LA's Grand Park debuts with fanfare, free events

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – After a decade of sometimes-contentious planning and design, a carpet of new parkland that cascades down Bunker Hill — from the Los Angeles County Music Center to City Hall — formally opens today.

Grand Park is a four-block long project that “elicits comparisons to New York’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Union Square — a couple of the most enthusiastic supporters even like it to the Champs-Elysees,” gushed the New York Times in an architectural review.

The park staircases up Bunker Hill, and weaves together such landmarks as the iconic City Hall, the fanciful Disney Hall, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the latter two of which are one block off the park.

Today will see a day-long series of free public events throughout the four-block plan to mark the occasion, including “A Fanfare for Grand Park” at 4:30 p.m., with music composed by David O and choreography by Jacques Heim.

The park’s World Jazz Series will kick off with a 5:30 p.m. performance by Latin jazz duo Dos y Mas. A formal ceremony for the opening of the park’s 12 acres will include a welcome from Supervisor Gloria Molina and other guests at 6:45 p.m. The evening will be topped off with an aerial dance performance by troupe called Bandaloop on the side of City Hall, visible from the park, at 7:30.   

A real estate company, the Related Companies, paid $50 million for the park, in exchange for development rights for a plot occupied by a 50-year-old “temporary” parking garage across the street from Disney Hall. That project has been stymied by the recession.

Most of the boundaries of the park are made up of the supervisors’ Hall of Administration, and assorted county offices, including the Sarah Foltz Criminal Courts Building, home of the O.J. Simpson, Conrad Murray and tens of thousands of other criminal trials. The park is already a favorite for lunching jurors.

Designed faced great difficulty in designing the park around massive spiral underground parking garage entrances and three major streets that bisect the park. But access is easy: the Red and Purple line subways cross under Grand Park at the Civic Center station, and dozens of bus lines and a new city bike path pass near it.

Just south of the park, construction is proceeding on a new modern art museum to house the collection of philanthropist Eli Broad, Jr. The Museum of Contemporary Art, the new cathedral and the Pueblo de Los Angeles historic park are within two blocks of Grand Park, but access in those directions are blocked by two 1950s-era county buildings that some county officials would like to demolish.
The park informally opened to the public last summer. More information about activities there is at grandpark.lacounty.gov .

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