Park 101′s Freeway Lid for a Walkable Downtown Los Angeles

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In the 1950′s, the 101 Freeway was built through downtown Los Angeles, cutting off the city’s historic plaza, Union Station and
Chinatown from the rest of the downtown civic center. This
week, Angelenos have a chance to learn more about an ambitious plan that
could restore much of  the fabric of downtown, improve walking and
bicycling connections, and add parkland to the L.A.’s park-poor core.
It involves creating a lid above the below-grade freeway; atop the lid
sits Park 101.

Interested folks can see Park 101 project plans, ask questions, and
give input at a meeting preceding the monthly downtown Art Walk this
Thursday. It takes place between 4 and 6 P.M. at Caltrans
Headquarters, at 200 S. Main Street.

There are quite a few places where highway lids have been used to create park space. Successful examples include Memorial Park in La Canada and Freeway Park in Seattle. The lid idea is being explored for lots of locations in Southern California, including:

Park 101 is proposed over the 101 Freeway through downtown Los
Angeles, extending from around Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral (near
Grand Avenue) to the Los Angeles River (near Alameda Street.) The
project would extend about one mile, entail roughly 100 acres, and cost
about 800 million dollars. Project specifics and images are available
at the Downtown News, LAist, Curbed, and at Caltrans’ Park101 page.

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There’s a clear need to bridge the massive barriers that L.A.’s
freeways present.  This is especially true for downtown Los Angeles,
given the density of population and availability of transit. Park
101′s initial phase would strengthen walking connections to transit-hub
Union Station, by lidding the block between Los Angeles Street and Main
Street. Park 101 proponents propose that portions of the project can
dovetail with High Speed Rail planned to connect with Union Station.

As civilized as Park 101 feels, the project does face a number of
hurdles, not the least of which is its estimated $800M price tag. The
site is surrounded by institutional and governmental uses that have
turned their backs on the freeway. These government buildings,
generally empty outside of weekday workdays, don’t really generate the
needed "eyes on the park" and park usage that can be critical for
success. Additonally, even with the freeway covered, there are still
numerous street crossings to bridge to arrive at a coherent park
corridor. None of these issues are insurmountable, but they will take
careful planning and plenty of funding.

Come check out the designs this Thursday!