.

The Grand Avenue project will be built on land already owned by the county and the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. In that regard, the project differs from others — Hollywood & Highland, for example — that were built on private land with public subsidies. Under the terms of the deal negotiated by the county, the city and the developer, Related Cos., the government entities would lease the land for 99 years.

Related and its investment partners plan to immediately give the government agencies $50 million as a down payment on the lease.

But the $50 million would not stay in government coffers. Rather, the city and county plan to pour all of the initial lease proceeds back into the development, funding traffic improvements, renovated streetscapes and the 16-acre terraced park that would run from Grand Avenue to the Civic Center.

In effect, the county and city would be allowing the developer to use a valuable public asset — the land — and would use the rent from the land to make the developer's lease more valuable.

County officials may help the developer in another way. While not part of the development agreement, top county officials have talked about moving some county offices into new buildings that are slated to be part of the Grand Avenue project. The offices in question are now in the Hall of Administration and Stanley Mosk Courthouse — buildings that were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Critics of the project have seized on that prospect in particular, saying that the public needs a much clearer understanding of what public agencies would ultimately gain and give for the project before moving forward.

"There seem to be a lot of questions about what this is," said Joel Kotkin, an Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation who has been critical of the project.

The possibility that the one office tower proposed under the development, a 15- to 20-story building on Hill and 1st streets, could ultimately house government workers seems like a backdoor way for the county government to prop up the project, he said.

"I don't know whether this scale is necessary. And I wonder, what are we getting at the end of the day? And is there money going into this that could have gone elsewhere?"

Backers of the project say that critics are missing the larger point. Getting a project as large as Grand Avenue off the ground without direct public subsidies is something of a triumph, they say. And, they add, in the long run, the public will benefit from more shopping downtown and from the new park.

"That's the portion that will have the most dramatic, sweeping impact," said City Councilwoman Jan Perry, the vice chair of the joint city-county Grand Avenue Authority, "to benefit not just downtown, but the entire city: an open space for everyone to enjoy."

Since its beginnings more than five years ago, the Grand Avenue project has been the pet of a handful of civic leaders, including Broad. They dreamed aloud of remaking the area, which includes the Colburn School, the Music Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, into a sort of center for a city that has long been without one.

Last summer, Related beat seven other major firms to win the right to negotiate a deal with the city and county. Related, which had just finished work on the Time Warner Center in New York City, was chosen in large part because of its ability to raise the large amount of money needed to complete the three-phase project. MacFarlane Partners, a Bay Area-real estate investment firm, is raising much of the funding on Related's behalf.

Related spent nearly a year negotiating the terms of the deal with Broad and real estate mogul Jim Thomas — who has since stepped down from the leadership of the Grand Avenue Committee, the group shepherding the deal on behalf of the city and county.

It was clear from the beginning that city and county officials believed the entire Grand Avenue project had to pay for itself, said Bill Witte, president of the Related Cos. of California. "That was very important in selling the concept to the city and particularly the county," he said.

Public subsidies have long been a vehicle used by local government to revive struggling areas, from New York's Times Square to Hollywood Boulevard. But it's difficult to compare the Grand Avenue project to other recent developers because it is so much larger and is being built on several different plots of public land.

The exact terms of the Grand Avenue plan won't be complete until a final development agreement is signed. But a term sheet that resulted from the negotiations so far, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, details the general terms of the deal, which already has been approved by the Grand Avenue Authority, the city and the CRA.

The county Board of Supervisors votes on the deal today.

Once those agencies have OKd the project, Related will issue a letter of credit for $50 million. That nonrefundable deposit represents the projected rent for the land on which Phase 1 of the project and part of Phase 2 would be built. Phase 1 covers the block just east of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, between Grand Avenue and Olive Street — included with the park. Phase 2 is now planned as the block immediately south of the concert hall.

In addition, Related has said it plans to buy, at its own cost, a private parking lot along 2nd Street between Hill and Olive streets that would become part of the third phase of development. Under the current plan, that property would house a 35- to 40-story residential tower.

As part of the first phase, Related will build some of the residential units as low- and moderate-income housing. The current plan calls for 20% of the project's 2,100 to 2,600 housing units to be in one of those two categories. In keeping with common practice, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency will reimburse Related $100,000 to $200,000 for each housing unit that is designated as affordable housing.

Once the developer begins selling condominium units and getting money from the planned hotel and shops, the rent that taxpayers would receive will depend on how well things go. The government bodies and Related have agreed on so-called incentive rents, which would take effect if property values continue to climb after the deal is approved.

For example, if a 1,200-square-foot condo in the development sells for more than $690,000, then 5% of the sale price would go to the city. (Condominiums selling in the downtown area currently go for slightly under that figure.) And after the retail area's fourth year of operations, 2% of all rents would go to the governments. Those incentive rents would be renegotiated after 20 years to bring them into line with prevailing market conditions.

The rent payments would be divided between the agencies based on the percent of total land value each agency owns. Each entity owns two parcels; while the land still must be appraised, the county parcels are larger than the CRA land.

The city and county plan to spend about $9 million for streetscape improvements to Grand Avenue between 5th Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue and an additional $12 million for other upgrades in and around the development. Those improvements would not be paid for out of the city or county general fund. The money could come from additional revenue from the project or from money the governments would borrow using the expected tax revenue from the project as collateral.

The term sheet calls for Related to build the project's required parking facilities "at its own cost without any public assistance." But officials say that if public money is left from the project after other improvements are made, they hope to partially fund construction of the parking lots. The public money would keep parking rates lower, they say.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., said he is troubled by the lack of specific details on the deals so far.

"This is one of these deals where the devil is in the details," Coupal said. "We are always suspicious … particularly when there is a politically active player involved…. It would not surprise me if there wasn't a better deal for the taxpayers out there."

Broad strongly disagreed. Negotiations between the public agencies and Related produced "a great deal for the people," he said.

Related's Witte offered a more ambiguous response. Asked whether the Grand Avenue project is a good deal for his company, he paused for a moment before he responded: "I think ultimately, it's a fair deal for both sides. But you have to be willing to take a long view."

POLA
Aug 9, 2005, 8:07 AM
It would not surprise me if there wasn't a better deal for the taxpayers out there.

I understand that this deal is a little shady, but in some way the "my tax dollars" argument always seems so bullshitty to me. Can you really make that big of a deal about money that you have to pay regardless of where it's spent. It's not like on my paycheck I'm going to see a line saying "Grand Project" added. I just get the idea that Nimbys love to say "your tax dollars are being wasted" to get people all worried. Shit, so much of our tax dollars are wasted on a regualar basis, that this is penuts. That being said I hope for the best.

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 9, 2005, 2:47 PM
Wasting taxpayers money??? Check this out.

The transportation bill, passed in the U.S. Senate last week, authorized over $220 million for a 200 foot-high (61-metre-high) road bridge to connect Ketchikan, a city of fewer than 8,000, to a ferry-served island that holds the local airport and is home to about 50 people.

Another $229 million, out of a total package of $1 billion for Alaska, was earmarked for a 2-mile (3-km) bridge from Anchorage to a sparsely inhabited section of marshes and muskeg across the glacier-fed Knik Arm channel.

Those funds are for preliminary work, and estimates put the total cost of the bridges much higher, at more than $2 billion for the Knik Arm bridge alone.

If we're going to waste taxpayers money, I'd much rather it be right here in our backyard, then for the moron Senator from Alaska.

Bernd
Aug 9, 2005, 3:23 PM
Wasting taxpayers money??? Check this out.



If we're going to waste taxpayers money, I'd much rather it be right here in our backyard, then for the moron Senator from Alaska.

Tec Stevens kicks ass for Alaska. When was the last time Boxer was able to bring home this kind of cash for CA?

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 9, 2005, 4:25 PM
Sen. Stevens is an old fart that got his plum committee chair because he's a Republican and because he's critically important to the White House's push to drill in ANWAR.

Alaska needs a $2 billion bridge like I need a second asshole. $2 billion would build a subway to Westwood, but instead it's buying 8,000 people the convenience of not having to take the ferry to the airport.

Bringing home the bacon is one thing. Raiding the pork barrel is something completely different.

RAlossi
Aug 9, 2005, 5:01 PM
I hate that Joel Kotkin is ALWAYS quoted in almost every damn piece about LA! He's such an ignorant prick.

The Times is starting to sound more like the Daily News every day. Complain if there's taxpayers' money spent, complain if there isn't. And most of the tax money is going to be spent on things that we need (and that these newspapers complain about all the time) -- parks, street improvements, parking...

