The greening of L.A.’s Civic Center
November 3, 2011
The giant yuccas haven’t moved in yet, and neither have the California Pepper, Japanese Pagoda or Strawberry Snowball trees.
But make no mistake, the downtown park project is definitely entering its green period.
The first trees are now taking root in the 12-acre expanse in the heart of the Civic Center—the first visible manifestation of the ambitious Grand Avenue Project intended to create a cultural and civic sense of place in downtown Los Angeles. Since July, 50 of 373 new trees have been planted, joining the 95 that were left in place on the site when work began in 2010. (Many of the new trees are varieties of palm, and there also are dozens of California sycamores and Tipuana tipu trees in the arboreal lineup, along with eight coast live oaks and a wide range of other varieties.) Landscaping on the project is expected to continue through next May.
The park, scheduled to open next summer, will represent a dramatic transformation of a once banal stretch of downtown public space, creating an “iconic” and “spectacular” gathering spot for diverse activities ranging from picnicking to big-screen musical simulcasts. Stretching in three sections from the Music Center to City Hall, the park’s ADA-accessible ramps will complement a series of stairs, terraces and lawns.
The tree planting has picked up pace lately. Newly-installed palm trees (some weighing 15,000 pounds each) and silvery-leafed olive trees are now ensconced near the park’s new Starbucks building (which adds its own blast of green to the landscape thanks to its bright chartreuse slanted roof.)
The Board of Supervisors this week approved an amended 10-year agreement with Starbucks increasing the company’s monthly rent to reflect the new, larger 1,195-square-foot space; it will go to $3,585, from $2,250. Since business is expected to increase once the new park is open, the county—which will receive 6% of the coffee concession’s annual gross sales above $717,000—anticipates that its take will go up as well. The total annual revenue for the county, including the rent, is projected to be about $70,800 a year, the report said
The current Starbucks, long a fixture of daily life for jurors and Civic Center employees, will be leveled when the new facility is ready for business.
Also coming down soon will be the wooden barricades and concrete “k-rail” barriers that have closed off the Grand Avenue end of the project for months. The Grand Avenue sidewalk, which also has been closed, will be reopened on Monday, November 14, along with a mid-block crosswalk that leads to the Music Center and the Grand Avenue ramps to the Hall of Administration parking lot.
Dawn McDivitt, who is overseeing the project for the county’s Chief Executive Office, said other signs of progress also are on the way. For example, she said, one of the park’s hallmark features, the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, should be ready for testing around the first of the year.
“It is exciting to see many features of the park taking shape,” she said. Updated 11/10/11: See for yourself in the most recent construction photos from the site.