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Four-Block Long Civic Center Park Breaks Ground, Plans Call for Performance Spaces, Street Food & More

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Thursday saw the groundbreaking of downtown's newest park venture. A $56 million project will transform Civic Center Park into a 12-acre open space that should be a celebrated space when it is completed. Ranging four sloped city blocks down Bunker Hill between the Music Center and City Hall, the park will include movable chairs, food trucks along Spring Street, pedestrian paths and performance spaces.

Designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the park was planned conceptualized over the past few years through a series of public meetings. “Our firm believes Los Angeles is
one of the most exciting global cities today," said Mark Rios, the studio's principal. "We are exposed to, and connected by, amazingly diverse and authentic cultural experiences and communities. Our intent is to design Civic Park as a cultural crossroads, a dynamic common public space that contributes to and celebrates the peoples and cultures of Los Angeles.”

LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne said the project's latest design tweaks have strengthened visions seen in the past. "The design still shows the strain of trying to answer to dozens of interested public officials and constituent groups and their differing visions of what the park might be," he wrote. "Yet it has also begun to assert, for the first time, a coherent aesthetic identity."

Hawthorne heralded Rios' movable chair concept -- many of the brightly colored chairs can be moved around by visitors instead of being forced where to sit -- and the prospect that the Music Center will program the park, meaning the LA Phil, LA Opera and Center Theatre Group could make the park literally come to life. He also urged Eli Broad, who is close to bringing a new museum a few blocks away on Grand Avenue, to kick in bucks for public art.

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$50 million of the funding came from developer Related Companies, which is charged with the Grande Avenue Project.