The point is, this is a great deal for the people of LA. It will boost tourism, it will provide MUCH-NEEDED housing that won't strain resources or add to traffic as much as a 2600-unit project in the Valley would. It's mostly privately funded... so stop the bitching already!

colemonkee
Aug 9, 2005, 5:12 PM
County officials may help the developer in another way. While not part of the development agreement, top county officials have talked about moving some county offices into new buildings that are slated to be part of the Grand Avenue project. The offices in question are now in the Hall of Administration and Stanley Mosk Courthouse — buildings that were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

That sounds like potential good news. Are these the buildings on either side of the park at Grand Ave?

The county Board of Supervisors votes on the deal today.

Let's hope they vote yes! :eat:

LAMetroGuy
Aug 9, 2005, 7:54 PM
i believe that these two buildings are on the north and south side of the park. They should just make one of the towers taller and combine the offices in the two old buildings. case solved, end of story!

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 10, 2005, 12:45 AM
^ If they were to do this, the single new building should be built along the north side of the park, to let the south side of the park open up to First Street and the rest of Downtown.

Bernd
Aug 10, 2005, 2:05 AM
Sen. Stevens is an old fart that got his plum committee chair because he's a Republican and because he's critically important to the White House's push to drill in ANWAR.

Alaska needs a $2 billion bridge like I need a second asshole. $2 billion would build a subway to Westwood, but instead it's buying 8,000 people the convenience of not having to take the ferry to the airport.

Bringing home the bacon is one thing. Raiding the pork barrel is something completely different.

I agree. Stevens is a grade A prick.

But it would be nice to have some of that raided pork come to CA, don't you think??

DJM19
Aug 10, 2005, 2:23 AM
if anyone should be in a position like that for transortation, its someone from california.

ryanist
Aug 10, 2005, 7:22 AM
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-grand10aug10,1,3842421.story

Gehry Is 'Excited' About Project

At a meeting attended by the architect, supervisors approve the Grand Avenue plan, which includes a public park and skyscrapers.

By Cara Mia DiMassa
Times Staff Writer

August 10, 2005

In an appearance Tuesday before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Frank Gehry made his first public statements about his new role as the primary architect of a $1.8-billion development planned on city and county land along Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles.

"I've already got one winner, and I didn't want to push my luck," said Gehry, the architect behind Walt Disney Concert Hall, which sits in the midst of the planned development.

"But the gods have willed it otherwise," he said, "and I am very excited about it."

Gehry, 76, has been tapped to design the project's iconic 40- to 50-story tower, and possibly at least one other skyscraper. He acknowledged the high expectations for the project, which has been touted by supporters as a plan to bring a center to a city that has long been without one, and said he understood the pressure and responsibility that now sit squarely on his shoulders.

"At my age, I didn't want to get involved with just an ordinary development," Gehry said. "Especially on this site, with everybody watching. It's high profile, and we're going to have to deliver a special thing, or else I am going to get run out of town. So the heat is on."

At the meeting, supervisors approved the Grand Avenue project, which includes a public park, skyscrapers, shopping areas and a movie theater, by a 4 to 1 vote, with Supervisor Mike Antonovich voting against the plan.

Under the terms of the plan approved Tuesday, the project's developer, Related Cos., and its investment partners will give the government agencies — the county and the city's Community Redevelopment Agency — $50 million as a down payment on the lease of the properties. That money, which represents initial lease proceeds, would be poured back into the development, funding traffic improvements, renovated streetscapes and the 16-acre terraced park that would run from Grand Avenue to the Civic Center.

But before the vote, some supervisors, including Antonovich, Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe, expressed concerns that a number of major issues in the deal — including the final cost of the public park and the extent to which the public entities will subsidize parking under the park — are still unresolved. Yaroslavsky said that information given to the supervisors about the parking issue "has been very amorphous."

Also still up in the air is the fate of the County Hall of Administration and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse — both of which have seismic issues and could eventually have some or all of their offices moved to a new office building at the corner of Hill and 1st streets, planned for the third phase of the Grand Avenue project.

The motion approved by the board included an amendment requiring that the county hold on to the parcel at 1st and Hill for a "reasonable" time until it decides where to relocate the county facilities.

If the county ultimately decides to build on that parcel, the motion says, it "will honor the intent of the Grand Avenue decision."

LosAngelesSportsFan
Aug 10, 2005, 7:55 AM
ihate Antonovich more and more every day. When is his damn term up.

POLA
Aug 10, 2005, 7:56 AM
...parking under the park...

You got to be kidding me

ps. ryanist, thanks for the recent posts, and cool web site with great pictures.

DJM19
Aug 10, 2005, 8:14 AM
damn that Antonovich

ocman
Aug 10, 2005, 8:24 AM
In addition, Related has said it plans to buy, at its own cost, a private parking lot along 2nd Street between Hill and Olive streets that would become part of the third phase of development. Under the current plan, that property would house a 35- to 40-story residential tower.

This was interesting. Was this already known or is this a new addition to the whole Grand Ave. Project?

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 10, 2005, 3:39 PM
Also still up in the air is the fate of the County Hall of Administration and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse — both of which have seismic issues and could eventually have some or all of their offices moved to a new office building at the corner of Hill and 1st streets, planned for the third phase of the Grand Avenue project.

The motion approved by the board included an amendment requiring that the county hold on to the parcel at 1st and Hill for a "reasonable" time until it decides where to relocate the county facilities.

If the county ultimately decides to build on that parcel, the motion says, it "will honor the intent of the Grand Avenue decision."

To me this is another sign of growing momentum to take down those county buildings...fantastic! The board amendment provides an actual means to accomplish this.

:cheers:

Now somebody on the Board has to be convinced to initiate the decision-making process. I think Molina would be ideal, given her stated interest in the issue.

cookiejarvis
Aug 10, 2005, 4:55 PM
ihate Antonovich more and more every day. When is his damn term up.

Sorry. There are no term limits for L.A. County Supes.

LAMetroGuy
Aug 10, 2005, 6:25 PM
Board OKs L.A. high-rise concept

Famed architect Gehry will help design downtown redevelopment project.

By Gordon Smith
Copley News Service

A conceptual plan for a $1.5 billion redevelopment project expected to dramatically alter downtown Los Angeles near Walt Disney Concert Hall was approved by the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The board approved the broad outline of a development proposal by the Related Companies to build a major new city park and up to 3.8 million square feet of high-rise condominiums, apartments, retail space and a hotel on five parcels near the gleaming, futuristic concert hall on downtown's Bunker Hill.



Architect Frank Gehry, who designed Disney concert hall and has agreed to help design the adjacent redevelopment project, appeared on behalf of the development team and jokingly told the board that he would deliver a "special" development "or I'm going to be run out of town."

The plan approved by the board includes about $40 million in public subsidies for affordable housing, infrastructure and streetscape improvements, and the hotel. The money is expected to come from rising tax revenues generated by the development.

In return, Related will pay a $50 million advance on future lease payments, which will be used to develop the three-block-long park between Grand Avenue and Spring Street. The park will include a civic plaza bordering City Hall.

William Witte, president of the Related Companies of California, noted that an "iconic" high-rise tower to be built directly across the street from the concert hall will house a hotel along with 200 condominiums that will sell for $960,000 to $1.28 million each.

The city of Los Angeles, its Community Redevelopment Agency and a joint city-county agency called the Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority all had previously approved the proposal by Related.

County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen called the agreement "a good deal for the county," but conceded there is an element of risk in pegging the public subsidies to rising property values in the area. Any shortfall in expected tax revenues could mean the city and county of Los Angeles will have to tap their general funds to keep the project moving forward.

"There's a high level of risk with any real-estate development," Janssen said.

Gehry will design the "iconic" tower and contribute to the design and layout of the other buildings in the project's initial phase.

"I was a bit reluctant to do this project, because I've already got one winner and I didn't want to push my luck," Gehry said, referring to the widely acclaimed Disney concert hall.

"At my age, I didn't want to get involved with just an ordinary development," added the 76-year-old Gehry, who won architecture's prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1989.

"But I believe we have a great opportunity here. I feel the responsibility and pressure, and I've taken it on, and I promise you I'm going to knock myself out to make this very special for all of us," he said.

City and county representatives will negotiate specifics of the development over the coming year with Related before construction is approved.

citywatch
Aug 10, 2005, 6:52 PM
By Gordon Smith

"There's a high level of risk with any real-estate development," Janssen said.
That's why the quality of the devlpt will have to be much better than average.

