Pershing Square Renew receives City approval for public/private partnership, launches international design competition to re-envision urban park in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles
A day after the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to support Councilmember José Huizar’s legislation to form a public/private partnership to overhaul and renew DTLA’s Pershing Square, that partnership – Pershing Square Renew – announced plans for an international design competition to re-envision the five-acre urban park in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council authorized Pershing Square Renew to develop a new design concept and provide fundraising and project management for the renovation of Pershing Square. Pershing Square Renew grew out of a task force Councilmember Huizar formed after redistricting placed the historic square in his district in 2012.
“Through our collective efforts, Pershing Square will truly be renewed and once again affirm its standing as the preeminent public space in Downtown Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Huizar, who has led the charge for the square’s renovation. “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. This public space will regain the same excitement, energy and reverence our forefathers experienced nearly 150 years ago when they deemed it a park in perpetuity. With Downtown on the rise once again, one of its most treasured public spaces deserves its moment to be uplifted. Pershing Square Renew offers us the chance to do just that.”
The Pershing Square Design Competition will take place over the next six months. In November, 10 “semi-finalists” will be chosen and asked to present their qualifications and preliminary design concepts to a multi-disciplinary jury in Los Angeles. In December, four finalists will be selected. In February 2016, the finalists will present to the jury in Los Angeles, with a winner announced later that month.
“We’re excited to have a formal agreement with the City that empowers us to fulfill on our mission to ensure that Pershing Square is an authentic reflection of Downtown L.A.’s thriving renaissance by creating a world-class public space for everyone,” said Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew. “Qualified design teams are invited 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.”
Located in the heart of Downtown L.A. – at the intersection of the Financial District, and the Historic Core -- Pershing Square is the City of Los Angeles’ oldest park, dedicated in 1866 by Mayor Cristobal Aguilar as “La Plaza Abaja” (“the Lower Plaza”). Pershing Square has been redesigned and renamed multiple times since its inception -- the major redesigns occurred in the 1950s and early 1990s.
The initiative to overhaul and improve Pershing Square can be credited to larger revitalization efforts all around Downtown, including Huizar’s “Bringing Back Broadway” effort, which started seven years ago, and led to a rash of revitalization along the corridor that has attracted the likes of Ace Hotel, Urban Outfitters, Acne Studios, Umami Burger and a revitalized Grand Central Market.
In the summer of 2013, Councilmember Huizar announced a task force of 21 Downtown stakeholders to spearhead the effort to re-imagine Pershing Square to match the broad transformation of the Downtown area. The group included Downtown residents, design and architectural experts, business representatives and property owners, and was guided by representatives from governmental agencies like the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, LAPD and the City’s Planning Department.
In August 2014, the task force evolved into a newly created entity, Pershing Square Renew, which worked with the Department of Recreation and Parks, and Project for Public Spaces (out of New York), to conduct intensive community outreach and engagement around an effort to re-imagine the square. Meanwhile, MacFarlane Partners, the developer of a 99,000 square-foot site at 5th and Olive Streets overlooking Pershing Square, announced a $1 million pledge to seed Pershing Square Renew, and more developers plan to contribute to the effort. Additionally, the Department of Recreation and Parks announced that $1 million would go towards the park in the immediate future for infrastructure improvements and amenities. The department is a key partner for Pershing Square Renew and the local Council office.
“The renewal of Pershing Square is something the Department has diligently been aiming towards,” said Michael A. Shull, general manager, Department of Recreation and Park. “We are very excited to be working with Councilman José Huizar, 14th District, and Pershing Square Renew, and look forward to this historical park becoming the ‘living room’ of this booming residential and business community.”
Gensler, a global design and architecture firm, and a member of the original task force, is serving as Pershing Square Renew’s design advisor through these preliminary phases. Gensler will not submit a proposal.
“The launch of the Pershing Square Renew competition is a once in a lifetime opportunity for design teams, both local and global, to participate in the reimagining of a Los Angeles icon,“ said Rob Jernigan, regional managing director, Gensler. “This park is catalytic to the renaissance of Downtown Los Angeles, which is all about converting a downtown focused on work to a downtown that is in balance with live, work and play. Greenspace is a critical element for live and play to flourish.”
The competition process is a three-stage procedure. Phase I begins with an open invitation to all interested design teams to submit an overview of their team, its qualifications, and a portfolio that demonstrates the quality of its work. From these submittals, Pershing Square Renew will invite 10 to 12 teams to move on to Phase II. During this phase, the invited design teams will be asked to prepare a vision idea for Pershing Square to demonstrate their understanding of project aspirations and their innovative approach in creating the desired experience.
Teams are to submit more detailed information about the organization of the team, the individuals that comprise it, and its design approach and philosophy. Each team will be invited to an interview with the selection committee. From these submittals and interviews, Pershing Square Renew will select and invite four design teams to submit designs for Pershing Square. The design teams that participate in Phase III will be paid a stipend for their work.
The submittals will be evaluated by a team of advisors who will provide input to the Board of Directors of Pershing Square Renew and assist and advise them at each of the stages of the evaluation and selection process. The decisions about which design teams will be selected at each step in the process will be made by the Board of Directors of Pershing Square Renew.
For more detailed information about the design competition, visit www.pershingsquarenew.com/competition
About Pershing Square Renew
Pershing Square Renew, Inc. is a non-profit public benefit corporation created to drive the re-design of Pershing Square, a five-acre urban park in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Bounded by 5th Street to the north, 6th Street to the south, Hill Street to the east, and Olive Street to the west, Pershing Square has been a popular gathering place since 1866. The effort to re-envision historic Pershing Square is led by Councilmember José Huizar, the Department of Recreation and Parks, MacFarlane Partners, and other Downtown leaders. In Sept. 2015, an international design competition was launched. For more information, visit: www.pershingsquarenew.com
About Councilmember José Huizar
Councilmember Huizar is a staunch advocate for the DTLA community, ushering in billions of dollars of investment to the area, creating initiatives like Bringing Back Broadway and DTLA Forward, and partnering with the County to create C-3, which builds off the success of homeless outreach Huizar has led to assist homeless individuals in Skid Row. He helped bring hundreds of acres of open space, new parks and park upgrades to park-poor areas of his district and is one of the City’s leading “Complete Streets” proponents, helping usher in Mobility 2035, DTLA Bikeshare and groundbreaking pedestrian and bike-friendly policies that are seen as the model for the entire City.
About MacFarlane Partners
MacFarlane Partners is a real estate development and investment management firm with approximately $4 billion in assets managed on behalf of some of the world’s largest pension plans and institutions. Founded in 1987, the firm pioneered the urban investment concept among institutional real estate investment managers in the 1990s and today is a leading investor and developer of properties that promote smart growth, urban revitalization and sustainability in urban and high-density suburban areas nationwide. MacFarlane Partners is headquartered in San Francisco, with regional offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. For additional information, please visit the firm’s website at www.macfarlanepartners.com
Gensler is a global design firm grounded in the belief that great design optimizes business performance and human potential. The firm’s 4,900 practitioners networked across 46 offices use global perspective and local presence to innovate at every scale. Whether refreshing a retailer’s brand, planning a new urban district or designing a super tall building, Gensler strives to make the everyday places people occupy more inspiring, more resilient, and more impactful. For more information, please visit www.gensler.com