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Grandiose opening for DTLA's Grand Park; built without any taxpayer money

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, July 26, 2012, at 03:40PM
Andres Aguila/KPCC

Grand Park opened today with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

Grand Park Opening by blogdtwn

A portion of DTLA's new, approximately 12-acre Grand Park opened today to a packed crowd of onlookers with a flurry of costumes, dancing and performances. The two block stretch from Grand to Hill includes the renovated Arthur J. William Memorial Fountain; its wading pool and spray served as the finale for the park's debut.

The new park is dotted with bright pink benches, strategically placed trees for shade and eco-conscious toilets in the centrally located restrooms. More than 300 new trees were planted in addition to native and drought-tolerant plants.

"Its smart the way they built it I think," said Paul Whitt, who took the Expo Line from Culver City to downtown L.A. for the opening event.

"It's tied to the train for us because the train is everything I hoped it would be," said Whitt's wife Evealon, who added that the newly opened light-rail line has made their cross-town commute convenient -- and more frequent.

The two have come Downtown six times in the last two weeks, and said they appreciate the new, beautified walk up to the Music Center. Now, it was just a matter of maintaining the park, they said.

Although initially it was announced that the park would close at dusk, officials are now saying hours will be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. -- and some think closing the area at night is a great idea.

Peter "Red" Wiggins has been shining shoes outside the nearby courthouse for 15 years. He said Grand Park is just "another place for the homeless people to live," and hopes that it will close at night like it's expected to be.

"If it's anything like the improvements they made at the County Law Library I'll probably be very impressed," said Al Shine, an attorney who was getting his shoes shined by Red.

Shine said he often has cases at the Downtown court house and will most likely visit the park on his lunch break or to visit its Starbucks.

Walter Lutz of Highland Park, was sitting on a bench in the shade watching his six-year-old daughter Scarlette run around on the grass. He said the park used to just be a "cut-through" to the Music Center, but that he was open to the idea of it becoming a destination.

"I'm hoping in the future there'll be more things here," said Lutz. "I see that they built a stage over here on the south end, and that looks promising."

He said Downtown used to be a "ghost town" after 5 p.m., but in recent years there are more people out walking, bars and restaurants are bustling and this new park may be another step towards making the neighborhood more livable after-hours.

"I don't think this one thing is going to revitalize Downtown, but i think it's an important piece of revitalizing Downtown," said Lutz.

His daughter Scarlette was already breaking in the park by playing tag and hide-and-go-seek with her friend.

"Its really fun because of the benches," she said. "There's more places to hide when we're playing zombie tag."

Most of the park's $56 million construction budget was funded by the private entity, Related Companies. They "wrote the $50 million check," said Supervisor Gloria Molina as she thanked them for their substantial investment.

"This park was built without any taxpayer money," said Grand Avenue Committee co-chairman Eli Broad. "That is truly remarkable in these economic times."

The other half of the park, which spans from Hill to Spring street, will open in the fall of this year. Opening celebrations for the first phase of the park will continue this weekend with public events on Saturday and Sunday.

For more information about this weekend's festivities, see the Grand Park's website

Audio at top of story by KPCC's Lauren Osen

Video by Militant Angeleno


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