downtown los angeles, financial district, historic core, pershing square

Downtown LA Pershing Square Task Force Formed, Gensler Releases New Renderings of Reimagined Space

A rendering of Pershing Square reimagined (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

A rendering of Pershing Square reimagined as open and transparent (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

Okay, it’s a complete coincidence that after posting yesterday about redeveloping/redesigning Pershing Square (using SF Union Square as a model) that Councilman Jose Huizar announced this morning at the Gensler office downtown that a new 21-member task force was put together to help re-envision and re-imagine the future of Pershing Square. Perhaps the stars are finally aligning? Some of the members (listed below) are property owners surrounding Pershing Square who obviously would like to see the immediate surroundings improved. Remember: A beautiful and successfully activated Pershing Square of the future will benefit the nearby building stock tremendously, raising property values. A conceptual video was also released by Gensler highlighting some ideas for Pershing Square that you can watch here.

According to a press release, the Pershing Square task force is expected to meet soon and outline an agenda for the group moving forward. Councilman Huizar’s office will help facilitate those meetings and assist the task force in meeting its goals, which include:

  • Coming up with a comprehensive long-term vision of the Park, which may include a push for some elements of redesign and park infrastructure improvements.
  • Identifying dollars with assistance of Council District 14 and raising funds for these efforts including additional redesign or supplemental programming of the park in order to revitalize the space in the short term.
  • Identifying and planning key policy initiatives and legislative work that will have a positive effect on Pershing Square operations and programming.

Task Force members include Kevin Regan, Recreation and Parks; Matthew Rudnick, Cultural Affairs; Nick Maricich, Planning Department; Captain Horace Frank, LAPD; Mike Arnold, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority; Amy Yeager, Pershing Square Advisory Board; Dawn Eastin, Downtown News/Pershing Square Advisory Board; Blair Besten, Historic Downtown BID; Sean Krajewski, resident and Blue Cow Restaurant GM; Carol Schatz, CCA/Downtown BID; Peklar Pilavjian , St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center; Karen Hathaway, LA Athletic Club; Siobhan Talbot, Brookfield; Jeffery Fish, Pershing Square Building; Chris Rising, Rising Realty/Pacific Mutual Building; Robert Hanasab, City National Building; Brian Glodney, Gensler; Rick Poulos, NBBJ; Katherine Perez-Estolano, USC; Melani Smith, Melendrez Design Partners; and Gail Goldberg, ULI.

According to Gensler, the primary focus of their yearlong volunteer effort [analyzing Pershing Square] was to reconsider the role of public open space in cities and to explore how we can improve our social capacity through an improved physical urban environment.

Renderings from Gensler below show a much more open and transparent public space — walls removed and possible removal of some parking ramps just like our Ideas for #DTLA post from yesterday! — that allow Pershing Square to become not only a pleasant place to relax but a future crossroads in Downtown LA where pedestrian circulation will naturally and organically activate the space with or without event programming (the way a functional urban park should be).

A day time rendering of Pershing Square facing south (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

A day time rendering of Pershing Square facing south (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

A night time rendering of Pershing Square facing south (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

A night time rendering of Pershing Square facing south (Photo: Gensler / Nephew)

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  1. brudy says

    Good news, but even those renderings look over-designed. It needs grass and trees. That’s it. No more plazas. If we can learn anything from Spring St Park, it’s that people want grass and not fancy hardscape.

  2. downtown resident says

    I agree with Brudy. Less concrete plazas, and more grass and trees! Very simple.

  3. Alan H. says

    I hope it includes a dog run/park. Our sidewalks (and shoes) would appreciate it.

    • corner soul says

      Agreed, and it was even nicer before they put in the underground parking:

      I say bulldoze the entire thing and start over without the parking garage and driveways… there’s simply no need for it with all the garages in the immediate area.

  4. sebastian says

    How about a nice statue of General Pershing on a horse.

  5. Emmanuel says

    Brudy said it best. Nothing fancy. Less concrete; more trees and grass! Maybe just dig up the original plans from the 1800’s and go with that.

  6. S. Williams says

    Small cobble stone pathways, lots of trees, NO F’n PALMS, grass, enclosed dog run, tables/chairs and benches…. That’s it!!

      • Kevin T says

        How do we get Brigham on the task force as well?? I love his idea of looking at already great public spaces like Union Square. I want Pershing Square to be like that and can we say Bryant Park??

        I agree with everyone here. Please don’t overthink this. Keep it simple stupid!!

  7. Pershing Square, right in the heart of the historic core, has always struck me as somewhat underwhelming when it could be a great civic space and a place for public life to take place. It seems that LA is gradually overcoming its fear of the street, and moving away from the defensive architecture that marked the past. The time when the square seems to work best is Pershing Square on Ice in winter which covers the concrete expanse with both the ice skating rink and people. Hopefully, great things will come out of the current “reimagining” of Pershing Square since, as the LA Times famously put it, It’s been put through more makeovers than Joan Rivers.