It's tough when demand for almost any type of new proj in DT hasn't been too great, be it for hotel rms, office space, retail, with almost all the burden now dependent on housing. If need for new apts & condos peaks way too early, & if demand remains slack in the other categories, then the Grand Ave proj, esp its timeline, could signify why the parcels of land it will rise on have remained deadzone parking lots or empty fields for so many decades. :hell:


"But I believe we have a great opportunity here. I feel the responsibility and pressure, and I've taken it on, and I promise you I'm going to knock myself out to make this very special for all of us," he said.
It's good to see Gehry's specific quotes about the proj. I thought after the group he was affiliated with was passed over by the Grand Ave committee in favor of Related & Forest City, that he had lost a lot of his original interest in the proj, even more so because his firm already has so many other projs to work or bid on.

LosAngelesSportsFan
Aug 13, 2005, 12:30 AM
Here is anothre article on this project from todays (8/12/05) LA DTnews.

Giving Grand Avenue a Sense of Place

Frank Gehry's Designs Offer Opportunities for a New Downtown Landmark

by Robert S. Harris

Sam Hall Kaplan often seems to get things right about urban design Downtown, but not in his latest diatribe about Frank Gehry and the Grand Avenue project ("Grand Concerns," August 1, 2005). Indeed, if all the reports are accurate, there is now the prospect of creating one of the most glorious public urban places in the United States.

To understand my enthusiasm, it is necessary not just to think about the "property" of the project, but especially about the larger place that is being created. This place will be formed on its west side by the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and on its east side partly by the signature tower for which Gehry is being commissioned.

But further, and significantly further, other buildings on the other side of Grand Avenue, across from Disney Hall, are now to be designed by architects sensitive to the qualities necessary to forming the new Grand Avenue place. Then, if my wishes were to come true, Gehry would be asked also to design a spectacular laser/digital clock tower at the corner of Grand and First streets. The "clock" would be useful to theater and concert goers, and its landmark character would mark the spot of Downtown's primary cultural center, with venues including the Music Center, Disney Hall, Colburn School and MOCA. At the base of this smaller landmark tower could be an information depot such as the "I" centers in cities across Europe. These are places where visitors can get information, buy postcards and memorabilia, and generally get their bearings.

So let us now imagine this new Plaza de Los Angeles framed by Disney Hall and the Gehry-designed project elements, with paving stretching seamlessly across Grand Avenue from façade to façade, the distinctions between vehicular and pedestrian areas marked by subtle paving changes and bollards whose lights at night would add liveliness. This plaza is then the place of first choice for special cultural events, and the place to stroll and to be seen. Add the transformation of Grand Avenue and First Street into a generous tree-lined promenade and we have a public center.

If imaginations will go this far with me, then perhaps next we can address the means for making a dramatic link north to a second, different but distinctive plaza connecting the Music Center and the transformed civic park.

In developer Related Cos.' $1.8 billion plan, Gehry's contributions are essential. The buildings on both sides of the Plaza de Los Angeles need to be worth seeing and worth visiting, and well enough related to each other in character to form a single, coherent place. The smaller "clock tower" is the local landmark seen easily from north and south along Grand Avenue, and from east and west along First Street. Meanwhile, the taller tower will be seen as a significant element of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline, viewed across the city as a landmark of the cultural center, just as City Hall is the landmark of the Civic Center.

Finally, but absolutely not least, if it is true that the distinguished landscape architect Laurie Olin has agreed to join the team, then the prospects for excellent open space design have been raised to a very high level. Mr. Olin's national and global practice includes Bryant Park in New York, Canada Square at the London Docklands, the Independence National Historic Park Master Plan, and the National Constitution Center and Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia. LACMA and the Getty Center are among his projects in Los Angeles. The reclamation and redesign of Bryant Park adjacent to the New York Public Library transformed it into one of the most beautiful and vibrant urban parks anywhere.

Three cheers for everyone involved, and even more cheers for Los Angeles and Downtown.

Robert S. Harris, FAIA, lives Downtown, was the chair of the Downtown Strategic Plan Advisory Committee, and is professor emeritus in the USC School of Architecture.

page 5, 8/15/2005

Swansea
Aug 13, 2005, 2:31 AM
^I like the clock tower idea

If it is true Laurie Olin is going to design the park then I hope he holds himself to the same standards Gehry is for this project. I'm not too fond of Olin's work as they come off a bit sterile.

edluva
Aug 13, 2005, 5:08 AM
Pershing sq isn't a good example of Olin's work. Partner Ricardo Legorreta deserves credit for a lot of the sterility - it more closely resembles his work.

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 13, 2005, 6:46 AM
^ Yeah, there's a lot of blame to go around for Pershing Square. Largely a result of "design by committee", the end product was full of concessions to people who didn't really care about having a park there anyway.

Swansea
Aug 13, 2005, 9:12 AM
I wansn't really refering to pershing sqare didnt he dogetty?? wahtevs. not like it maters this whole project is gonna sputter and fail jsut liek everthing else

BrandonJXN
Aug 13, 2005, 3:45 PM
^ Before saying what will and will not fail, you need to do something about your spelling skills. You are abusing the English language.

sbocguy
Aug 13, 2005, 4:41 PM
The Getty Center's gardens are a little sterile (still beautiful, tho), but they were done by Robert Irwin, not Olin...

Swansea
Aug 14, 2005, 1:46 AM
^ Before saying what will and will not fail, you need to do something about your spelling skills. You are abusing the English language.

I was drunk and neurotic. I usually can spell with ease. You can expect this on Friday nights. I love LA I swear.

RAlossi
Aug 14, 2005, 2:09 AM
I don't know what's sadder... the fact that you were drunk and posting here on a Friday night or the fact that I was sober and here to read it on Friday night =(

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 14, 2005, 7:28 AM
I was drunk and neurotic. I usually can spell with ease. You can expect this on Friday nights. I love LA I swear.

I had a feeling that was it. I know I've noticed two different Swamseas on these forums! :cheers:

Swansea
Aug 19, 2005, 4:40 PM
Grand Ave. Questions Raised

# Supervisors approved the $1.8-billion, 25-acre development despite a report stating that it may pose financial risks for Los Angeles County.

By Cara Mia DiMassa, Times Staff Writer

When Los Angeles County supervisors voted to approve a $1.8-billion project to revitalize downtown's Grand Avenue last week, they did so despite their own analyst's warnings that the project poses several financial risks for the county.

The warnings came in a previously unpublicized report that was obtained by The Times.


Allan D. Kotin, who frequently advises the county on real estate ventures, suggested in a report last month that the county could benefit from a more detailed analysis of the estimated development costs, according to the report.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 last week to give the go-ahead to the 25-acre development, which includes a public park, skyscrapers, shopping areas and a movie theater complex.

Much of the project is being built on land owned by the county, and Kotin's concerns underscore those of critics who have said the financing plan for Grand Avenue is vague on exactly how much the county would reap from the development.

Under the terms approved by the supervisors, the project's developer, Related Cos., and its investment partners are giving the government agencies $50 million up front as a down payment on the lease of the properties. But that money is expected to be poured back into the development, mostly to fund street improvements and the 16-acre public park between the Music Center and City Hall.

The plan calls for the county to get additional revenues in the future, based on rents for the apartments and stores.

Kotin, who was hired by the county to analyze the Grand Avenue economic plan, said the arrangement puts the county at risk if the project goes over budget or if the downtown real estate market cools. If the costs significantly increase, he wrote, the county could be required to provide subsidies — or the park might not be built.

"It's definitely not a revenue-maximizing plan for the landowner," he wrote in the report.

County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen, whose office commissioned Kotin's report, defended the Grand Avenue deal, calling it "a good deal for the county." He said that it took almost five years of complex financial arrangements and political negotiations to get the project off the ground.

"So to say, 'Gee, if you did it a different way, you might make more money,' doesn't make sense to me," Janssen said. "It took us five years to get here. Why would we stop on the off chance that we might be able to do it differently?"

Many of the Grand Avenue plan's backers have said that providing downtown Los Angeles with a civic center it can be proud of is an important goal of the project — and should be part of the county's decision on how to use the land. And they have said that the current deal is finally one on which the three public agencies involved — the county, the city and the city's Community Redevelopment Agency — can all agree.

But critics have raised questions about the financial details, saying that the public needs a much clearer understanding of what public agencies would ultimately gain and give for the project before moving forward.

