Grand Park: Los Angeles, California


Today an aspirational vision of a civic and cultural center for downtown Los Angeles, proposed more than a century ago by the pioneering planning theorist and landscape architect Charles Mulford Robinson, has been realized through the redevelopment of Civic Center Mall as Grand Park. Extending from the Music Center to City Hall, Grand Park not only is one of Los Angeles's most popular places for daily exercises, lunch breaks, and family activities, it also is a hub for surrounding communities of historic Chinatown, Little Tokyo, El Pueblo, and the Old Bank district.

Designated Area

Four blocks between Grand Avenue and Spring Street.

View of Grand Park from the Los Angeles City Hall observation deck. Photo by Flickr user Matt' Johnson (tracktwentynine) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Planning Excellence

Twelve acres in size, the park contains a community terrace, performance lawn, historic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, and 24 multicultural botanic gardens. Framed by a stunning downtown skyline and covering a grade change of 90 feet, the park's four blocks of distinct amenities and features are connected by a variety of wide steps, pedestrian loops, and ADA-accessible ramps.

The first interpretation of Robinson's 1907 "City Beautiful" proposal was the Civic Center Mall built in 1966. Mostly invisible and underused for decades, it ran for two blocks between the Los Angeles County Courthouse and Hall of Administration. With the redesign, the public area was expanded to the four blocks between The Music Center at the top of Grand Avenue and City Hall.

Completed last year, the revitalization took 12 years of planning, involvement, and collaboration by planners, developers, designers, city and county officials, and the public. Representing the city and county was the Grand Avenue Joint Powers Authority.

Accessible by both Los Angeles Metro rail and bus, Grand Park celebrated its century-in-the-making on October 6, 2012, with music, food trucks and special events including an aerial dance performance by the group Bandaloop, using lines that suspended them mid-air from the iconic, 453-foot-tall Art Deco City Hall. Since the 2012 celebration, midday concerts, yoga classes, weekly farmers' markets, cultural festivals, and holiday celebrations have attracted more than 150,000 people to the park.

Grand Fountain at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Flickr user Omar Bárcena (Omar Omar) (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Defining Characteristics, Features

Early History

  • Planner and landscape architect Charles Mulford Robinson proposed clustering Los Angeles city and county buildings together based on City Beautiful principles (1907)
  • Architect William Lee Woollett of Albany, New York, proposed a civic center on the slope of Bunker Hill based on "magnificent acropolis and terraces in the style of old Athens and Rome" (1925)
  • Architect Frank Lloyd Wright's downtown plan included civic center with rooftop runways (1925)
  • Local chamber of commerce commissions stall Olmsted Bartholomew Plan, which would have transformed downtown into a network containing thousands of urban parks (1930)
  • County Arts Institute director Millard Sheets produced a drawing of a 400-foot-wide park located between Grand Avenue and Spring Street (1954)
  • County's chief administrative officer, Arthur J. Will, proposed a Civic Center Mall built on top of two levels of underground parking between the County Courthouse and Hall of Administration (1957)
  • The county commissioned the Civic Center Mall Plan (1963)
  • Los Angeles Civic Center Shared Facilities Enhancement Plan, the "Ten Minute Diamond," proposes to make Civic Center more pedestrian friendly; advocates a new park south of City Hall (1997-2000)


  • Grand Avenue Committee formed by Eli Broad to create and implement the vision for Grand Park and commercial developments along Grand Avenue (2000)
  • Related Companies selected for project; pays $50 million to Los Angeles county for park development rights (2004)
  • County of Los Angeles approves Related Companies' Grand Avenue Implementation Plan (2005) to redevelop nine acres south and east of the Walt Disney Concert Hall adjacent to Grand Avenue
  • County Board of Supervisors approves Civic Park Plan; groundbreaking ceremony held July 2010

Design and Features

  • A system of meridian paths and connections, designed by landscape architect firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and inspired by the flat world map or Goode Projection
  • Some 140 plant species represent the world's six Floristic Kingdoms
  • More than five million gallons of water annually handled by filtration planters and lawns before water reaches storm drains; plantings are drought-resistant and watered with efficient drip tubing
  • Restored Arthur J. Will Fountain (near Grand Avenue) has LED lights, interactive "Splash Pad"
  • Olive Court, a plaza space with olive trees, historic benches, and speakers is a gathering place for art and book fairs, plant sales, small community events
  • Bronze copy of Jean-Antoine Houdon's George Washington statue (donated 1933) is opposite the statue of Christopher Columbus by Francesco Perotti (donated 1973) on the Performance Lawn
  • Park signage and slogan, "The park for everyone," translated into 25 languages
  • Performance Lawn and a small stage for small musical performances, art shows and cultural events (east of Olive Court towards Hill Street)
  • Park features movable chairs, benches, tables similar to Bryant Park in New York City
  • Event lawn uses high-performance turf; includes dog run in northeastern corner

Community Involvement

  • Initial public outreach efforts conducted by Related Companies and Grand Avenue Committee throughout Los Angeles (2004); additional community workshops about park held (2006)
  • Norman Lear Center, in partnership with the Los Angeles Times, conducts design competition to solicit additional public input for the park (2005)
  • Operated by The Music Center, the park has more than 60 local partners including Self Help Graphics, Ozomatli, Victor Payan, The Last Book Store, The Colburn School, Homeboy Industries, Get Lit Players, and many other organizations, businesses, and artists
  • Year-round activities include Sunday Sessions, music concerts, 4th of July Block Party, lunch time yoga classes, dance performances, downtown farmers' market, book festivals, and other activities

Grand Park's central location is utilized for many events. In the background is a partial view of the Art Deco-designed Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Flickr user Omar Bárcena (Omar Omar) (CC BY-NC 2.0).