Phase 3A//Article_2: Spring Street Park

INTRODUCTION:

**What is Spring Street Park?**

It’s an initiative, launched in August 2012 with the aim of transforming small pieces of land in the least-served neighborhoods of L.A. into green spaces called pocket parks. Sandwiched between two buildings in the “old bank” district near Fourth and Fifth streets, Spring Street Park sits on .7 acres of land and includes walking paths, an open lawn, seating, children’s play elements, native landscaping and a smart irrigation system, according to a release. All features are said to be safe and environmentally sustainable.

Spring Street Park embodies the idea of “thrivability” evident in the best placemaking and sustainable practices of minimum lawns, low maintenance, low water planting which captures and cleanses all site water before returning it to the storm drain.

DESCRIPTION OF THE CONTEXT:

Located in a renewed and emerging historic context, Spring Street Park is designed to acknowledge and respond to the street, and the surrounding residential buildings with their new big residential windows and balconies to create a recreational destination for the full range of community.

**LOCATION**

The park is located at 426 S Spring Street, Los Angeles. In the Historic Old Bank District.

0,7 acre, L-shaped lot, bounded by Spring Street on the west, an alley on the east, and mid-block between 4th and 5th Street.

**DEMOGRAPHY**

Los Angeles is the largest and most populated city in the state of California and the second in the U.S. in number of inhabitants ( 3.792.621 hab) With an area of 1.214,9 km² the city has a density of 2938,65 hab/km².

As the population of Downtown Los Angeles has grown dramatically over the last decade(Downtown added 15,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, according to the 2010 U.S. Census), the need for park space to serve that population has grown along with it. A new pocket park being built along Spring Street helps meet that need.

As redevelopment investment has flowed into downtown Los Angeles over the past decade, with the population of the area increasing by 15,000 residents as a result, the need for functional green space has become much more acute.

**POPULATION GROUPS INVOLVED //AGENTS**

The involvement of those who live or work nearby at the design of Spring Street was significant. The stakeholders were extraordinarily supportive of the design throughout its evolution. Emblematic of where downtown Los Angeles is today, the newly renascent residential communities and the organizations and leaders aggressively stewarded, lobbied, supported, cajoled the City to make it happen and to critique/inform the design.

Public meetings, the ambitious neighborhood association, adjacent developers. Participation was both public and behind the scenes. As a public project, the interests and aspirations of the political leadership – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council members – and Agency leadership are generally paramount. Adjacent owners also had significant input. At the develop of the work, it’s noticed that this process is similar in most urban centers in the developed, democratic world where a range of voices are invited to express their opinion.

-Lehrer architects: was selected to provide design leadership for the landscape architects of the City’s Bureau of Engineering in an experimental public/private partnership.  Lead by Michael Lehrer, the architectural firm delivered a bold design with an agile approach to urban public use development.  The City brought landscape expertise to the design and implementation for a low maintenance, durable valued urban park.

-Department of recreation and parks

-Neighborhood council: Downtown Los Angeles NC

-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: begins the “50 Park” initiative

– City’s Bureau of Engineering with Lehrer Architects

**CONTROVERSY**

In that intervention of public space, Public/Private partnerships can be controversial, therefore, like any partnership, it takes work, empathy, trust, and role clarity.

Some decisions may have been a matter of discussion but as the project progresses these differences eventually disappear.

Moreover, with the park opening the imposition of a series of standards has led to awkward situations such as not cleaned and left as it was before to walk the dog around the area. As a solution, the department of recreation and parks piden a los usuarios de “report” (take a picture of) any dog owner who does NOT clean up.

HISTORIOGRAPHY:

**STRATEGIES**

The Project is being completed in 2 phases:

The Phase I work which includes site demolition, excavation, backfill, recompaction and

minor grading to make the site ready for new park construction (Phase II work).

PHASE I:

The process of transforming the plot into a park began when in 2009, the Bureau of Recreation and Parks made a surprise decision to purchase the site using $5.1 million in Quimby funds (money set aside by local residents and developers for public improvements) from Council District 9. Enter Spring Street Park, designed by BoE and LA-based design firm Lehrer Architects LA.

