Los Angeles plans central district rehab
Los Angeles has developed a master plan to rehabilitate its Civic Center, or central district, over the next 20 years. The “Los Angeles Civic Center Shared Facilities and Enhancement Plan” calls for different levels of government to share facilities, thereby cutting operational costs. It also encourages mixed-use development to help revitalize the area and provides a vision for a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Los Angeles established its central district in 1781 with construction of City Hall. Since then, the Civic Center has become a campus that houses the offices of the city, county, state and federal governments.
The district has evolved into a cluster of buildings that lacks organization, says Dan Rosenfeld, former asset manager for Los Angeles. “Even though [the Civic Center] contained all of the government buildings, you couldn’t tell if you were in the center [of the district] or not,” he says. “There was no attempt to plan, develop or operate the buildings in any cooperative way.”
In 1996, the Los Angeles Civic Authority, under the leadership of the City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, began to reconsider the design of the Civic Center and its relationship to the surrounding area. The city hired a team of consultants, led by locally based Meléndrez Design Partners, to develop a rehabilitation plan. The City Council subsequently approved the plan in 1997.
The plan incorporates three major elements:
- Cost savings
The plan outlines the potential for saving money by sharing existing and future facilities between different levels of government. In a project that currently is under way, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation will sublease 100,000 square feet from the state DOT’s new 700,000 square foot headquarters site. (The site of the old Los Angeles DOT will be demolished to make space for a park facing City Hall.) In the future, government will share parking lots, power plants and day care centers with county, state and federal agencies.
- Land use planning
The plan calls for private developers to concentrate retail shops, cafes, housing developments and cultural facilities in the district. Victor Clothing (an historic retail/office building), which was vacated within the last year, and the Pan American building and the Higgins building, both of which were dilapidated, are being converted into loft apartments. Additionally, St. Vibania’s Cathedral and the Old Bank District are being redeveloped to include housing, hotel and retail uses.
The plan calls for an Arts Park, which will be a collaboration between the Geffen Contemporary Museum of Art, the Japanese American National Museum and the Union Center for the Arts. A children’s museum also is online for development within the Arts Park.
- Pedestrian friendliness
The plan outlines streetscape improvements to create a pedestrian-oriented district that is easy for visitors, workers and residents to navigate. Recently, the city completed the Hill Street Avenida Improvements, which included landscaping medians with flowering trees, constructing a pedestrian promenade and installing pedestrian lighting. Future streetscape improvements include constructing a Civic Square, which likely will include performance space and small outdoor cafes.
In September 2001, the master plan received a national merit award for analysis and planning from the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Landscape Architects. The city anticipates updating the plan every five years to highlight the progress within the district.