For the past decade, city officials have looked to redevelop a parcel at the northwest corner of 1st Street and Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles as a park. That effort, already on life support, has just been dealt another blow.
A staff report scheduled for consideration at the February 16 meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners recommends the reallocation of approximately $14.4 million existing funding away from the 1st and Broadway Park toward other Downtown green spaces.
Formerly the site of a state office building, which was demolished in the mid-1970s as a result of damage suffered in the Sylmar earthquake. All that remained in the decades that followed was the foundation of building and its underground parking garage, which eventually became home to a feral cat colony. The wheels of change were put into motion in 2013, when the City of Los Angeles moved to acquire the parcel. Following the removal of the building foundations (and relocation of the cats), the city had paid more than $10 million to ready the site for redevelopment with a park. What followed was a public design contest, yielding a winning submission from Studio MLA and OMA which called for transforming the two-acre lot with new landscaping, walking paths, seating areas, shade canopies, and a two-story restaurant building with rooftop access.
While Parks officials had aimed to break ground on the project in 2019, that milestone was delayed as the estimated cost of 1st and Broadway swelled to more than $28 million - well beyond the approximately $19.8 million in money available. Subsequent construction bids for the project have continued outstrip existing funding, which prompted further delays.
Although the Parks Department had looked to retool the project to lower costs, potentially by splitting the restaurant building into a separate contract, that course of action was met with concerns by City Council District 14, which contends that pursuing existing funds for 1st and Broadway could jeopardize other projects. The Parks Department responded by developing a plan to fund and implement priority projects identified by the Council office, according to the report.
However, the report states that Council District 14 has continued to indicate a lack of support for allocating additional city money toward 1st and Broadway. Likewise, officials have failed to secure additional funding through State and Federal grants, making it impossible to solicit new bids for the park.
Removal of the funding would leave the future of the project in doubt - although the Parks Department has indicated that it would return to the Board at a future date to provide an update on the site.
The nearly $14.4 million in leftover funds for 1st and Broadway is likely to be redistributed toward other parks projects in the Downtown area - including $8.25 million which would be redistributed to the roughly 12-acre park planned below the Sixth Street Viaduct. That money would provide more than $58.7 million in total funding to the project, although that still falls $24.1 million short of its overall budget of $82 million. Nonetheless, work is still expected to begin in Spring 2023.
Another likely beneficiary of the 1st and Broadway funds is Pershing Square, which is ready to begin work on the initial components of its latest revamp. The first phase of the project is focused on the five-acre park's western face along Olive Street, and would include the removal of an existing cafe structure and vertical circulation elements, making way for new landscaping, a street-level entry plaza, and two new glass elevators to access the parking garage below.
Less certain is the future of the later components of phase one, which would affect the park's northern and southern frontages along 5th and 6th Streets. Likewise, a second phase of the renovation, which calls for closing garage entrances and exits along Hill Street to create a new entrance promenade on the park's eastern face, remains unfunded.
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