An initial study published by the L.A. Department of Water and Power sheds new light on plans to build park space above a massive underground reservoir just north of Griffith Park.

The 43-acre Tom LaBonge Headworks Water Complex, named in honor of the late City Councilmember in 2021, has been owned by the City of Los Angeles since the late 19th century, when it was used for extracting groundwater from beneath the L.A. River. It was later used as a spreading grounds until 1982, and has since been put into service as an underground reservoir to replace the open-air Silver Lake Reservoir complex.

Rendering of the Tom LaBonge Headworks Water ComplexOlin

The reservoirs, which have a combined storage capacity of 110 million gallons of water located mostly below ground, is envisioned as a space for new passive recreation uses and landscaping by the L.A. River Master Plan. LADWP intends to move forward with that vision, while also retaining space for its own operations.

Under the project being evaluated in the initial study, planned Headworks Restoration Park would occupy the eastern side of the site, and a parking lot, a gateway pavilion, pedestrian pathways, bicycle infrastructure, and connections to both the L.A. River trail and Griffith Park. The centerpiece of the park would be a new eight-acre garden above the western reservoir, featuring tree groves, gardens, and walkways.

Rendering of the Tom LaBonge Headworks Water ComplexOlin

Olin is designing the complex, according to the firm's website and plans included with the initial study.

The western part of the site would be given over to LADWP facilities, including a 100,000-square-foot water quality laboratory and a new center for recycling and purifying wastewater.

Rendering of the Tom LaBonge Headworks Water ComplexOlin

Construction of the new park is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2024 and be completed by 2028. Work on the other facilities would overlap with construction of the park, with the water quality lab slated to open in early 2030 and the wastewater treatment facility in late 2031.

The Silver Lake Reservoir, which the Headworks complex replaced, is also poised to be add new green space. A master plan adopted last year by the City of Los Angeles calls for transforming the lake into the centerpiece of a 127-acre public park.

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