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The Future Of LA Is Transit-Oriented Development And Green Space

Metro’s construction of the Crenshaw/LAX line and the development happening around some of the eight new stations along the route could be a sign of Los Angeles’ future.

The $2B, 8.5-mile light-rail line will connect the county’s mass transit system with Los Angeles International Airport.

CorbisStudio Growth's Brian Dyches, CallisonRTKL's Kelly Farrell, HKS Architects' Scott Hunter, Studio-MLA's Mia Lehrer and OJB Landscape Architecture's Jim Burnett at Bisnow's Architecture and Design Summit at the LA Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles

Earlier this year, city officials unveiled Destination Crenshaw, an open-air museum with artwork on sidewalks and murals on buildings around a few of the stations to celebrate the local African American community. Studio-MLA is the landscape architect for the project.

The surrounding neighborhoods didn’t see a lot of investment before the rail line project, Studio-MLA President Mia Lehrer said at Bisnow’s Architecture and Design event Wednesday. 

“[Now,] it’s coming back strong with a series of parks and plazas,” Lehrer said. “It’s the most amazing plan. It’s bringing a community together and people back [to the area].

More than 200 people attended Bisnow’s first Los Angeles Architecture and Design event at the L.A. Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles

Panelists, including Omgivning principal and founder Karin Liljegren, Gensler Managing Director and principal Barbara Bouza and ZGF Managing Partner Ted Hyman, discussed repositioning old buildings, the growing sustainability trend and how to design interiors for workers who seek privacy in the age of open-office layouts. 

Some of the panelists were looking beyond those current trends to the future of Los Angeles, with vibrant transit-oriented development near the rail line, green space and other community gathering spaces.

“If we’re looking 10 years into the future, I see more green streets, more commitment to public open space, more parks and pocket parks,” OJB Landscape Architecture President Jim Burnett said. 

More than 200 people attended Bisnow's Architecture and Design Summit at the LA Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

LA’s Metro line, one of the nation’s largest mass transit systems, can take a rider from Santa Monica Beach to downtown Los Angeles; Long Beach to Chatsworth; from downtown Los Angeles to Azusa.

The Metro averaged more than 300,000 weekly boardings in May for the past two years. Though ridership has been on a decline, many of the experts believe it might pick up because people are tired of being stuck in traffic and young riders are less reliant on cars. 

“The spine and linkage that will connect us will be transit,” HKS Architects principal and Regional Director Scott Hunter said.

“LA [County] is a series of villages — it’s the [city of] LA and 88 other cities,” Lehrer said. “We share this urban landscape that is going to be changing dramatically.”

CallisonRTKL President and CEO Kelly Farrell said transit is the key that will connect all of these different cities so it is important to develop around it. 

“We have to connect and enhance those communities,” Farrell said. 

Lehrer said the Destination Crenshaw project could be an example of a successful TOD project. 

Spearheaded by City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and designed by Perkins+Will, the open-air museum project will stretch along 1.3 miles between 48th and 60th streets at Crenshaw Boulevard. 

The project will feature a community amphitheater with views of downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign, murals on buildings, hundreds of pieces of artwork on the street and buildings, 11 pocket parks, plenty of trees along the blocks and streetscaping.

More than 200 people attended Bisnow's Architecture and Design Summit at the LA Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

During the unveiling in January, Harris-Dawson said this will be a “culturally-minded street and landscaping improvements will be a living reflection of Black L.A. and the creativity that pours out of our community,” Architect Magazine reports.

Lehrer said Destination Crenshaw is expected to bring not only the local community together but also attract more tourists and businesses to come into the area. 

This will bring a long-forgotten community together, she said. 

Lehrer said due to the public's favorable reaction to the project, Destination Crenshaw could grow from a 1.3-mile stretch to 2 miles along Crenshaw Boulevard. The project is expected to deliver by spring 2020.

"Now, it is being extended because people see the opportunity," she said. "At a minimum this is going to become a promenade." 

On the future of transit-oriented development, Lehrer said TODs will lead LA to be a deeper, richer, denser city.