At a Board of Supervisors meeting last week, Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the only board member to vote no on the project, called the Grand Avenue plan one "that regrettably leaves many questions unanswered…. There is relatively little information about the much-touted civic park, the primary selling point for the entire project."

Neither he nor Supervisor Gloria Molina, who serves with Janssen on the joint powers authority overseeing the Grand Avenue project, returned calls seeking comment.

The project seeks to add about 400,000 square feet of retail space, as many as 2,600 housing units and a 275-room hotel to the downtown area. Officials hope the project will tie together several downtown landmarks — including Disney Hall, the Music Center, MOCA and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels — into a vibrant pedestrian space where people would live and shop.

The exact terms of the plan won't be complete until a final development agreement is signed by the developer and the public agencies. But, according to a term sheet detailing the terms of the deal, the government agencies and Related have agreed on so-called incentive rents, which would take effect if property values continue to climb after the deal is approved.

The reliance on that initial large payment and smaller incentive rents could mean less money for the county in the short run, Kotin wrote. "Prepaid lease revenue is always much less valuable on a present-value basis to the public entity than is ongoing ground rent."

But Bill Witte, president of the Related Cos. of California, told the supervisors last week that that arrangement was necessary "for a very simple reason: It is impossible to finance for-sale condominiums if there are ongoing lease payments."

Kotin acknowledged that the fact that civic leaders have insisted on not using general fund money for any part of the project, including the park, has made it necessary to accept smaller rents in the future to fund the park now. "Given this imperative," he wrote, the use of prepaid ground lease revenue becomes rational."

In general, Kotin wrote, most of the assumptions made in the committee's financial analysis are reasonable.

But he warned that higher costs — or a slowdown in the real estate market — could adversely affect the project.

"The possibility of higher costs is worth of some further investigation," Kotin wrote. "If the costs are understated and in fact become higher, then the need for public assistance and/or the possibility the project would not get built both loom larger."

As part of their approval of the deal, the supervisors ordered Janssen "to prepare an independent risk analysis that analyzes market risk, potential escalating construction costs and a thorough identification of all proposed and future city, CRA and county subsidies that would be committed to the project…. "

Janssen said that he felt that the Kotin report showed that the county was getting a good value for the deal:

"We have a project here that does work. The property is going to be developed in a way that benefits the economy, the city, the county and the state, in terms of revenue."

BrighamYen
Aug 19, 2005, 4:57 PM
^ Once again, it's the fucker AntonoBITCH who's the dissent against something GOOD for LA.

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 19, 2005, 5:00 PM
^^ The City and County are not just landowners trying to maximize their investments. They are also responsible for creating a livable city, one that is attractive to individuals and investors will will inevitably even bring more money into the area.

In general, Kotin wrote, most of the assumptions made in the committee's financial analysis are reasonable.

It seems to me, Kotin is providing some general warnings and risk-assessments, but this L.A. Times article is making it bigger than it really is.

LongBeachUrbanist
Aug 19, 2005, 5:03 PM
^ Once again, it's the fucker AntonoBITCH who's the dissent against something GOOD for LA.

Antonovich was in office when they built the current failure of a park between those county buildings. (His name is on a plaque there.) :brickwall:

LosAngelesSportsFan
Aug 19, 2005, 6:50 PM
Kotkin again!?! why do they go to this idiot? all he spews is negativity. well, duh, if the market goes soft, any project is in jepoardy. does he not want anything built just because there is a chance that things might go bad? someone needs to ship that idiot across the country.

RAlossi
Aug 19, 2005, 9:11 PM
Allan D. Kotin is not Joel Kotkin... different person, similar last name.

As far as I can tell, anyway.

EDIT: But I was thinking the same thing when I scanned through the article quickly!

sbocguy
Aug 19, 2005, 9:12 PM
That's Allan D. Kotin, not Joel Kotkin, in the article...

EDIT: Beat me to it, ralossi...

And yes, the article does seem to be exaggerating the significance of the report...

LosAngelesSportsFan
Aug 19, 2005, 9:17 PM
oooops!! my bad. thanks for clarifying that.

colemonkee
Aug 19, 2005, 9:48 PM
^^ The City and County are not just landowners trying to maximize their investments. They are also responsible for creating a livable city, one that is attractive to individuals and investors will will inevitably even bring more money into the area.

LBU, that's a damn good point. You should write a letter to the Times in response to this article framed around that argument. I bet they would publish it.

bobcat
Aug 20, 2005, 7:51 PM
This a reminder for Colemonkee and anyone else that the Grand Avenue project community meeting will be held on Mon, Aug 22, 6pm-8pm at the LA Theater Center.

colemonkee
Aug 22, 2005, 6:37 PM
Thanks for the reminder. If I can get out of work on time today, I'lll try to make it down there. Anyone else planning on attending?

Swansea
Aug 22, 2005, 7:18 PM
edit

citywatch
Aug 23, 2005, 12:19 AM
This article doesn't cover any new ground & isn't worth more than a glance, but since it's from a newspaper based in Europe, the London Telegraph, I thought it was a good example of how changes for the better in DT LA are getting publicity, even from outside the US:


Things are looking up, downtown

The centre of Los Angeles was once considered a cultural wasteland, but now it has become a magnet for brave new architecture. Martha Read reports

'Downtown's so far away!" was the reaction artist Nigel Weymouth remembers from his friends when, a few years ago, he moved from the pleasant ocean-front community of Santa Monica to a loft in gritty downtown Los Angeles, 17 miles to the east. Indeed, until fairly recently, what culture Los Angeles had to offer outside the movie industry seemed to be centred around Santa Monica. This was where the city's most interesting architects, people such as Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, Michael Rotondi and Eric Owen Moss lived, worked, and taught at the progressive Southern California Institute of Architecture (known as SCI-Arc).

It was in Santa Monica that Gehry built his home in 1978, before property prices and conservationists made small-scale experimentation more difficult, and the LA architects engaged in innovative designs became known for a while as the "Santa Monica school".

Things have changed, and downtown LA, previously considered a cultural wasteland, has emerged as a cultural centre: an arena for the more mature works of some of LA's, and the world's, finest architects, as well as for the architecture of the next generation. In tandem with the gentrification of the hilly residential areas to the north, two areas in particular are drawing cultural tourists and new residents. Bunker Hill tops the bill, crowned by the gleaming stainless steel sails of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall - slightly less gleaming since they were sanded after local residents complained of the glare. His first large-scale work in his home city, it is said to be all the better for having come after the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Other major works are being built in the wake of the concert hall. Rafael Moneo recently completed the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, built of earth-coloured concrete and alabaster for America's largest Roman Catholic congregation. Further east towards Chinatown - itself burgeoning with new art galleries - a site is being levelled for a new school of the performing arts by the radical Austrian firm Coop Himmelblau, who reject the functionalist approach to architecture in favour of a more spontaneous design process, finding building forms in sketches they make while blindfold and drunk.

At the moment, the areas between the landmarks of Bunker Hill are littered with dusty car parks and empty lots. However, Gehry has been commissioned to re-design an area the size of 12 city blocks across the road from his masterpiece on Grand Avenue. The new development - his second major urban project after the Brooklyn Atlantic Rail Yards - will transform the area with a 16-acre park, as well as new housing, cinemas, shops, and a "boutique" hotel. A mile or so south-east of the concert hall, in Little Tokyo, is an earlier work by Gehry, before he had multi-million dollar budgets and advanced computer technology at his disposal. The Geffen Museum of Contemporary Art, converted in 1983 from an old police station and a hardware warehouse, has none of the expressionistic curves of the concert hall, but the inside spaces lend themselves well to viewing art, and the entrance canopy, topped by chain-link fencing, shows his early interest in using cheap and unusual materials.

The area has recently acquired a new piece of world-class architecture, confirming Little Tokyo as an area the cultural tourist should not miss. Thom Mayne's office building for the local California Transportation district was not designed blindfold, but nor is it entirely rational. A beautiful monolithic block on two sides, it is overlaid with perforated aluminium shutters that move automatically to shield the interior from direct sunlight. Around the front entrance, which is dominated by an oversized street number, the block disintegrates: elements jut out above street level, and in the courtyard, the skin breaks away from the building to form jagged canopies. The outdoor atrium is lined with horizontal neon lights - an installation by New York artist Keith Sonnier reminiscent of slow-release photographs of freeways at night.

