By The Angels 2010 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
By The Angels 2010 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
An international competition was launched Wednesday to redesign the five-acre Pershing Square urban park in downtown Los Angeles, with a firm expected to be selected by February.

Councilman Jose Huizar helped form the nonprofit Pershing Square Renew to lead the design competition. He said the hope is to transform the concrete- paved park to make it  more inviting to the downtown residential community, with completion planned for 2020.

The 150-year-old park underwent a $14.5 million redesign in the early 1990s by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and American architect Laurie Olin.

With walls that obscure some of the park from view to those on the street, the current design has been poorly received by some, with detractors describing the park as “fortress-like.”

“When it’s completed in 2020, Pershing Square will be a platform for civic engagement, a place of rest, play and leisure for residents, local community stakeholders and visitors alike,” Huizar said.

Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew, invited “qualified design teams … from near and far to join us in discovering a new vision for our central square that will enamor the people of Downtown and become an inspiring symbol for our entire city.”

A jury will pick 10 semi-finalists in November to present their concepts. The pool will then be whittled down to four finalists in December, with the winner picked by the end of February.

The jury includes Huizar, Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Michael Shull, representatives of architecture firms and real estate developers, including Wayne Ratkovich.

Huizar said last month that Pershing Square  “hasn’t lived up to its potential,” with visitors and residents often avoiding it, even though it is one of the area’s “precious open spaces.”

“It doesn’t really blend well into the local community, the sight views — you really can’t see — there’s a lot of blockage. So I thought it was worthwhile to go out and have a competition to redesign the park for what is the modern downtown L.A.,” Huizar said.

He said MacFarlane Partners, a neighbor of the park, already has donated $1 million, while the developers of Metropolis, a property under construction across from Staples Center, have put in $250,000.

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday cleared the way for the launch of the design competition, approving an agreement between the Recreation and Parks Department and Pershing Square Renew to lead the effort.

Huizar said the competition costs will not come out of city operating funds, though some special city funds will likely be used.

Huizar said the benefit of the private-public agreement approved by the board is that it will allow the city to attract private funding to build a new park.

— City News Service 

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