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Civic Center Park Proposals "Uninspired"

By Eric Richardson
Published: Sunday, April 20, 2008, at 05:54PM
Civic Center Park and DWP Building Eric Richardson [Flickr]

A view of the four block park space connecting City Hall and the Music Center.

At a Tuesday evening meeting the Grand Avenue Committee and Rios Clementi Hale Studios will present two proposals for the redesign of the Civic Center Park. The four-block stretch from the Music Center to City Hall is currently three parts park and one part parking lot, and $50 million for its redesign was committed as part of the agreement for the Grand Avenue Project.

The two alternatives represent a base plan possible with the existing $50 million and an alternate plan takes a more idealized approach to the project costs. In a critique posted to the Times site this afternoon, architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne calls both "uninspired".

It's beyond rare to see a project packaged this way for public consumption. It's one thing to present a design as a series of phases, to be built one after the other. But this approach is essentially a preemptive strike against possible complaint. We realize, the designers and the developer are implicitly pleading, that what we've come up with isn't particularly exciting. But budget-wise, our hands are tied. And just look at what we could do if they weren't!

The double-design strategy would be far more effective if the plans themselves had more to offer. The base plan is uninspired, a collection of scenic overlooks and arcing gardens that with the exception of some clever updates to the 50-year-old fountain on the Civic Center mall never rises past the level of brightly hued practicality. Even the enhanced design -- which adds a large pedestrian bridge across Broadway -- is largely prosaic.

Unmentioned in Hawthorne's review is the lack of progress in addressing the hulking County building that line the site. While many have been outspoken on the need to remove and consolidate the low-slung buildings that separate the park site from parallel streets, no plan or funding has been arranged to make that happen.

In a January talk, architect Frank Gehry suggested that plans to redevelop the park should be scrapped, and that a park should be built along the northern end of Olive street instead.

Tuesday's presentation of the park proposals is open to the public, and will run from 6 to 8pm. Information can be found on the Grand Avenue Committee's website, which requests RSVPs. A telecast of the meeting is also scheduled for Channel 35 on Wednesday, April 23rd, at 4pm.

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