A first visit to Grand Park, Los Angeles

I’m glad we took the time last weekend to explore a section of downtown Los Angeles. This weekend I’m involved with pre-Thanksgiving activity.  I guess I can’t get out and play EVERY weekend.

We live about 12 miles from the downtown Los Angeles Civic Center. One of our favorite destinations is the Music Center/Walt Disney Concert Hall, and for many years we’ve been hearing about the Grand Avenue Project, intended to revitalize that particular area. Until recently we were under the impression the economic downturn had all but gutted the original plans.

In addition to the Los Angeles Music Center, one of the three largest performing arts centers in the United States,the Civic Center is also  the administrative core of the city, with a complex of government offices, buildings and courthouses.  In fact, the Civic Center is home to more government employees in the United States other than Washington, DC.

A recently completed survey also reveals that downtown Los Angeles has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade, with 45,000 residents, a weekly 500,000 + employment population and over 10 million annual non-local visitors. That’s a lot of people competing for breathing room!

Yes, the poor economy has affected many of the city’s plans to renovate and improve the quality of the downtown environment.

But not everything has been stalled. One of the key components, a 16-acre park stretching between City Hall and the Music Center Complex, has greatly improved the landscape.

Now I’m willing to concede this isn’t Central Park, or Golden Gate Park, or Griffith Park or….

But I think it’s a wonderful effort!

The $56 million park, designed by local architects and landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale, was primarily funded by corporate interests as a trade-off for future Grand Avenue development projects.

Surface parking lots were demolished, concrete walkways reconfigured, and iconic areas like the Court of Flags redesigned to include more garden and planting areas. The relocation of the flags and monuments representing dozens of flags flown on American soil since before the Revolution,  also accommodated a grade change of approximately 15 vertical feet. The slight slope makes a very beautiful presentation.

The newly renovated green space, for both residents and office workers,  offers a beautiful view of City Hall and the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain. It is; however, incomplete.

The original plans called for razing the Stanley Mosk Courthouse and the county Hall of Administration. Both buildings have suffered earthquake damage and new buildings would in the end be more efficient to operate, but new facilities would also be very costly to build. Eventually those plans will be executed, and the green space will expand even further.

It does still remain to be seen how well the park will be embraced by the public. Office workers undoubtedly enjoy the opportunity to take their lunch or breaks outdoors, and a newly renovated Starbucks remains on the premises, so coffee needs are still met!

The park is visually very appealing and the sound of splashing water, coming from the iconic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, sometimes recognized  as the “Pretty Woman” fountain because it appeared in a major scene with actors Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, is a lovely mask to city noise.

The fountain now has a flat-edged splash pool added for child’s play, and the addition of dancing lights will be enjoyed by evening  Music Center guests.

The bright pink furniture, a modern contrast to the more traditional older buildings, can be moved around the park, for garden enjoyment, and adds to the friendliness of the area.

Much of the design of the park was inspired by what one article referred to as the city’s “off-the-charts diversity.” The 24 gardens are inspired from the design of a flattened map of the globe. The welcome sign gives evidence of the cultural diversity of the area, and the many languages represented.

The second tier of the park includes a performance lawn with stage, and the promise that in the coming months programming at Grand Park will be coordinated by the Music Center.

It will be interesting to watch as the development expands and more of the original plans are executed, but for a first phase, I’m quite impressed. I’ll be visiting again, and it will be nice to photograph the gardens next spring. I was so awed by the use of space that I didn’t take many photographs of the gardens this time.

Next stop…Disney Concert Hall.

You’ll love it or hate it! No one seems to be neutral. But you’ll have to wait just a bit for me to prepare my architectural review. This is just a tease.

I hope you’ll take a moment to look at the photos in the slideshow. They will help you appreciate the surrounding area and how the park fits into the overall landscape of downtown Los Angeles.

