Scott McGibbon is a Project Specialist at The Norman Lear Center.
The Lear Center’s Grand Intervention project – begun as an effort to open up the design process and involve the public in LA’s Grand Avenue Civic Park — just passed its sixth birthday, which seems like a fine time to revisit it and its impact on the emerging park in downtown Los Angeles.
Grand Intervention, inspired by Lear Center Director Marty Kaplan‘s July 2005 LA Times Op-Ed, called for transparency in the creation of the new park because the land was public land, owned by the city and county of LA, though intertwined with a for-profit high-rise development adjacent to the park. Early meetings between the developer and the downtown community were not promising, offering little real opportunity for citizen input about the park.
Our approach was to try to open every real and digital window and door to bring the community into the park design process. We provided live Webcasts of all three subsequent Community Workshops, with discussion boards for online attendees to post their questions and comments, which were relayed to moderators at the event; We made video and searchable transcripts of these meetings available online for viewing anytime; All materials distributed and displayed at the meetings, including renderings and model photos, were posted online; We held anunauthorized design competition, open to all, which resulted in over 300 submissions from around the world that were then viewed by key members of the design and development team; and we conducted a survey of Community Workshop participants, both online and off, to see whether they felt their voices were heard.
The ground-breaking for construction was July 2010.
So where does the park and its process stand today, less than a year from its scheduled completion? While visiting the site recently while on jury duty, I was thrilled to see that substantial infrastructure work has been completed, including the relocation of the iconic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain (a community favorite; saving it for the new park was one of the most frequent citizen requests).
And while there are few clear vantage points at the site itself now, I’m happy to report that LA County now provides a regularly updated Website where Angelenos can track construction via monthly photo sets and and in-progress videos, as well as maps, plans, a FAQ, and a roughconstruction schedule. This is how good, even grand civic endeavors succeed.