  8. Joseph Lemon says

    More grass and trees. Get back to the basics.

  9. Anne Hawthorne says

    Too much concrete and sculptured space. I agree with less plaza, more natives, and more shade trees too.

  10. This is a wonderful opportunity for dog owners to speak up and advocate for a proper dog run during the Pershing Square renovation public input sessions.

    I also agree with other comments that we need more green space and less hard scape.

    It is going to be difficult to get a dog run to be a priority unless we come together and demand it. I am sure the program has already set a priority to ‘dedicate’ space for programs such as summer concerts/movies, the farmer’s market and the winter ice rink. Look for us on Twitter @DTLADogOwners for more information and to join the conversation!

    • DTLA Fan says

      There is no way a dog park or dog run should be part of Pershing Square. Look at dog parks around los angeles. They are simply dirt patches littered with dog excrement. The city has proven that they cannot maintain them properly.

  11. archie says

    I agree. Some palms, more shade trees. Less concrete, less design. Look at Bryant Park in NYC. Madison Square Park, NYC.

  12. archie says

    What’s with that giant head in the rendering? Zardoz?

  13. Brian says

    I really, truly feel as though we need to get together and let this committee know that we don’t need this overdesigned nonsense — that we want a simple, timeless design.

    Does anyone know the best way that we could voice this to them? Is a petition too passe? And would anyone here sign one?

  14. Josh O says

    At what point did we as a society decide that parks with concrete and post-modern architecture were a better idea than the simplicity and tranquility provided by some trees and greenery? The 60s thru the 80s were the dark-ages for urban planning.

  15. from LA Downtown News..”No budget or timeline for the project has been announced, but Sara Hernandez, the Downtown area director for Huizar’s office, said it could be a years-long effort. She said some short-term changes would be implemented before more complex tasks such as a redesign. Hernandez said community meetings to get public input could begin in a few months.” Brian I think it’s important to contact Sara Hernandez at Huizar’s office to see how the public and downtown residents specifically can get involved and also expedite the process. I’ve already sent her a message suggesting a similar idea of using crowd source funding to begin raising capital asap: Also I definitely agree with going back to something similar to the Pershing Square of old , my only change would be making the type of tree more uniform(no palm trees please), and lining the walkways with trees so they overhang.

    • Kevin T says

      Why not send this entire comment thread to Sara Hernandez since we all seem to be on the same page that we want to keep it simple. A louder voice can make a difference I believe.

      The current Pershing Square design sucks dirty homeless balls. And it was way overthought. Why are we repeating the same mistake again by overthinking it? I agree that we should go back to the way Pershing Square looked back in the old days.

    • Kevin T says

      YES! Who doesn’t love the simplicity and beauty of Bryant Park??

  16. Topher says

    From a designer’s standpoint, it’s over designed. Very corporate. Looks like it belongs to the LA LIVE campus. Keep it simple and natural.

  17. brudy says

    I think the fundamental problem is that you have an architecture firm designing parks. It’s not that they can’t, but having several friends and relatives who are architects, there’s a strong tendency to both over-intellectualize and over-design. Just dig up an Olmstead and call it a day.

  18. Daniel Amado says

    I agree with all of your opinions about it looking over- designed. If anything, this team should recruit Brigham in their team. For crying out loud, they should at least read brigham’s article about San Francisco’s union square.

  19. I’m worried about the city investing time, money and creative capital into yet another over-designed re-making of Pershing Square. This has never worked. Nearly everyone seems to agree that the park that was torn up in 1951 to build the parking lot and bomb shelter was gorgeous, and much missed.

    So here’s a petition, asking Mayor Garcetti, City Council and Rec and Parks to not re-imagine Pershing Square, but to restore it. Please sign and pass it on if you agree.

    • Restoring Pershing Square to its former beautiful self doesn’t sound bad at all…

      Trees, grass, benches, a central focal point (like a nice statue like Union Square) and an area that can be used to set up events (ice skating, art exhibits, musical performances, etc.) and that’s it.

      • Christopher says

        I personally rather like the renderings. Granted, I’m not a fan of palm trees (they require too much water), but I do like the fluid form of the overall layout. Parks/Town Squares serve a new purpose in the 21st Century, and as much as it would be nice to have it only grass and benches, we must be realistic and cater to the people that will use it the most, which in that area is EVERYONE. Businesspeople, Residents, dogs, events, Farmers’ Market, rallies, protests, you name it. I say ditch the Palm trees for proper shade trees, and get to work on this park, with a classy stature for General Pershing, and if you keep the Beethoven statue, put it back where it used to be, with a plaque explaining WHY it was there in the first place, and same goes for the cannon.

