Earlier today, officials from the City of Los Angeles unveiled a new phased implementation plan for the long-awaited redesign of Pershing Square.
“With the new design, Pershing Square will be reenergized. It will once again affirm its standing as the preeminent public space - the “town square” of Downtown Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Jose Huizar in a statement. "It has been a collaborative process with nonprofit Pershing Square Renew playing an integral role. Pershing Square will return as a platform for civic engagement. It will return as a place of rest, play, and leisure for residents, local community stakeholders, and visitors alike. This project has been many years in the making, but today we mark the realization of a new tomorrow for Pershing Square. It’s a fitting development for the growing population of our renewed city center."
The first phase of the project, slated to break ground in late 2020, focuses on the accessibility and visibility of the park. Plans call for the addition of more than 20 new shade trees, wayfinding signage, and improvements to landscaping along 5th, 6th, and Olive Streets. The most visible change would be the removal of the café building along Olive, which would be converted into a landscaped plaza with glass elevators connecting to the parking structure below.
Phase two of the project would focus on the Hill Street side of Pershing Square. Plans call removing the parking garage ramp and walls that currently mask the park from view, replacing them with landscaping, terraced seating, and grass. The park's circular fountain - currently covered with a temporary structure to serve as outdoor seating - would be permanently converted to green space. Additionally, new glass elevators and stairs are planned along Hill Street, creating a clear pedestrian link between Hill and Olive Streets. Phase two is anticipated to begin construction in late 2022 - immediately following the completion of phase one. Completion is expected in mid-2024.
The final design for Pershing Square, the concept from Agence TER dubbed "Radical Flatness," has no set schedule for implementation at this point in time. The City has already stepped back from some elements that plan, which had originally called for shaving down a portion of the park's subterranean parking garage to lower the space to street level, citing "engineering realities."
The initial phases of the project, which are now fully funded, have an approximately $25 million budget. Council District 14 and the Department of Recreation and Parks secured funding largely through Quimby development fees and Transfer of Floor Area Rights (TFAR) payments by developers. The final Pershing Square redesign could cost an additional $80 million, and may be broken into two phases. Approximately $10 million has been identified for the project through future Quimby and TFAR payments. The full redesign - inclusive of phases one, two, and three - is estimated to cost $110 million, and is anticipated to be built over a ten-year period.
Pershing Square, which spans roughly five acres, is considered the oldest park in Los Angeles, its origins as public open space dating to the mid-19th century. In the decades that have followed, the park has evolved through numerous design iterations, with some of the most significant changes occurring during the 1950s, when the entire site was excavated to build the parking garage with vehicle ramps flanking all four street frontages.
The current look of Pershing Square, designed by the Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, was completed in the mid 1990s.
Plans to renovate Pershing Square come as new developments begin to flank the park - highlighted by the recently-completed Park Fifth complex and a proposed 53-story hotel and condominium tower at the intersection of 5th and Hill Streets.
- Pershing Square (Urbanize LA)