I can’t believe it’s finally done! And I’m not just talking about the three years it took to finish building the newest — and might I add, very striking — edifice now added proudly to Downtown LA’s expansive Civic Center. Yes, the new shiny and environmentally-friendly US Courthouse is officially complete with the first federal judges planning to move in by early November. But it took a lot longer than three years to get to this point as the federal building was proposed all the way back in 2001. You might remember that this 3.6 acre lot that the new courthouse sits on was once nothing more than an abandoned dirt lot that was not only a huge embarrassing eyesore to Los Angeles’s name but was also a significant reason why the Civic Center was, and still is to a certain degree, severely disjointed (there are other reasons why the Civic Center lacks coherency that you can read about here).
For ages, the ugly dirt lot at First and Broadway across the LA Times building sat as an eyesore and an embarrassment to LA’s disconnected Civic Center becoming a flooded pit after the occasional SoCal heavy rainfall. Definitely shameful for the nation’s second largest city in my book. Then about two years ago in August 2013, the $318 million US Federal Courthouse project finally broke ground and has been actively under construction ever since then filling in this 3.6 acre lot. About a week ago, I took a hard-hat tour of the construction site with some of the main principles involved with the project (including the building’s architect from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and contractors from Clark Construction) to give our readers an inside look at the current state of what’s going on here.
For someone who thrives being in the middle of the city, walking, and taking in the sights and sounds of a bustling urban center, there’s nothing quite like all that added on top of the holidays. Some people dread the holidays, but I love it. To me, I enjoy seeing all the buildings come alive by getting decked out in colorful lights and ornamentation. I love seeing Christmas trees spring up around office lobbies and outdoor spaces. Over the past several years, I’ve been noticing that Downtown LA is becoming more and more festive as our resident population continues to grow and a renewed sense of pride fills our city once again. Walk down almost any street, look up, and you’ll see Christmas trees abound glowing warmly inside living rooms or lights strung across balcony railings.
Thanksgiving is all about spending quality time with your family, so I’m thinking what better news to highlight today than the new Grand Park Playground that just opened this past weekend in Downtown LA’s Civic Center. The new colorful playground is located across City Hall within the most eastern section of Grand Park. At only 3,700 square feet, it’s impact on the downtown community will be much bigger than its actual size. Like honey bees to a flower, playgrounds attract families with children. And this past Saturday, you could say a gazillion kids waited eagerly to be the first ones to jump, climb, and slide their way into the new playground.
One of the most magnificent civic structures in all of LA is close to reopening after being shut down for two decades since the 1994 Northridge earthquake left the building red tagged due to severe damage. Fortunately, the 1925 Hall of Justice designed in the Beaux Arts style was not demolished. Instead, the county-owned structure located in LA’s civic center — once the headquarters for the sheriff, district attorney, and coroner — was saved after almost a decade of fundraising efforts spearheaded by former Sheriff Lee Baca that started in 2004.
A very, very exciting mixed-use project is in the early planning stages over in El Pueblo just north of the 101 freeway and south of Chinatown, which is the historic birthplace of Downtown LA, and to a greater extent, the birthplace of Los Angeles itself. In fact, the oldest residence still standing in Los Angeles, Avila Adobe built in 1818, remains one of Downtown LA’s main visitor attractions located on historic Olvera Street within El Pueblo. Now, exciting plans are taking shape to further enhance and strengthen El Pueblo allowing for both visitors and Angelenos alike to embrace and appreciate the historic value of the district. A non-profit foundation based in El Pueblo called LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is currently in the process of selecting a developer to build two mixed-use projects, named “LA Plaza Cultura Village,” on two county-owned parking lots just west of the foundation’s headquarters on Main Street that will connect El Pueblo to its surrounding communities including Chinatown and Union Station.
How crazy is it that a city as worldly famous as Los Angeles hasn’t had a new year’s eve celebration where Angelenos from far and wide could congregate outside on public space together — until now? Better late than never. This past new year’s eve things were very different as 25,000 revelers packed into Grand Park (and spill over onto the Music Center steps) to countdown to 2014. The amount of people who took metro to the event was staggering as trains brought hordes of Angelenos back into the city to celebrate in the symbolic heart of Los Angeles — in Grand Park in front of our towering city hall where fanciful digital artwork was projected onto for all to see including the final exciting countdown (10…9…8…!). Finally, there was a celebratory venue with enough energy to be felt throughout the city instead of the chirping crickets most suburban Angelenos were accustomed to beforehand. Next year, expect the event to be even bigger.
Now that the 12-acre Grand Park has been open for over a year in Downtown LA, the LA Music Center, which is in charge of maintaining and programming the park, continues to look for innovative ways to activate the public space, becoming an integral part of the Downtown LA urban psyche. Part of that ongoing process depends on community driven participation that will happen organically over time as more Angelenos, especially downtown residents and workers, are exposed to the park. To nudge that process along, Grand Park has implemented a new “Free Little Libraries” program that promotes the idea of reading and getting the community more engaged with the public realm.
An exciting new Indian gastropub called Badmaash is now officially open at the historic Higgins loft building at 2nd/Main near Downtown LA’s Civic Center, right across the street from the LAPD unofficial dog park. Badmaash replaces what used to be Charcoal Grill (a nondescript and forgettable Mexican eatery that shuttered in 2011 without much notice).
Last month, we first reported from a credible source that Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) had already been chosen by the US General Services Administration (GSA) to design the new federal courthouse at First and Broadway in the Civic Center. Then early yesterday morning, I received a press release from Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s office confirming that SOM was indeed awarded the contract along with architecture engineering firm Clark Construction.
Buy your ticket at: thetasteofmexico.org
A source at a large architectural and design firm in Downtown LA has sent in a tip that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (better known as SOM) has won the design competition along with contractor Clark Construction for a new $400 million federal courthouse to be built at First and Broadway. Last week, Curbed LA announced that we would find out who the winner would be this week from the U.S. General Services Administration, which is the federal agency spearheading the new courthouse.
Los Angeles for decades lacked that central gathering spot that accurately represented “LA.” Whether it was for celebrating New Year’s Eve or gathering together to watch election results like so many did last night for the Presidential race, for far too long, we’ve depended solely on our satellite cities, like Pasadena or Santa Monica, to provide access to higher quality public spaces. But the catch was, we were never truly in The City. LA sorely needed to stand on its own two feet, so-to-speak. Now finally with the completion of LA’s newest civic park, Grand Park, Angelenos have the option to come together to share the city with their fellow denizens, not in a mall, but on public space.
Downtown resident and gallery owner Clark Woodford spots a new cupcake pastry shop called “abeautifullife” coming soon to 2nd/Spring near the Higgins condo building and the LAPD headquarters and dog park. The diminutive space facing Spring Street recently put up a “Coming Soon” sign in the window announcing their arrival into Downtown LA.
In honor of Streetcar and the upcoming vote in November, we hope you’ll join us for a fun family picnic & movie night at the newly unveiled Grand Park – which just so happens to be one of the many Downtown destinations that’ll be accessible from the proposed Streetcar route.