Thom Mayne's firm, Morphosis, has been known for years among architects and students for its unbuilt works: a number of competition entries sealed its status as a relentlessly experimental firm, bent on creating unconventional forms out of unconventional materials. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mayne found it hard to find clients willing to produce the money to build his works, or the forbearance to work with a man determined to get his way. A restaurant in Beverly Hills and a school east of LA were oases in a desert of speculation, and he kept his uncompromising practice going with a teaching job at SCI-Arc and student interns. The approach has finally paid off: Mayne recently joined Gehry in the pantheon of Pritzker Prize-winners, considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for architects.

Mayne and Gehry's architectural principles are institutionalised in SCI-Arc: Mayne was a co-founder of the school, both architects have taught there, and the current director, leading LA architect Eric Moss, shares the view that the discipline of architecture should be restless and provocative. Five years ago, SCI-Arc moved from west LA to the edge of Little Tokyo, adding to the cultural action with lectures and exhibitions. Many of SCI-Arc's young teachers, the future Maynes and Gehrys, have their offices nearby, and some are building their first works in and around downtown.

The more intrepid cultural tourist will venture into Skid Row to see young architect Alexis Rochas's undulating sunshelter for the homeless, designed and built with his students at SCI-Arc out of recycled polyurethane panels. Its sculptural presence relieves the monotony of the usual backdrop for the downtown dispossessed, and shows that socially responsible architecture doesn't need to be drab.

Comparisons to 1970s Manhattan often arise when discussing downtown LA: many of the buildings are of the same era and style, and Manhattan set the trend for living in lofts. However, at street level, the older parts of downtown feel more like Mexico City than New York. In a recent lecture on the development of downtown, delivered at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Eric Moss underlined the need to allow LA to find its own identity, rather than look to other, older cities for guidance.

A young city, LA is still in its formative years, but so long as its unusual local architectural talent is involved, it is in little danger of developing in a way that is predictable or conventional. Whatever happens, downtown is set to play an integral role in the future of the city. Meanwhile, Santa Monica is in danger of becoming considered "far away".

colemonkee
Aug 23, 2005, 4:58 PM
Speaking of no new news to report, I went to the meeting last night and have just exactly that. Here's a recap:

The meeting started about half an hour late (I know this because I arrived half an hour late and they hadn't started yet). They started out by giving a recap of the developement overall (which is not worth mentioning here - we already know all of it), then going over the "Community Benefits" - 20% affordable housing, thousands of new jobs, $600+ million in expected annual tax revenues for the City and County. This was run by a guy from Related and a lady from the Grand Avenue Committee. This part of the presentation seemed remarkably unorganized. No new designs or plans were shown.

Then they opened it up to questions from the audience, which took up the rest of the meeting. There were some good questions and comments from the crowd, including suggestions that they look at Millenium Park in Chicago as a model for the park (the guy from Related noted that they have hired the master planner of Millenium Park as the master planner for the Grand Ave. Park, from SOM).

There were also questions about street interaction and a lively streetscape. This was answered in typically vague fashion, but at least they noted that they are going to make the street "very pedestrian friendly with lots of street interaction along Grand". They were still wrestling with how to treat First street, but said that they planned on making it the "entrance" from the park.

As for the County Courthouse and Hall of Administration Buildings, both the presenters mentioned, without provocation from the crowd, that they would like to see those buildings go, and that public support for tearing those buildings down was growing. However, because it is 100% the county's decision what to do with those buildings, they have to plan the park and the development with the assumption that the buildings are staying put. If the County decides to tear them down, then they'll have to secure additional (private) funds to use and improve that land as sort of a "Phase 2" of the park.

As for the first Phase, Gehry will be designing the 50-story hotel/condo tower, and will have a heavy hand in design of the retail portion and the 20-something story tower (which will include the affordable housing). They said they may bring in a smaller local firm to design those buildings, but Gehry will most likely draft the construction drawings (for Phase 2 as well), so he'll have a lot of say in how those buildings look.

Gehry will also be determining how the development defines the new "urban LA" as they put it. In other words, it will be Gehry who determines how (and how much) the whole development interacts with the street. He said that East Coast definitions of urban design will be considered, but aren't necessarily the end all. I'm kind of mixed about this, given Gehry's relative inexperience with designing urban retail developments (the only one I've seen is his plan for the Brooklyn/Nets stadium and mixed use project), and the way that Disney Hall is a dead zone on every street other than Grand.

The Downtown Connector was mentioned as well, by both the presenters and the audience. The presenters said that they were studying how to integrate it into the design, and were working with the MTA on the feasibility and planning of it. Because it must be funded by the MTA, it won't be included in the 1.8 billion dollar budget for this project, so don't expect it to be included in plans - it will be more of an addition kind of thing later on. They did say, however, that the MTA did consider it a priority.

Finally, one piece of un-Related (pun fully intented) news, when questions about whether a movie theater would go into the first phase of the project were answered with a "most likely not", one of the audience members informed everyone that the Los Angeles Theater and one other theater on Broadway that I can't remember the name of would be opening up as regular movie houses within 6-8 months. LAB or LAMG, have either of you heard about this or do you have a way to verify this? I think that would be HUGE for the area, Broadway in particular.

That's about it. I thought that the Related guy answered a lot of questions very well, even when it was obvious that he had to be vague because the real answers were still being worked out behind the scenes. The impression that I got was that while this thing is still being planned out and designed, that Related is doing everything they can to make sure this is successful not only for them profit-wise, but for the city as a whole and for the immediate surrounding communities. In fact, he mentioned a number of times that execution of ideas is just as important as the ideas themselves, which really reinforces my impression that they will pay great attention to detail. That, IMO, is a very good thing.

bobcat
Aug 23, 2005, 6:32 PM
Finally, one piece of un-Related (pun fully intented) news, when questions about whether a movie theater would go into the first phase of the project were answered with a "most likely not", one of the audience members informed everyone that the Los Angeles Theater and one other theater on Broadway that I can't remember the name of would be opening up as regular movie houses within 6-8 months. LAB or LAMG, have either of you heard about this or do you have a way to verify this? I think that would be HUGE for the area, Broadway in particular.



Thanks for the report, Colemonkee!

I think this is VERY interesting news on 2 counts. The first is that the LA Theater would be operating again. That's generally considered the most elaborate and opulant of all the Broadway theaters and that would be fantastic news.

Second, if there isn't going to be a movie theater in phase 1, I hope it means they are going to be putting in a live entertainment venue.

Bernd
Aug 23, 2005, 6:41 PM
With the new Regal opening at L.A. Live, there will be no need for any additional screens in the downtown area. The market size can't support it.

Wright Concept
Aug 23, 2005, 6:45 PM
"The Downtown Connector was mentioned as well, by both the presenters and the audience. The presenters said that they were studying how to integrate it into the design, and were working with the MTA on the feasibility and planning of it. Because it must be funded by the MTA, it won't be included in the 1.8 billion dollar budget for this project, so don't expect it to be included in plans - it will be more of an addition kind of thing later on. They did say, however, that the MTA did consider it a priority."

Cool, A hell of a lot more information than at the August 2nd meeting.

One side note, Martha Welbourne who sits on the Grand Avenue Committee also sits on the Expo Construction Board, along with Councilwoman Jan Perry(who also sits on the Grand Avenue panel) who as of late is getting to like the idea, I think that in a couple of years they'll lay the "foundation" for this connector to actually get built and integrate itself into the development and be operational in 8-10 years or even sooner.

Hearing all of this good information is a nice birthday present for me before I head out of town for a little bit.

BrighamYen
Aug 23, 2005, 6:50 PM
^ I have not heard anything about the Los Angeles Theater returning to operation as a movie palace. In fact, it's common knowledge around here that the owners of that theater are incredibly selfish and even the notion of converting the theater into a parking structure like the old Broadway? dept store!!! So if indeed that theater is slated to reopen as a movie palace, I would scream BLOODY CHEERS! LOL :D

The other theater was mentioned in the DT News recently. It's the Million Dollar Theater, and that is going to be renovated and brought back to life.

BrighamYen
Aug 23, 2005, 6:52 PM
I am working with someone right now actually to bring a cineplex into DTLA. (Even before the Regal opens in LA Live)

colemonkee
Aug 23, 2005, 6:57 PM
^ Happy birthday, PracticalVisionary!

^^ Bernd, according to the guy at the meeting, these screens will open up approximately 18 months before the Regal Cinemas open up in LA Live. Remember, LA Live is a phased development, which won't be complete until 2009. Nothing I've read has the cinemas as part of the first Phase (currently listed as the underground parking and Nokia Theater.

