Submitted by Jay German, Los Angeles
The opportunity to develop a 16-acre open space, which should be named Grand Common, in the heart of one of the world?s great metropolises is rare and precious. The Grand Avenue Committee has taken a highly responsible and measured approach to create a plan that will ensure that this open space is developed in a way to provide beneficial services to local residents, nearby workers and, indeed, all Angelenos.
The committee?s overall goal, to ?create a great civic gathering place for small to large-scale events as well as for day-to-day activities and quiet respite,? is appropriate and admirable. The master plan includes a landscape featuring much green ? trees and lawns ? and little concrete beyond, assumedly, narrow footpaths. This strong realization of the importance of living, breathing plant life is laudable. While the master plan does not reflect fountains and running water, I understand that consideration will be given to including water in the landscape plan.
What the plan does not consider ? ignores, in reality ? is the inclusion of elements that will attract visitors to the park. Grand Avenue (the Avenue) is the arts and culture center of Los Angeles. When completed, the development should make the Avenue more visually interesting, pedestrian friendly, appealing to shoppers and more readily reached by public transportation.
But little value is added to attract visitors, both international and national, to the Avenue. Tour buses will continue to either drive through or occasionally stop for a photo opportunity, but few tourists or casual visitors will linger. More important, few will be provided with an opportunity or reason to spend their time and money on the Avenue.
One of the incontrovertible truths of travel is that all tourists everywhere have an insatiable need to shop. Yet the committee?s park proposal includes little, if any, opportunity to do so. This proposal builds on the basic plan by including revenue-generating arts and crafts pavilions that will sell merchandise to visitors.
In the sections of the proposed park called the Grand Terrace and the Great Lawn, construct three arts and crafts pavilions, integrated into the lush landscaping envisioned in the master plan. Each of the shops would feature mid- to high-quality works by artists and artisans of particular cultures and geographic regions.
This shop, the first reached from Grand Avenue, would feature works from Asian Pacific Rim countries: China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and others.
The second shop to be reached from the Avenue would feature works from Mexico and Central American countries.
The shop closest to City Hall, near Hill Street, would feature products from the greater Los Angeles region, showcasing local artists and artisans. In addition, this pavilion would have a section selling attractive souvenirs of Los Angeles and Grand Common.
Tour buses and vans traveling north on the Avenue would have a pullout where they would drop off their passengers. The driver or guide would tell [his] customers to follow the walkway to Hill Street, where the bus would meet them for the continuation of the tour after a predetermined time: 30 minutes to an hour undoubtedly. The vehicles would proceed to a designated nearby site to wait, then go to a comparable pullout on Hill Street for pickup.
Tourists would always have time to stop and shop in the pavilions, and many groups would be provided sufficient time to visit restaurants, food stands or attractions in the Gardens area, particularly if the Gardens became a stunning sculpture garden. Great amounts of sales tax-generating money will be spent.
Because the land is publicly owned, the retail operations would be managed by the county, either directly by an employed county manager or indirectly through oversight by a director who would award leases to highly qualified retailers.
Each pavilion could be uniquely or uniformly designed. In either case, the design must be complementary to the landscaping and adjacent cityscape. To add an even more local flavor to the buildings, a design competition could be held among regional schools of architecture: SCI-Arc, USC, UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona and Woodbury University have thriving programs. Committee-selected architects could accommodate the winning design to the master plan.
The benefits of this modest proposal for the civic park are myriad:
-The Avenue would become not only the arts and cultural heart of Los Angeles, but the tourist mecca as well.
-The shops will generate a great deal of much-needed tax and possibly lease revenues, offsetting some of the enormous expense of the development and creating a valuable stream of income into the future.
-The pavilions will powerfully demonstrate Los Angeles? strength in diversity and instill a strong sense of pride in the countries and cultures whose works are showcased.
-Members of the exploding downtown residential population also will have a destination of choice for gift shopping.
-Providing a shopping opportunity in a lush park setting will enable visitors to take advantage of and appreciate Los Angeles? year-round comfortable climate.
-A critical mass of visitors to the Grand Common will attract fashionable restauranteurs.
-Carefully controlled vehicle access will minimize traffic and pollution impacts.
-The architectural competition will create immediate and ongoing buzz for the development.
-Public management of the shops will ensure that they will not deteriorate to shabby, swap-mall condition.
-As the Grand Common thrives, all downtown tourism-related businesses will also thrive: hotels, tour operators, restaurants, ticketed attractions.
-Increased foot traffic in the upper quadrants of the common will enhance any and all activities taking place in the two lower quadrants as well as complement the First Street cityscape now under consideration.
Los Angeles is a world city with natural beauty, year-round temperate weather, amusements and attractions to appeal to residents and to visitors from around the world. Yet, despite its central location, downtown Los Angeles has NEVER been a base from which visitors would carry out their activities.
A vibrant, accessible arts and cultural center along Grand Avenue and Grand Common, coupled with a burgeoning entertainment center south of downtown, linked by an efficient transportation system, will surely cause tour operators and individuals alike to consider booking into downtown hotels. Further, and perhaps even more important, with a critical mass of appealing activities ? culture, arts, entertainment, amusement, shopping, dining ? to experience, visitors will spend far more time and money in downtown. This will be true even if they choose to stay outside of downtown or outside the city.
Including stylish arts and crafts pavilions within the Grand Common will provide visitors and, to a lesser extent, Angelenos with a service they will seek out, and will provide the city and county with a stream of revenue at the same time. Completed properly, a vibrant Grand Avenue and Grand Common development will enhance Los Angeles? stature as an international destination of choice.