  20. sebastian says

    I want a statue in the middle to look at, either General Pershing, or an Angel Statue, it’s time to get classy L.A.

  21. Carter says

    Can’t they just gut the entire park as it currently is, plant grass where appropriate, place walkways and benches and trees where useful, and watch the homeless have a new home.
    Seriously, though, development of the project @ 5th & Olive, the former Philharmonc Hall site, would do wonders for the area. Sure wish it was an all-residential project, with hotel and apartments/condos.

  22. sebastian says

    Seeing pictures of Pershing square from back in the 50’s shows that we always looked to San Francisco in improving our square, we should make it towards them looking at us for new designs.

  23. archie says

    There are 37 great photos of the original Pershing Square on Curbed LA right now. So beautiful, simple and classic.

  24. I actually think they are doing this sort of backwards. More important than any design of the park right now is the activation of the surrounding area. Even if you redesign it, what reason do people have to visit the park? Its not a gathering place for anything, it isn’t a crossroads place like a traditional plaza works, it will still be very isolated. I understand the hope would be that a redesigned park would initiate some development but that can be a hit or miss.

    • archie says

      Pershing Square IS a crossroads keystone between all the developing areas of doentown: 7th St./South Park (2 blocks away), Broadway (one block), Grand Central Market (two blocks) and the Historic Core (2 blocks). Tender Greens and Le Pain Quotidien (sp) are opening a few steps up 6th St, from the Square. Everything around it is developing but the Square is too forbidding and desolate. It’s obvious it’s so right for reimagining.

      • I agree it should be a crossroads in theory but in practice, it is way too isolated by it’s immediate surroundings (I’m talking about directly across the 4 streets that make up its borders). What do we have on those fours sides? Not much. ,My concern is with the immediate connection. Of course a redesign will help, especially by “unfortressing” it but I’m thinking just as important or even more so is to take care of those 4 sides across the street from the park.

        • archie says

          I agree totally. But once the park was redeveloped or “restored” I’d bet that everything on the four streets surrounding the park would develope similar to Union Square in SF, hopefully. Before the “financial collapse” there was that huge condo project on the north corner on the empty Philharmonic Hall lot. It was probably too huge. Something more realistic would snap up that spot. I can’t think of it as “isolated”. New building is happening right now a block or two from the edges of the forlorn square.

          • Ah! I had replied with a long answer and it didnt load!!! lol. Anyways, I just described the direct four streets and corners that make up the block surrounding Pershing Square. It’s a good exercise/dialogue. My findings – they are very limited in retail space/availability.

  25. I strongly dislike Gensler’s vision for Pershing Square. Palm trees are a terrible idea. We need tall shade trees and a whole lot more grass. In that rendering, it’s clear there is no focal point — and certainly no sense of place. Back to the drawing board, people!

  26. There’s nothing wrong with palm trees as long as there are enough shade trees to keep the walkway areas cool. Regarding the homeless, Grand Hope Park (9th & Hope) is fenced and gated and locked at night. Most parks in Europe are locked at night. I also do not understand why Gensler is involved. It is obvious from all the comments that we want a simple park that is pleasant to walk through or linger for lunch. It seems that a good landscape architect could do the job. The current park was set up with a snack bar that is now closed. A few concessions would add interest and attract more people plus could add some income for park maintenance. It’s amazing that all of us here are on the same page. The mantra is, “don’t over-design it”. Now that we have Grand Park perhaps the ice skating rink and some events such as music performances can be moved there, thereby relieving Pershing Square of the burden of squeezing in so many different types of event.

  27. I agree with the comments that call for less design and more trees. I think San Francisco’s Union Square is a wonderful model for Pershing Square, but I think there’s an even better example of a successful park in our very own downtown: the Maguire Gardens outside the Central Library. Now that’s a beautiful urban park!

  28. julietrevino says

    This is the problem when you get an architectural firm to design a park. They can’t think in terms of gardens and trees and natural beauty. They think in terms of concrete and programming and multi-purpose “vision of the future” spaces. This is the same mistakes they made in 1990. And an architectural firm’s horticultural knowledge is limited to palm trees and jacaranda.

    Union Square is awful inspiration. Just pull up an old design from the 1930s or look to Madison Square Park instead. I know people are sensitive to NYC-envy traditional design, but in this case, the park needs it.

    • archie says

      Yes, the Maguire Gardens by the Central Library is the best park downtown, by far. Lush greenery, shade, steps, benches, fountains. Spring St. Park is already pretty sad. What’s with that over-designed fence around it? Even Union Square in SF as a model is still too barren of shade trees. Pershing is much bigger. Get rid of the walls on Olive and Hill. Gensler’s is too designed and too many palm trees. Less is more. Shade, benches with a fountain in the middle. Again, classic Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Maguire Gardens. Yes, pull up the old designs from the 1930’s!

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