I think they'll do just fine for the first year or two, then they'll have to reevaluate their model when the Regal opens.

colemonkee
Aug 23, 2005, 6:59 PM
^ I have not heard anything about the Los Angeles Theater returning to operation as a movie palace. In fact, it's common knowledge around here that the owners of that theater are incredibly selfish and even the notion of converting the theater into a parking structure like the old Broadway? dept store!!! So if indeed that theater is slated to reopen as a movie palace, I would scream BLOODY CHEERS! LOL :D

The other theater was mentioned in the DT News recently. It's the Million Dollar Theater, and that is going to be renovated and brought back to life.

Great news on the Million Dollar Theater. On the Los Angeles Theater, I was merely passing on what this guy said. Hopefully it's true, but I have no way to check the validity of his statements...

Wright Concept
Aug 23, 2005, 7:09 PM
^ Happy birthday, PracticalVisionary!

^^ Bernd, according to the guy at the meeting, these screens will open up approximately 18 months before the Regal Cinemas open up in LA Live. Remember, LA Live is a phased development, which won't be complete until 2009. Nothing I've read has the cinemas as part of the first Phase (currently listed as the underground parking and Nokia Theater.

I think they'll do just fine for the first year or two, then they'll have to reevaluate their model when the Regal opens.

First off thanks.

Second with the theater set-up they could easily market the theater on Broadway (after LA Live opens) to Spanish speaking audiences or as an Independent Film house/arts center.

bobcat
Aug 23, 2005, 7:14 PM
^^ Bernd, according to the guy at the meeting, these screens will open up approximately 18 months before the Regal Cinemas open up in LA Live. Remember, LA Live is a phased development, which won't be complete until 2009. Nothing I've read has the cinemas as part of the first Phase (currently listed as the underground parking and Nokia Theater.

I think they'll do just fine for the first year or two, then they'll have to reevaluate their model when the Regal opens.

More than likely any renovated theaters on Broadway will have to be used for a variety of purposes, including hollywood productions, live entertainment, and showing films. I also happen to think at least one or two or them could do a brisk business showing classic films with an organ accompanist.

As for LA Live, my impression is that AEG is trying to get everything completed as soon as possible and that all of the elements may actually be under construction at the same time. In a recent interview Ted Tanner said their goal was to have everything completed by 2008. However, the Nokia Theatre would open for business before everything else is completed. This makes sense to me, as the Nokia Theatre can probably be successful on its own, whereas the success of the hotel, retail, and cinemas are more dependent on each other.

LAMetroGuy
Aug 23, 2005, 7:32 PM
Well, I have not heard of anything over the Los Angeles Theater. From my understanding, the LA Theater has a new theater manager and it is possible that maybe he/she might be thinking about having first run movies, but the theater would not make any money because it would require a huge expense to get the theater in shape to be able to show movies and in addition the expense of staff. So, I really doubt that the LA Theater is planning on anything anytime soon. The theater accross the street, the Palace Theater, it will have a film shoot for three months (January thru March), since they are filming Dreamgirls (staring Beyonce). Maybe someone confused the movie filming with the theater showing a movie???

The Million Dollar Theater is currently being "fixed" it has scafolding up trying to fix the proscenium (bring it to earthquake code)... they still have a long way to go to get it ready for the programming director to begin booking acts.

We shall see... regardless it was good that someone brought it to the attention of Grand Avenue. It is important that Grand Avenue and LA Live take into consideration the theaters along Broadway and how important they are to Los Angeles and its history.

BrighamYen
Aug 23, 2005, 7:33 PM
^ Agreed!

colemonkee
Aug 23, 2005, 8:27 PM
We shall see... regardless it was good that someone brought it to the attention of Grand Avenue. It is important that Grand Avenue and LA Live take into consideration the theaters along Broadway and how important they are to Los Angeles and its history.

Maybe clarifying the context as to how it was brought up in the meeting will shed more light on it. Maybe not, but here it goes. A question was brought up by an audience member about whether or not movie theaters would be included in Grand Ave. The Related buy answered with "most likely not", then stated that movie theaters are difficult to plan for given the amount of retail space they have to work with AND that LA Live is considered the sports and entertainment-themed development. Upon hearing this, the audience member (who apparently lives very close to the Grand Ave. site), expressed disappointment at not having a good theater downtown. Two questions later, another audience member addressed the rest of the audience directly and said: "to everyone who is concerned with not having a movie theater downtown, you should know that the Los Angeles Theater and (as LAB has posted) the Million Dollar Theater should be opening up in roughly six months to start showing movies. He didn't specify whether they would be first run, independent or what, but he made the statement in the manner of a promotion. At least that was my read.

LongBeachUrbanist
Sep 11, 2005, 4:09 AM
I got this in my "snail mail" about a week ago.

EIR SCOPING MEETING
Posted September 7, 2005

The Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority will be the Lead Agency and has selected a consultant to assist in the preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR) for the proposed Grand Avenue Project.

An informational open house and scoping meeting will be held to receive public testimony regarding the appropriate scope and content of the environmental information to be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Report. The open house and public scoping meeting for this project will be held on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the following location:

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Center at Cathedral Plaza, Meeting Room 6, First Floor
555 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

For more information, please view the "Notice of Preparation and Scoping Meeting." (http://www.grandavenuecommittee.org/images/PDF/nop.pdf)

colemonkee
Sep 11, 2005, 7:32 AM
I got this too. Won't be able to make it, though, with work picking up in a big way throughout September. Will anyone be able to attend? I'm not sure there will be much new info, but it would be interesting to see what the "public" wants included in the EIR.

LongBeachUrbanist
Sep 11, 2005, 8:05 AM
^I've got the opposite problem - no work at all! So I'll try to make it if I'm still unemployed two weeks from now.

BobbyWLA
Sep 11, 2005, 11:15 PM
^ Happy birthday, PracticalVisionary!

^^ Bernd, according to the guy at the meeting, these screens will open up approximately 18 months before the Regal Cinemas open up in LA Live. Remember, LA Live is a phased development, which won't be complete until 2009. Nothing I've read has the cinemas as part of the first Phase (currently listed as the underground parking and Nokia Theater.

I think they'll do just fine for the first year or two, then they'll have to reevaluate their model when the Regal opens.

First off thanks.

Second with the theater set-up they could easily market the theater on Broadway (after LA Live opens) to Spanish speaking audiences or as an Independent Film house/arts center.

Or they could show American movies with Spanish subtitles, or dubbed, with those horrible Spanish-translated titles and everything :)
I actually don't know of any theater that does show movies with Spanish subtitles in L.A.

LAMetroGuy
Sep 13, 2005, 1:18 AM
I noticed this article and thought it was somewhat relevant:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/southern_counties/4238470.stm

They post a picture of the final plans for a controversial development project on Hove seafront by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry ... which is pretty ugly. :eek:
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/40600000/jpg/_40600400_king_alfred_towers_203.jpg


They also show a picture of the Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall and call it the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. :no:
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/39223000/jpg/_39223089_guggenheim203.jpg


We just don't get any respect!

LAMetroGuy
Sep 13, 2005, 1:19 AM
by the way, "they" is the BBC news!

Easy
Sep 13, 2005, 1:39 AM
Are you sure that's not the Guggenheim?

Bernd
Sep 13, 2005, 2:14 AM
Not unless this:

http://photos.minman.com/europe2001/0225_bilbao/bilbao018.jpg

has suddenly morphed into this:

http://ia33.org/images/downtown/Disney_Hall_day_corner_350.jpg

DJM19
Sep 13, 2005, 2:23 AM
That is an ugly tower...but I recall Frank saying it wouldnt be one of his wild designs.

ksep
Sep 13, 2005, 3:20 AM
Or they could show American movies with Spanish subtitles, or dubbed, with those horrible Spanish-translated titles and everything :)
I actually don't know of any theater that does show movies with Spanish subtitles in L.A.

some of the broadway theaters, like the orpheum, used to show those movies until just a few years ago.