Don’t you think someone from the Los Angeles Tourist Board should hire me? I’m very enthusiastic! Do come to visit sometime, won’t you?

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59 thoughts on “A first visit to Grand Park, Los Angeles

  1. It has been over twenty years since working “in” Downtown LA; I watched the Disney Concert Hall start, then stop, for a long time. Dorothy Chandler also has some nice memories of performances – primarily James Whitmore’s “One Man Shows”. I was able to see “Teddy Roosevelt” and “Wiley Post” reincarnations…but his opening lasso shot missed. :)

    Your photos show much that area has improved. I would have never thought those parking lot owners would ever sell out. But now, you’ve got me interested! My future son-in-law’s restaurant is in Little Tokyo so I think I’ll just try and go a bit earlier to see what you just wrote about.

    Thanks for the update!

    • I do enjoy the Music Center complex, Koji, but other than jury duty, the other buildings aren’t as familiar to me. But I do know that the new green space has made the entire area more enjoyable for everyone. The parking has gone subterranean and maybe some of those millions spent went into their pockets? It would be very interesting to see what the cost breakdowns are, actually!

      You’ll have to share about your future son-in-law’s restaurant! It would be good to have a recommendation! :-)

    • I am not sure how much of the park was observable last fall, Andra. It was probably still quite a mess! We have been down there a few times and I hadn’t even noticed. I’m not sure how much of that was just me. I learn so much more about a city if I’m on foot! :-)

  2. Debra, I do believe you should be on the LA Tourist Board! Your pix make me want to visit (on foot) the Grand Park and take it all in, not simply breeze through via car. You’ve made a “grand” case for the inviting atmosphere for a day trip. I’d love to come along w/ you the next time to see it along site you–the expert! ~ Ellen

    • I do love to walk around Downtown, Ellen. I’d love to have you accompany me on my next little trip. We stopped and had lunch at MOCA, but didn’t take the time to enjoy the exhibits. Maybe we can do that soon!

  3. Wonderful addition to the city landscape . . . but $56 million for 16 acres rather boggles the mind. That’s almost $4 million PER acre . . . for trees, grass, and pink benches. Or is there more to the park than meets the eye?

    • I had to smile at your observations about the $4 million per acre of park costs, Nancy. While I was taking photos I did think to myself that without the “before” photos I was quite sure others wouldn’t be overly impressed. I couldn’t get enough perspective on the expanse, either, but I didn’t even blink at the costs! Real estate in Los Angeles County is so incredibly high that numbers no longer catch my attention. I think some of the exorbitant expenses probably relate to the removal of parking areas and building subterranean structures. There were also some changes, I believe, to the entrance of the subway system. But other than that…I really don’t know. Good question!!

      • After leaving my comment, I realized that a significant part of the expense probably included buying at least some of the land in question from private interests. Given the price of real estate . . . that would add a pretty penny to the price of the park. :D

    • Los Angeles is old by California standards anyway…and I must say that as much as we complain about our elected officials, they are making an attempt to “refresh” the environment. I wish I had photos to share of the “before” so the “after” would be more impressive, Charlie. We had a very nice day! :-)

  4. Dear Debra, your enthusiasm for California always delights me. Thank you for the clear explanation of what is still on the drawing board and what has already been accomplished. The slide show let me see much of what you’d explained. I was so wishing that I could see all the flags, but there was only one picture of about five flags. Are there more than that? The plaque about the flag court was inspirational. Peace.

    • Thank you, Dee. As I said to others, I am a fairly simple person when it comes to what makes me smile. I don’t need much! Compared to the sites I see others share from around the world, Los Angeles is not spectacular. But it’s still interesting, and for me, it’s definitely home. That I can share any part of it with you is such a treat for me.