The Architectural Division led a public outreach process, which revealed that the community wanted the park to be a sophisticated, outdoor urban space with something for everyone. Previously the site was a parking for about 125 vehicles.   A surface parking lot in the centre of LA seems like such a waste.

PHASE II:

Construction.

The 0.7-acre, $8 million park makes efficient use of its L-shaped parcel. A diagonally oriented grassy ellipse crosses the northern end, where the majority of sunlight falls throughout the year. A water feature doubles as a fence in the northwestern corner, and a children’s playground occupies the northeastern corner.

A long plaza occupies the southern end of the park, which may one day be home to an outdoor café. A bold diagonal (but almost true east-west) red concrete path cuts the longest path through the Park connecting a vibrant Spring Street to an in-the-future vibrant alley.

In this modernist plan, the elliptical great lawn is used succinctly as a classical urban room, on the sunniest part of the site.  It is surrounded by an ellipse of vined green-screen columns (many are lights).  The ellipse is largely surrounded by a newly planted bamboo hedge, which will grow up to 30’.

A continuous narrow paved path designed for children on bicycles, adults with strollers and leisure pedestrians circumnavigates the Park.  A fountain, located at the street end of the great lawn, adds visual and acoustic interestenjoyed from the street and the Park.


SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

The project should become a model for future smart growth in the growing urban center. Spring Street Park, which broke ground two years ago, started out as an ugly surface parking lot (i.e., dead zone) that provided little-to-no value to the community’s livability.

The surface parking lot in an urban context like Downtown LA disappears forever and is replaced by pedestrian oriented public space. Surface parking lots suck away life from the street instead of injecting life into the street. It’s a terribly hard concept for some suburban minded, car-fanatics to understand, but eventually, when is reach a critical mass of great public spaces and density in Downtown LA, people will naturally begin to feel and understand by just living a convenient and urban lifestyle like so many others do in great cities like New York, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco.

In this way, the opinion of the neighborhood is important to continue with the project so is created a fan page at facebook and the people that are interested can vote or saying its opinion.

ECONOMICAL SUSTAINABILITY

The park supports by an official non-profit but it’s not enough so there is a web page to give donations.

 

CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY

  It is number 16 in former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s “50 Park” initiative, which has seen small green spaces go up around the city. At the opening, Rec and Parks Commission President Barry Sanders said the number of parks that the initiative will eventually achieve will be even higher: 53, or a 20 percent increase in the total number of public green spaces in the city.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Live bamboo rings the park. As it grows it will provide a screen, increasing the backyard feel of the space. The bamboo motif is continued in the pattern of the aluminum chairs found throughout the site. The patterns change in different light conditions, adding to the feeling of flexibility and convertibility.

Spaces throughout the park encourage private uses by one person or small groups. Urban serenity is also available on a circumnavigating path, which provides a circuit for people and strollers. A diagonal walkway bisects the site, providing a potential future passage between the northern and southern ends and connecting the rear alley to Spring Street. An adjacent driveway could also become space for al fresco dining for a soon-to-open restaurant.

CONCLUSIONS:

The  impact of the Spring Street Park is to become part of the physiognomy of downtown Los Angeles, and particularly the surrounding community. The only real challenge will be to manage dogs and their waste. Otherwise, it instantly is what it will become more of, the community’s outdoor living room. Singles, couples, families, groups, event crowds will all feel it is their place. As the plantings grow, the Park will become more romantic, increasingly the necessary yin to the yang of the Street.

The parallelism with Carolinas Bajas will be that not is the thing built, is the fact to create something that didn’t exist before and the situations that can make. This fact is necessary to increase the social activity at the neighborhood and “to start something”.

“This idea” will have successful at Carolinas Bajas because it’s developed in a similar conditions of urban fabric and the lack of public spaces.

“What is so satisfying is the immediacy of the embrace. Like the latest mobile technology, people are already beginning to feel like the Park was always there. Inevitable. It hits the chord of delight, community, and the sense of urban nurture that parks, almost uniquely give to cities around the world.” M. Lehrer, architect.

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