LAMetroGuy
Sep 20, 2005, 6:15 PM
Sound Off on Grand Avenue



Downtowners this week will get a chance to weigh in on one of the community's most anticipated projects. An open house is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 20, to discuss Related Cos. proposed Grand Avenue Project, a $1.8 billion plan to turn nine acres on Bunker Hill into a multiuse complex of 400,000 square feet of retail, a 225-room hotel, 2,600 residential units and a 16-acre civic park. The Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority is looking for input as it prepares a draft Environmental Impact Report. The meeting is 6-8 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St. Call (213) 452-6219 or visit grandavenuecommittee.org.

colemonkee
Sep 20, 2005, 9:10 PM
Dammit. That's right down the street from me, but I have plans for tonight. Is anyone able to go? Anyone who is able should go and voice concern over those County buildings. They've been receptive to comments before, but in a very non-commital sort of way.

BrighamYen
Sep 20, 2005, 9:58 PM
^ DOWN WITH THE COUNTY BUILDINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

colemonkee
Sep 21, 2005, 6:44 PM
Did anyone go last night?

bobcat
Oct 31, 2005, 6:02 AM
GRAND GESTURE, SHORT SIGHTED?
Morris Newman

http://www.theslatinreport.com/top_story.jsp?StoryName=1031gehrygrand.txt&Topic=Design&fromPage=

As the rebirth of downtown Los Angeles hums along, spurred by the reclamation of numerous obsolete office buildings as apartments and condos and the slow but steady leasing of office space in more contemporary towers, the 3 million-square-foot Grand Avenue Development Project looms ever larger. Grand Avenue is downtown's – and, indeed, L.A.'s – pre-eminent commercial project in the making.

So why should anyone think twice about the Grand Avenue developer Related Companies' choice of architectural fountainhead Frank Gehry to design a high-rise building as part of its scheme for the site?

Gehry is the best-known architect in the world, a household name. Further, the Grand Avenue project, planned for downtown Los Angeles, is literally a stone’s throw away from Gehry's steel-clad wunderbau known as the Disney Concert Hall?a universally praised work of architectural virtuosity that makes everything else around it look cautious, brittle and arthritically stiff. With that triumph and Gehry’s bankable name, why would anyone be contrarian enough to suggest that the decision to bring a high-rise Gehry into this high-rise scheme is anything but brilliant?

As difficult as it is to believe, however, there are serious concerns about whether Gehry is an appropriate choice. Influential critics are not only raising questions about the direction Gehry’s recent work has taken, but also they hint that his idiosyncratic style could overwhelm a potentially great project.

Christopher Hawthorne, the Los Angles Times architecture critic, has suggested that former bad-boy Pritzker Prize-winner Gehry might be a pinch hitter brought to replace still somewhat bad-boy for Thom Mayne, the famously argumentative and still naughty recent Pritzker Prize winner. Mayne was the original architectural celebrity on Related’s design-build team. Mayne, too, has produced a fine work in downtown Los Angeles, the CalTrans Building, which opened a year ago.

The selection of Gehry cannot be dismissed as a purely commercial ploy, though it certainly has its place in the ongoing effort to sell the Grand Avenue plan. The same can be said even more emphatically about Forest City Ratner's ambitious Atlantic Railyards plan in Brooklyn, where Gehry has been hired to master plan huge district with thousands of housing units, all anchored by a basketball arena. There is no reason why architecture, especially good architecture, should not be part of a marketing package. And isn’t it a good thing that the development world has come far enough to value architecture’s marketing value (not to mention its long-term enhancement to asset value?).

So what can we expect from Gehry, who has designed very few high-rise buildings, and built virtually none? He was a finalist a few years ago in the competition for a new headquarters building for The New York Times in Times Square -- and was strongly supported by that paper’s design critic Herbert Muschamp, who took a higher profile in the discussion than his disinterested role of critic would seem to warrant. Gehry's submission – designed in tandem with David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – was beaten out by Italy’s Renzo Piano. (Childs and Gehry teamed up in the 1980s to propose a high-rise at New York's Pennsylvania Station, and Childs is also a member of the Related consulting team on Grand Avenue.) In Gehry’s Guggenheim-originated museum retrospective, we saw several of the models for the Times Square building on display?models that outwardly seemed to be little more than variations on “a bump here, a wiggle there.” The building was more exciting than Gehry’s mid-1980s skyscraper design for a Cleveland headquarters for Progressive Insurance, designed but never built for longtime Gehry patron Peter Lewis. (Lewis recently resigned from the Guggenheim Museum board after failing to oust another longtime Gehry patron, director Thomas Krens. One Krens supporter who hung tough: Related chairman Steve Ross.) (That building design was notable primarily for the Claes Oldenburg sculpture of a folded newspaper that sat on its roof, a leitmotif Gehry did not reprise for the Gray Lady.)

Rightly or wrongly, those models seemed to validate fears that Gehry was designing from the outside in, giving primacy to the sculptural shell rather than to the interior spaces, as dictated by Modernist doctrine. The larger issue, perhaps, is why Gehry would want to design a tall building in the first place. (Because it's there?) High-rise buildings are a notoriously inflexible building type – for the New York Times Co., Piano’s own solution is a slender, elegant, straight-up-and-down shaft that makes the most of verticality while showing a keen awareness of the New York skyline.

One fear for Gehry is that he has gotten into the business of cranking out Gehries?much as production architects, even those that practice good design, are devoted to, well, production. Another comparison is to routiniers such as Richard Meier and Charles Gwathmey, who have turned out predictable jewel boxes with their own signatures writ large. Gehry’s flaccid building at M.I.T. was a disturbing suggestion to this writer that the architect has already settled into a self-indulgent “late period” of off-hand virtuosity.

Such virtuosity begins to ring hollow, because it solves no problems and addresses addresses no issues beyond its own composition and construction. Assessing a design problem requires an open mind, taking the largest possible view of both the immediate site and the urban-design implications for surrounding buildings and spaces. But Gehry can only design in one mode, and that is the starring role, belting out show stoppers at the top of his lungs. He is the Ethel Merman of architecture.

The irony is that a full-voiced Gehry building could dilute the impact of the nearly adjacent Disney Hall, which should retain its position as central focus of any new development on Grand Avenue – and, of course, this building will be just one of three skyscrapers built for the Grand Avenue project. If Related truly wants to build a collection of high-rise stunners by world-class architects, wouldn’t other choices promise not just more variety but also more tension? And the sculptural approach may not work for a functional office building. Consider the ill-fated collaboration on the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero between artsy, avant-gardist Daniel Libeskind (would you believe the Judy Garland of architecture, making art out of collective angst?) and business-minded David Childs.

In short, Related is retailing the Gehry signature, at a time when Gehry is leaning perilously close to self-parody. As a marketing ploy, it is swell. As a premise for architecture and cogent place-making, in a downtown arena whose recovery needs all the help it can get, it poses one question after another.

ocman
Oct 31, 2005, 10:27 AM
More discussions at the Norman Lear Center
http://www.learcenter.org/html/about/?&cm=grand

Playing with parks
# What if you could mix Disneyland and Central Park and put it in downtown L.A.?

By Neal Gabler, Neal Gabler, a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg, is the author of "Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality."

ALL URBAN PARKS are a dialogue between nature and man, the fortuitous and the planned, the contemplative and the active, the spiritual and the temporal, the moment and history. It is a dialogue that has been going on for more than 100 years, and though its results vary, our urban parks have usually wound up at one pole or the other, subject to one theory or another, so that the dialogue usually turns out to be a monologue.

What I propose for the Grand Avenue Project's 16-acre public space is that two fundamental ideas of park design be merged to create an area that is both a pastoral wilderness and a theme park. In effect, it would be a park in constant dialogue with itself.

ADVERTISEMENT
At one end of the conceptual spectrum is the 19th century idea of the park as a retreat from the city that surrounds it. This was the guiding principle of Frederick Law Olmsted, whose Central Park in New York provided the model for urban parks well into the 20th century. As Olmsted saw it, Central Park posed a "class of opposite conditions" to that of the city. If the city promoted activity, the park advanced leisure. If the city pushed concrete and asphalt, the park promoted grass and trees. If the city represented urban materialism, the park represented rustic spirituality.

Olmsted wanted Central Park to be a raw wilderness, but he recognized the impracticality of turning 843 acres over entirely to nature. Instead, he settled on a compromise of the untamed and the controlled — a partly manufactured wilderness with grassy fields, small forests, man-made lakes and manicured pathways. This prompted some critics to complain about the park's artificiality. A park may be for man, they griped, but it should not be by man.

Artificiality marks what urban historian Galen Cranz called the park as "recreation facility," the other end of the conceptional spectrum.

In this view, the park was an active space continuous with the surrounding city, where one could play ball, fly a kite, dance or listen to a symphony. Here one didn't want to maintain the idea of nature but the idea of use. The park as recreation facility was a means to an end, while the park as pastoral oasis was an end in itself.

