Counting down from 10, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina on Saturday signaled the fireworks to begin as she launched the fanfare filled opening of the final block of Los Angeles’ Grand Park, a carpet of new parkland that cascades down Bunker Hill – from the Los Angeles County Music Center to City Hall.
After a decade of sometimes-contentious planning and design, the four-block long project that “elicits comparisons to New York’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Union Square,” as the New York Times gushed in an architectural review, is finally complete, and fully open to the public.
The park staircases up Bunker Hill, and weaves together such landmarks as the iconic City Hall, the fanciful Disney Hall, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the latter two of which are one block off the park.
The day-long official grand opening included free public events throughout the four-block plan to mark the occasion, including Saturday evening’s “A Fanfare for Grand Park” that included music composed by David O and choreography by Jacques Heim; a performance by Latin jazz duo Dos y Mas, and topped off with an aerial dance performance by a troupe called Bandaloop on the side of lighted up City Hall, visible from the park.
A real estate company, the Related Companies, paid $50 million for the park, in exchange for development rights for a plot occupied by a 50-year-old “temporary” parking garage across the street from Disney Hall. That project has been stymied by the recession.
Most of the boundaries of the park are made up of the supervisors’ Hall of Administration, and assorted county offices, including the Sarah Foltz Criminal Courts Building, home of the O.J. Sim, Conrad Murray and tens of thousands of other criminal trials. The park includes native habitat, a large fountain with a splash pad, and lounge chairs the color of pink flamingos throughout the area. The park is already a favorite for lunching jurors.
Designers faced great difficulty in designing the park around massive spiral underground parking garage entrances and three major streets that bisect the park. But access is easy: the Red and Purple line subways cross under Grand Park at the Civic Center station, and dozens of bus lines and a new city bike path pass near it.
Just south of the park, construction is proceeding on a new modern art museum to house the collection of philanthropist Eli Broad, Jr. The Museum of Contemporary Art, the new cathedral and the Pueblo de Los Angeles historic park are within two blocks of Grand Park, but access in those directions are blocked by two 1950s-era county buildings that some county officials would like to demolish.
The park informally opened to the public last summer. For more information about activities visit grandpark.lacounty.gov .