      I wish I could have produced a decent photo of the courtyard with the flags, Dee. I couldn’t get a vantage point with the proper perspective to show the flags. Next time I go I might take a photo from a distance and do better. We laughed at the day we were there that with no wind even we couldn’t really see the flags. There were at least 20. They included Early American flags as well as flags commemorating particular events like each war. You’ll just need to come out and see it for yourself sometime! :-)

      • Dear Debra, with Meniere’s I can no longer fly, but I’m thinking that as soon as a health concern I’m dealing with takes a turn for the better, I’m going to take a trip to a number of places–on Amtrak. I want to visit my cousin in Spokane and you’ve so interested me in coming to California to see the wonder of your state and another blogger has whetted my interest for visiting Quebec and Nova Scotia.

        I’ve never traveled much and so, in my eight decade I’m experiencing wanderlust!
        That’s thanks to you and other bloggers.

        Have a lovely Thanksgiving filled with gratitude for the wonder of our being and our country and of the mystery of humanness. Peace.

      • I just love the way you expressed a wonderful Thanksgiving blessing, Dee. We are so fortunate and I will ponder “the mystery of humanness.” That is so perfect!

        I think travel by Amtrak would be wonderful. I’ve traveled twice to New Orleans by Amtrak, some time ago, but I loved it! I’d gladly travel cross country by train. Some think it’s too slow, but I found that the travel itself was so enjoyable I didn’t care how long it took. Perhaps you can find a way to link Los Angeles and then straight north to Spokane. I’ll be eager to hear when you begin to make those plans.

        I do hope your health continues to improve and that you aren’t experiencing too much difficulty, Dee. You remain such a positive person that it’s often forgotten that you struggle at all! You enjoy your Thanksgiving, too, and just take care! oxo

    • I wish I could have you visit with me! We’d find some interesting little places, I know! :-) I love the pink benches, too. I think we all need a little whimsy right about now just to lighten things up. I’m looking forward to hearing an update on how you and your family are faring! Just getting estimates on home repairs right now must be quite a challenge…you and how many others? Stay well! oxo

  5. It’s wonderful when a city recognizes the need for green spaces for its citizens and actually does something about it. 16 acres is a large parcel of land, particularly in the downtown of a major metropolitan area. Granted, economics delayed and may have restricted many of the plans but, then again, would that real estate have been available had the city’s economy been booming?
    Thanks, Debra, for taking us along on your tour of this gem.

    • Because the park is multi-level I had difficulty taking photos that did it justice. One of the buildings is the criminal courts where we do jury duty if we’re sent downtown. I actually like the excuse to spend time there, but a majority of my friends will do anything to avoid that location. I am hoping that my enthusiasm and showing the park as a friendly oasis in the middle of chaos might encourage a few Angelenos to be a little more comfortable.

      I don’t know about the costs and how much was land. I did some on-line searching and couldn’t figure out some of the financial arrangements. I’m assuming the city still owns that land, and I think the investors contributed to the costs to gain favor on some other more lucrative projects. That sounds a little shady, but the City Council is not opposed to back door deals! I’m just glad the people gained something out of this one! :-)

  6. I think someone should hire you… this was a fantastic job… it makes me want to come half way round the world to see what you are talking about… great job… now send me the phone number of the Los Angeles Tourist Board and I will get a hold of them and tell them what they are missing by not employing you…

    • Hahaha! I’m so glad you enjoy my little mini-excursions. It’s a good thing for me that I’m rather easily amused. Sometimes I do chuckle when I consider the amazing sights and gorgeous sights I see on other blogs. There are much more spectacular views than I can find locally, but since this is home, I find what interests me. That anyone else finds it at all interesting is such a treat for me. I love to share sightseeing expeditions, so any time you are in Southern California you will have to let me know! :-)

  7. I was just thinking you’d make a fine ambassador for Los Angeles! Your knowledge of the area is really impressive – I’m looking forward to going there again so I can see all these places :)

    • You’ve been to so many of the world’s most beautiful places, Meg, and from time to time when I’m sharing I want to laugh at myself just a bit that I get so enthralled with so many little pockets within the city! By many standards, these aren’t much! But there is usually a little bit of background story or history that captures my imagination, and for that, I’m eager to promote that people take a second look at Los Angeles. Some of the best features aren’t always immediately recognized. If you do come again, I’d love to know! :-) Thanks, Meg. I always appreciate that you take the time to comment!

