Bunker Hill Park

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This is not exactly about the Park, but about the Grand Avenue development in general. Grand Avenue's built component proposes 1800 housing units, a large amount of retail, and a hotel. In addition, they are proposing 4,000 parking spots. Immediately adjacent to the development is a Red Line station.

Here are the statistics for the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, also developed by Related:

Time Warner Center is a 2.8 million square foot, mixed-use project located on New York's most prominent development site at the southwest corner of Central Park. Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the project consists of two 80-story towers rising from a seven-story podium. The development was completed in 2004 and contains almost 1.1 million square feet of office space, 338,000 square feet of retail space, a 251-room luxury hotel, 201 luxury condominiums, a 1,100-seat jazz theatre and a 500-space parking facility.

Note how much parking Time Warner has. It is also immediately adjacent to a subway station.

I am VERY concerned that this Grand Avenue project has been hijacked by a totally suburban mindset. The Paseo proposed would turn all the activity inward, away from the street. How much would you want to bet that the streets will be lined by blank concrete walls. Despite all the denials by the developers, that is exactly what their plans seem to be in my view. By encouraging an inward facing development with huge amounts of parking, are they really trying to contribute to a healthy downtown, or are they trying to make this project a singular destination that does not encourage interaction with the larger downtown?


  • At the Environmental Impact Report scoping meeting last week the statement was made that any correspondence they receive regarding scoping would be addressed in the report and directly to the writer. They do insist that there will be an urban street scene along First, Second, Olive and Hill, including a major supermarket at First and Olive, probably a Whole Foods.

    They also stated they would not address 'speculative impact' such as the effects of a plane smashing into the tower (my example) so I would suggest the letter should state the problem in terms of existing conditions of a vibrant and growing Downtown street life being squelched by the ever present eight feet of concrete at the sidewalk-building juncture such as we find around two sides of CalTrans new building in combination with unfriendly gaping maws of parking entrances crossing the sidewalk.

    Put the parking entrances on the street side of the sidewalk and fill the building facade with storefronts along the sidewalk. Create some 'affordable' retail so mom and pop operations can move in and thrive serving the residents, not the tourists. This might be the most important thing to prevent the area from becoming indistinguishable from any other mall, many of which are now failing for lack of interest.

    By Blogger Tim, at Wed Sep 28, 02:56:00 PM 2005  

  • When it comes to building in Los Angeles, there are some pretty annoying zoning codes that mandate parking. You can blame the developers, but I think that looking closely at what they are required to build in terms of parking will show you why they are doing what they are doing.

    By Blogger ubrayj02, at Thu Sep 29, 07:00:00 PM 2005  

  • That's true about zoning, but a project like this can easily get a variance if the developers can provide a rationale. This is how the Adaptive Reuse ordinance works, where parking regulations can be reduced. My concern is that they are rolling over, and this project will be a detriment to the surrounding area.

    By Blogger Bert Green, at Fri Sep 30, 12:40:00 AM 2005  

  • I have similar concerns about the Grand Avenue project. The shopping areas must engage the street as well as the interior promenades. The retail component of Time Warner Center is nothing but a glorified indoor mall that does not seem "right" for Manhattan and should definitely not be considered a model for the Grand Avenue effort.

    I agree with Tim that space should be provided to small businesses, but at any shopping center, the costs of new construction and for maintenance of common areas and parking will make it financially impossible. The City and County will need to demand spaces with "affordable" rent from Related but will probably need to provide incentives to make it happen.

    As a professional planner, I too am frustrated by the parking requirements imposed by zoning codes. In unincorporated L.A. County, for example, we require 2 parking spaces for each dwelling unit, 1 parking space for every 250 square feet of retail space, and 1 parking space for every factor of 10 "occupants" in a restaurant, bar, or club. Adaptive reuse, affordable housing, and transit-oriented development ordinances have reduced this requirement for many projects. I have a good feeling that 4,000 parking spaces represent some kind of concession on the part of the City -- such a development would probably require far more parking under standard zoning provisions.

    My critique of zoning notwithstanding, we all have to recognize this project is being built in L.A., not New York. We can't really compare the NYC subway system to Metro Rail -- it just doesn't go as many places, it just doesn't serve nearly as many people. The fact of the matter is that most people in this city travel by car and will continue to do so. Related must provide thousands of parking spaces in order to make this project work. I don't want to see a suburban-style development either, but 500 parking spaces wouldn't be nearly enough in this city. Downtown L.A. will never be Manhattan.

    By Blogger Mitch Glaser, at Mon Oct 03, 07:21:00 PM 2005  

  • True that LA is not New York, but Downtown is also not the West Side. Downtown will continue to fail miserably if it plays by the same rules as the suburban areas in LA, as there will be no fundamental difference in the experience one would get Downtown — so why bother going there?

    I did not mean to imply that the project should have only 500 parking spaces. I meant simply to make a comparison of the ratio of parking spaces to overall project size. You are probably right that the 4,000 spaces represent some kind of concession on the county's part, but to create such a large number of parking spots, point the retail inward, and play down the street, makes for a suburban project. It stinks, IMHO.

    By Blogger Bert Green, at Mon Oct 03, 10:09:00 PM 2005  

  • For what it's worth, Related and the committee insist that the retail will not be turned inward exclusively, that the streetscape and sidewalk, building juncture is important to the success of the re-birth of downtown and they intend to pay alot of attention to it along First, Second, Olive, and Hill

    That is not to say that oversight isn't necessary. We need to write a letter . . .

    By Blogger Tim, at Tue Oct 04, 02:38:00 PM 2005  

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