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Will Grand Park be L.A.'s version of Central Park?

July 25, 2012 |  2:44 pm


Will Grand Park be grand enough?

That's the question in the minds of city planners and downtown residents alike.

After a $56-million renovation, the 12-acre rectangle from the top of Bunker Hill to the base of City Hall will be christened this week as L.A.'s Grand Park, providing downtown with its first sizable amount of open space.

"This can be L.A.'s Central Park," Howard Sherman, chief operating officer of the Music Center, said confidently. "It connects L.A. in a way that has never happened before."

The park begins along Grand Avenue with a dramatic view of a renovated Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain and the tall white crest of Los Angeles City Hall. Parking ramps that once hid the fountain from pedestrians have been torn down, and the fountain is now programmed to run a colorful light show. A new "splash-pool" has been added beneath it for kids to play in.

The next "block" of the park includes a performance lawn, stage, Starbucks and public restrooms. Throughout both spaces there are bright pink tables, benches and chairs, small gardens and palm trees. Winding paths run along both edges.

Two lower sections of the park — a plaza area between Hill Street and Broadway, and a much larger event lawn across from City Hall — will open in coming months, officials said.

Programming at Grand Park will be coordinated by the Music Center, which is operated by a nonprofit that manages the nearby Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre.

But one Los Angeles transplant was not convinced.

"There are a lot of people living downtown, and a lot of people wanting more green space," said Tara Newman, who was walking her poodle at the small park outside the LAPD's headquarters one evening last week. "I think [Grand Park] will be busy, there will be a lot of people there at night. But I lived in New York — that park is not going to be Central Park."

The Times will host a Google+ Hangout Thursday at 11 a.m. on downtown L.A.'s Grand Park with Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne and reporter Sam Allen, hosted by City Editor Shelby Grad.


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-- Sam Allen