    • I understand about the earthquakes. I think it really is amazing that I am not more worried…I am afraid of many things that are far less real! Ha! It’s a true case of conditioning, I presume. I’ve always lived here so it’s familiar. If we ever do have that BIG one, you may find me living in Oregon myself! :-) The pink benches do just inspire a little whimsy…we could all use more of that! :-) Thank you, Marie!

  8. In truth, Debra, I’d never imagined Los Angeles to be aparticularly interesting place until I found you. Now I know so much more about it! Thank you :)
    The benches are wonderful- not only pink, but move-able! That is friendly x

    • Los Angeles is very large, Fiona, and spread across so much geographical area that sometimes when the city is discussed I think it would be difficult to know “which” Los Angeles is being highlighted. I think I’m the kind of person who usually finds anywhere I am to be very interesting. I’m easily entertained! :-) I’m glad I can share with you and perhaps elevate Los Angeles to being just a little bit better known! I’m happy you’re not bored with what I’m sharing! I think some of my closest friends get very tired of what interests me. Oh well! And I agree with you about the pink benches. They just delighted me! :-)

    • I am mostly enthused about the park because I do admire the intention…it is a park for general gathering. On the evening of the Presidential election crowds gathered to watch the returns. I think the city needs something of this nature at least as an offering. The population is so far-spread it won’t make a very large impact, but I do believe it should be at least applauded for the effort.

      Thank you SO much for asking about Beth, Kate. I will tell her! She has had quite a year of stress, primarily due to the nature of her work, but she is beginning a new job in about a week, and the stress should be so much less…other than what happens when anyone starts a new job! I will make sure she checks in at some point with a post to at least share about the doggies! They are going to enjoy her new job…it’s closer to home and much less weekend time! All in all they are doing well…just transitional! I know she will appreciate that you asked. oxo

    • I enjoy bringing you with me on my little field trips, Tricia. You’ve been to Los Angeles so you know how far spread it is, and that there are pockets that are wonderful, and many more that are not! :-) I enjoy the history and I think I have an understanding of why we are spread the we are, and I just appreciate any efforts to provide gathering space for people to enjoy the outdoors and possibly in the middle of their workdays leave the office and breathe some air! I’m glad you’re willing to come along with me. It makes it so much more fun to share the experience! oxo

    • I am very good at getting out and doing things, particularly when I have a big project and don’t seem to want to get to it, Karen! :-) I’d always rather be outdoors and unfortunately I can use that outdoor time to procrastinate many things. I may be pulling an all-nighter Thursday night…how old am I? LOL!

  9. You’ll be the first person I write to when I decide to visit.. you are, indeed, very enthusiastic.. and I can see why. I love that the gardens were the one project that wasn’t put on hold. There’s nothing more positive and encouraging than time spent in a natural environment. Excellent photos today!!

    • I am glad you enjoyed any part of my walkabout Grand Park, Barbara. It’s not so impressive when compared to many of the great parks of the world, certainly, but given the area, it is a worthy project. The city doesn’t tend to have gathering spaces, and this provides that and more. I think Los Angeles may be an acquired taste for many, if not most, but there are many places that are at least interesting. :-) Thank you for being an encouragement to me! I do appreciate the kind words–always!

  10. I read this earlier, Debra, then called away for something or other. My days seem to be quite filled right now with activities and preparing for Thanksgiving. I’m glad I came back to look again at this park, which, to me, looks exciting.

    When Chicago’s Millennium Park was proposed, constructed, unveiled, it was pooh-poohed for all sorts of reasons. It is now one of THE spots to be, in the heart of the city, which will likely happen to Grand Park in due time. Good for you for going, Debra.

