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!

  • BB

    A failed lid project in Phoenix is a good example of what not to do. They bought all the land around it, and then didn’t need the land. It has never recovered and severs the downtown even with a lid or deck park. You can’t even bike through it easily.

  • Chris Loos

    I’m all for capping the freeway but I need to point out that 100 acres is way, way, WAY too big, considering the area doesn’t have much residential or retail. The place is going to seem empty, desolate, and dangerous.

    Boston made the same mistake with the new parkland created by burying their freeway in the Big Dig. They have too much space and its not being used.

    Why not develop some of the capped area with condos and retail, and leave the rest open? You’d have instant pedestrian activity with which to activate the park, and the developer could be asked to help pay for the cap project in exchange for development rights. Win win.

  • Carter R

    @Chris Loos

    I believe one of the financing mechanisms being discussed involves having developers chip in the cost of building the park for the rights to develop apartments/condos in the area. Which hopefully would take care of a couple problems.

  • Spokker

    Is this really necessary? It seems that building more parks where few parks currently exist would be much better, and less expensive.

  • Robuś

    Someone said it above but it bears repeating: Big Dig. Capping the freeway is a great idea but don’t let it turn into a big ugly glut of unmixed green space.

  • Manu

    Wouldn’t building condos require a foundation? Which has to be below the ground. In this case below ground means we have cars speeding at 55 miles per hour. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Redebbm

    I fully support capping the 101 downtown, to make downtown a more “want to be” place, it’ll be the L.A. version of the high line park in NYC. However, in this climate I don’t think it can be built yet.. especially with people whining about how “high’ their taxes are *sigh* Although temporary jobs would be provided I’ll sit by and see how this plays out. As for too big, the park needs to be well planned out to make it a place people want to go. bike routes, those workout playgrounds come to mind, and private development next to if not near it will be essential to its success down the line.

  • Sameer

    I checked that link for the proposed park between Vermont and Virgil, but I don’t see any mention of that proposal in the link. I just see a lengthy discussion of a “woonerf” in East Hollywood near the Hollywood/Western Station. Am I missing something?

  • here’s a better overall link for the SNAP plan:
    http://cityplanning.lacity.org/complan/specplan/sparea/vermonttodpage.htm

    I just went through it, though, and there doesn’t seem to be any reference to the freeway park… though it’s on a map in my (paper) files.

  • Jeff Jacobberger

    $800MM spent on this park (which, by the way, is one short block away from the future Civic Center Park) is $800MM that could be spent elsewhere. What about a phenomenal bicycle network throughout all of Los Angeles that would provide genuinely safe routes to schools and parks for all of our children and safe routes to work for the thousands of low-income service workers who cannot afford cars and who work at hours when transit service is virtually non-existent, and have the potential to genuinely transform the way we think about mobiity and transporation in this City?
    Is this park a great idea? Absolutely, particularly the small portion that would connect Union Station and Olvera Street to City Hall. Should it be anywhere near the top of anyone’s list of priority projects, particularly given that the immediate area has Elysian Park, the Cornfields, the aforementioned Civic Center Park, and LA River revitalization? Absolutely not.

  • Laeboe

    fix the 101 at 110 just before echo park/glendale blvd where 2 busy fwy lanes merge into one another cause most of the traffic in downtown first…

  • label

    plus i dont even see where the exact area of the park is in that pic what streets are those?