Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

What an exciting time to be an Angeleno. For those of us focused on Downtown, among other places in the city, you are witnessing urban evolution in action. Consider one tri-street junction on the northern edge of Downtown, just north of Union Station. Where Alameda St., North Main St. and the former Alhambra Ave. once converged, a new open space has sprung up where it was once a tangle of tattered asphalt and partially-exposed freight railroad tracks, and worse - a part of town where, due to location, aesthetics and perception, people have absolutely no interest in going to as a destination.

But it's close enough to Philippe's The Original to sit down and enjoy a French Dip, close enough to Chinatown to enjoy your little box of dumplings to go. People who work at The California Endowment may very well call it an extension of their postmodern, high-tech campus.

The folks at Angelenic tracked its progress at the beginning of the year, and now it's pretty much complete. It's certainly got the recognition of the "Islands of LA Nat'l Park" folks (pictured right), who have something to brag about for this particular concrete-bordered island.

The triangular park has nascent trees, a patch of grass, a circular path and some benches. So what's missing? People...or at least people for whom the park was intended for (pictured left).

It's a typical urban renewal conundrum: Build It And They Will Come. But if "those other people" come, then "They" won't come. And if "Those Others" are there already, then "They" pretty much give up on "It" and in effect give it away to "Those Others." The same equation plays itself in many a neighborhood where personal safety has been a realistic question.

But friends, that's the nature of public space, or anything public. It belongs to those who stake their claim to it. Use it or lose it. So stake your claim. Use it.


Anonymous said...

Good point! When I was in the public plazas in Spain, I noticed how upscale folks, regular folks and the druggies all shared the plazas. It was inspiring to see. The problem with Los Angeles is, there's a certain class of people who don't want to mix with anyone else besides their kind.

waternne said...

I visited the park just a few weeks ago and it's pretty quiet there. I didn't see a lot of people in the park. However, I think the park is not yet complete, the California State Park just approved a conceptual design for the park, and according to the document, it should look nice. see http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=25022