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River Revitalization Corp Sees a Retail Future for the Historic 7th Street Viaduct

By Dando Guerra with Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, October 21, 2011, at 01:47PM
7th Street Viaduct Retail Rendering Arthur Golding / L.A. River Revitalization Corp.

Rendering of a potential interior retail marketplace for the 7th Street Viaduct, a double-decker oddity created in 1927 when engineers built new viaduct atop an existing bridge.

The 7th Street Viaduct is an architectural oddity, a double-decker structure created in 1927 when city engineers used an existing bridge as the foundation for their new span. To the newly-created River Revitalization Corporation (RRC), the historic structure also represents a potential dining and retail marketplace destination.

The organization, a nonprofit entity created by the City of Los Angeles to sustainably develop the L.A. River corridor, is in initial stages of a plan to redevelop the bridge’s closed-off interior space into a 5,700-square-foot destination that could house a bar, restaurant or marketplace.

Architect Arthur Golding prepared the concept study for the RRC, including detailed renderings, floor plans, and utility analysis. “This fascinating space, sealed off for 85 years, presents a wonderful opportunity to create a public place that will reconnect us to our River,” said Golding. Inspiration for the design came from iconic retail/destination bridges such as the Ponte Vecchio in Italy.

The space inside the bridge, which connects Downtown to Boyle Heights, was not designed for occupation; it was inadvertently created in 1927 when the City built a new viaduct over an existing bridge from 1910. While few people have allowed inside, river advocate Joe Linton paid a visit and took photos in 2010. Using those photos, along with city documents and historic drawings, Golding was able to develop a detailed section and elevation of the space.

“This is a truly unique location,” said Omar Brownson, Executive Director of the RRC. “The sense of arrival there will be truly grand. The views and the sensation of being suspended over the river will be incomparable. This is a space that lends itself naturally to a destination use like a bar, restaurant or marketplace.”

Permitting for the project is unknown—no project like this has ever been done before—but given the number of entities involved in any work along the river, the process could be cumbersome. The city owns the structure, which is managed by the Bureau of Engineering. The city’s Department of Transportation handles the traffic that passes above, while L.A. County and the Army Corp. of Engineers have jurisdiction over the river channel below. The structure also passes over rail lines that carry Metrolink, Amtrak and freight traffic.

The RRC is partnering with an engineering and construction firm to develop a sense of what the project might cost, but has no numbers yet.

If it does move forward, this would be the second bridge project for the RRC. Plans for an iconic multi-modal bicycle, pedestrian, and equestrian bridge connecting North Atwater Park to the LA River Bike way and Griffith Park are in construction drawing stages. That bridge is being privately financed by an angel donor, and would be donated to the city.

“Project by project, the River Corporation is helping to connect Los Angeles’ neighborhoods to the River, and to each other,” said Daniel Tellalian, Chair of the RRC Board. “Bridges are a natural fit for us.”


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