    • I’m glad to have a little background story on Millennium Park, Penny. Grand Park is a nice effort, and given what was there before, it is an excellent improvement. I am always happy to see effort towards change, and one of the funniest things that Jay and I said while walking through the park was that for all the complaining that we do about the City Council and Los Angeles Mayor–they did something nice! Ha! We had to give them credit for something!

      I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Penny. Are you traveling or are the girls and family able to be with you in your home? The holiday season is upon us. I know some families with travel involved hold out for Christmas! I”m only taking occasional peeks at the calendar and I’m in a bit of denial! :-)

      • I’m in denial myself, Debra. Both girls will be elsewhere this year for Thanksgiving, though I’m sure Jennifer and Jason will stop by come evening. Our niece and her family will be joining us on Thursday. It will be fun to have young boys here for the day. You?

      • I will have a fairly large group for dinner Thursday, Penny, but we always laugh and say “the usual suspects.” My parents are across the street, and my brother and his family, although grown, all live fairly close. We do go through all the family favorites, and everyone helps. The blessing of this dinner is that my dad will be able to eat with us. He’s had a rough year, as you recall, and one of the lingering effects of his illness was difficulty swallowing. He is just now being returned to normal eating, so we all are celebrating. It makes the whole effort of Thursday more than worth it! Enjoy your family, too, Penny. I am sure it will be a lovely day!

  11. Gosh I live here, and didn’t know the park had opened. Great post Debra. I also think the LA Tourist Board should link to your site :-)

    In response to Nancy’s comment: I agree it’s a lot of money, but cities have to change with the times and these days we the people need our green space…

    • Hi Rosie! I think I enjoy some of the features of the city because I don’t compare cities, or parks, or much of anything, really! I accept Los Angeles for what it both is and isn’t, and this park really pleased me. It’s modest by many standards, but did give the area such a nice face lift. I’ll be eager to hear what you think of it at some point. Hope you’re doing well and hopefully have some time off for Thanksgiving? Let’s talk soon! :-)

  12. Sorry to be so late coming to this, Debra. Life’s been a bit hectic. I really loved your tour of the park and think it is wonderful that such imaginative and life-enhancing projects are being planned and executed – even if in stages. I would so love to visit LA with you as my guide. :-)

    • I understand hectic, Perpetua! Whenever I begin to get behind with my blog reading I am aware that getting caught up is going to take some time! We do the best we can, I’d say! I’d love to show you are around Southern California, but I don’t know why you’d ever leave your beautiful corner of the world! :-)

  13. When I went for my stop to photograph Walt Disney Concert Hall, it was already getting dark that I stayed to see how it looks when the sun is out. I do realize when I was looking around that there are plenty more to see.
    Reading this post, I’m floored by the knowledge you have about the area. Highly impressive. I do get interested with my travel destinations, but not as much as you do. Very evident on this post. I’m sure you’ll be an outstanding travel guide for LA.

    • Well, thank you, Rommel. One thing…I’m a lot older and I’ve always lived here. The knowledge just accumulates along the way, although I have enough interest to always add to where I’ve previously been. I think I was born curious, but you also are curious, or you wouldn’t do what you do! :-) When I was a child we even went to church in downtown Los Angeles. It was a very large church right next door to the Los Angeles Public Library. It was very hard when that great old building was torn down to make room for a bank building. So I have a lot of early memories I build on! Isn’t it fun to blog and read blogs, though. We learn so much from each other!

  14. It goes beyond merely rewinding and forwarding the show.

    TV has greatly evolved from being the ‘idiot-box’ from the one
    which not only delivers drama and soap operas
    but also is the best device which provides the news and information from all
    over the world and keeps us up-to-date with the current reality.
    There is a saying in business that goes like this:
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I always enjoy hearing from you!

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