One may not think of Disneyland in Anaheim as an urban park. But if Central Park was the apotheosis of the pastoral park, Disneyland is, in many respects, the apotheosis of the recreation facility, with one fillip: Walt Disney redefined recreation not as something one did but as something one experienced.

Like Olmsted, Disney viewed his park as a world separate from its surroundings — a place that existed either in the past or the future but never in the present. And he erected a berm around it to seal out the real world. Yet like the recreationists, Disney believed in the primacy of use over nature. He conceived of the park as a kind of giant movie set on which visitors could be protagonists enjoying vicarious adventures on various attractions. Disney created a separate imaginative space that borrowed heavily from movie archetypes. For instance, the Jungle Cruise is modeled after "The African Queen." Every passenger can be Humphrey Bogart or Katharine Hepburn.

So how does one take Olmsted's pastoral ideal and meld it with Disney's recreational one for the Grand Avenue park?

Most of the park, and certainly its perimeter, would be a small-scale version of Olmsted's wilderness, with as little human intervention as practically possible. Nature would prevail here. There would be trees and wildflowers and paths snaking through them. This space would provide a clean break from the city.

But within this wilderness would be several "pockets," small open spaces reflective of our contemporary idealization of the park experience. These pockets would be permanent movie sets — designed as movie sets, lighted as movie sets, perhaps even accompanied by a piped-in movie soundtrack. Like Disneyland's attractions, they would be purposely and purposefully artificial and archetypal. For example, at the center of the park could be the Platonic fountain of our mind's eye. At another spot, perhaps, a small town square. At another, a lamplight and bench a la the dance scene in the park from Frank Capra's "You Can't Take It With You." At another spot, a scene from "Panic in Needle Park." At still another, a quaint ice-skating rink from any number of films, complete with artificial snow. There is really no limit to the possibilities.

Visitors to these stylized Hollywood-movie versions of the American park might think of them as a series of stages on which to exercise their imaginations, dip into their memories or share a collective memory.

All these pockets would be interactive. People could climb on the fountain or sit on the benches or skate on the rink — and on these stages, the real visitors at the perimeter of the park or in its wilderness areas might become role-playing visitors, thus changing their relationship to the park and their consciousness of it.

For Los Angeles, the world capital of entertainment, this concept clearly has special relevance. L.A. purveys illusion. So would elements of this park. L.A. embraces artifice. So would elements of the park. L.A. trades in archetypes. So would elements of the park. L.A. extols performance. So would elements of the park.

In short, the park would be a monument to the power of the motion-picture image and to the elasticity of the American identity.

But it would also address the larger, fundamental issues of what is the definition of an urban park and serve as a living disquisition upon it. This would be a park in which the dialogue between wilderness and artifice, between the pastoral conception of the park and the recreational one, between the 19th century and the 21st century, between nature and mind would never end. They would instead exist in constant contrast to one another and in constant debate with one another.

My proposed park would not be one thing or the other, neither Central Park nor Disneyland, but something new — a park in which experience translates into ideas, a park in which the contemplative visitor is given something to contemplate. That is something worth considering: an idea for a park and a real park all in one.

Swansea
Oct 31, 2005, 4:26 PM
More discussions at the Norman Lear Center
http://www.learcenter.org/html/about/?&cm=grand

Playing with parks
# What if you could mix Disneyland and Central Park and put it in downtown L.A.?

By Neal Gabler, Neal Gabler, a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg, is the author of "Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality."

ALL URBAN PARKS are a dialogue between nature and man, the fortuitous and the planned, the contemplative and the active, the spiritual and the temporal, the moment and history. It is a dialogue that has been going on for more than 100 years, and though its results vary, our urban parks have usually wound up at one pole or the other, subject to one theory or another, so that the dialogue usually turns out to be a monologue.

What I propose for the Grand Avenue Project's 16-acre public space is that two fundamental ideas of park design be merged to create an area that is both a pastoral wilderness and a theme park. In effect, it would be a park in constant dialogue with itself.

ADVERTISEMENT
At one end of the conceptual spectrum is the 19th century idea of the park as a retreat from the city that surrounds it. This was the guiding principle of Frederick Law Olmsted, whose Central Park in New York provided the model for urban parks well into the 20th century. As Olmsted saw it, Central Park posed a "class of opposite conditions" to that of the city. If the city promoted activity, the park advanced leisure. If the city pushed concrete and asphalt, the park promoted grass and trees. If the city represented urban materialism, the park represented rustic spirituality.

Olmsted wanted Central Park to be a raw wilderness, but he recognized the impracticality of turning 843 acres over entirely to nature. Instead, he settled on a compromise of the untamed and the controlled — a partly manufactured wilderness with grassy fields, small forests, man-made lakes and manicured pathways. This prompted some critics to complain about the park's artificiality. A park may be for man, they griped, but it should not be by man.

Artificiality marks what urban historian Galen Cranz called the park as "recreation facility," the other end of the conceptional spectrum.

In this view, the park was an active space continuous with the surrounding city, where one could play ball, fly a kite, dance or listen to a symphony. Here one didn't want to maintain the idea of nature but the idea of use. The park as recreation facility was a means to an end, while the park as pastoral oasis was an end in itself.

One may not think of Disneyland in Anaheim as an urban park. But if Central Park was the apotheosis of the pastoral park, Disneyland is, in many respects, the apotheosis of the recreation facility, with one fillip: Walt Disney redefined recreation not as something one did but as something one experienced.

Like Olmsted, Disney viewed his park as a world separate from its surroundings — a place that existed either in the past or the future but never in the present. And he erected a berm around it to seal out the real world. Yet like the recreationists, Disney believed in the primacy of use over nature. He conceived of the park as a kind of giant movie set on which visitors could be protagonists enjoying vicarious adventures on various attractions. Disney created a separate imaginative space that borrowed heavily from movie archetypes. For instance, the Jungle Cruise is modeled after "The African Queen." Every passenger can be Humphrey Bogart or Katharine Hepburn.

So how does one take Olmsted's pastoral ideal and meld it with Disney's recreational one for the Grand Avenue park?

Most of the park, and certainly its perimeter, would be a small-scale version of Olmsted's wilderness, with as little human intervention as practically possible. Nature would prevail here. There would be trees and wildflowers and paths snaking through them. This space would provide a clean break from the city.

But within this wilderness would be several "pockets," small open spaces reflective of our contemporary idealization of the park experience. These pockets would be permanent movie sets — designed as movie sets, lighted as movie sets, perhaps even accompanied by a piped-in movie soundtrack. Like Disneyland's attractions, they would be purposely and purposefully artificial and archetypal. For example, at the center of the park could be the Platonic fountain of our mind's eye. At another spot, perhaps, a small town square. At another, a lamplight and bench a la the dance scene in the park from Frank Capra's "You Can't Take It With You." At another spot, a scene from "Panic in Needle Park." At still another, a quaint ice-skating rink from any number of films, complete with artificial snow. There is really no limit to the possibilities.

Visitors to these stylized Hollywood-movie versions of the American park might think of them as a series of stages on which to exercise their imaginations, dip into their memories or share a collective memory.

All these pockets would be interactive. People could climb on the fountain or sit on the benches or skate on the rink — and on these stages, the real visitors at the perimeter of the park or in its wilderness areas might become role-playing visitors, thus changing their relationship to the park and their consciousness of it.

For Los Angeles, the world capital of entertainment, this concept clearly has special relevance. L.A. purveys illusion. So would elements of this park. L.A. embraces artifice. So would elements of the park. L.A. trades in archetypes. So would elements of the park. L.A. extols performance. So would elements of the park.

In short, the park would be a monument to the power of the motion-picture image and to the elasticity of the American identity.

But it would also address the larger, fundamental issues of what is the definition of an urban park and serve as a living disquisition upon it. This would be a park in which the dialogue between wilderness and artifice, between the pastoral conception of the park and the recreational one, between the 19th century and the 21st century, between nature and mind would never end. They would instead exist in constant contrast to one another and in constant debate with one another.

My proposed park would not be one thing or the other, neither Central Park nor Disneyland, but something new — a park in which experience translates into ideas, a park in which the contemplative visitor is given something to contemplate. That is something worth considering: an idea for a park and a real park all in one.

I read that piece in the Current section in Sunday's L.A. Times. What a horrible idea. Piped in music? http://forums.netphoria.org/images/smilies/puking.gif