Construction officially began Thursday on a $56 million, 12-acre park in the heart of downtown's cultural and civic center.
Scheduled to open in the summer of 2012, the park will include an event lawn directly across from City Hall, which will accommodate as many 20,000 people for massive gatherings such as festivals, concerts and rallies.
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Anchoring the other end of the park will be the 1960's era Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, which will be restored and enhanced to shoot jets of water 50 feet into the air.
Terraces leading down from the elevated Music Center will provide scenic views of the park. Pathways are planned through lawns and gardens, restaurants, play areas for children, and even a dog run.
Billionaire Eli Broad, who along with fellow philanthropist Jim Thomas co-founded the Grand Avenue Committee, said the park will become an "urban oasis in the heart of downtown."
"Civic Park promises to be a central gathering place where people from all neighborhoods in the city will be drawn to celebrate special events like New Year's Eve, Cinco de Mayo and July 4th," he said.
Broad, along with city and county officials, shut down the fountain to symbolize the start of construction. It will be turned on again when the park opens.
"Today's groundbreaking at Civic Park represents a crucial step forward in revitalizing downtown's cultural and economic vibrancy," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "By adding more green space in downtown, the park will improve the quality of life for local residents and will spur economic growth by attracting businesses and residential development to develop around it."
Funding for the park came from $50 million pre-paid rent for ground leases from The Related Companies, the Grand Avenue developer, plus other city funds and interest.
The park was designed by Los Angeles-based Rios Clementi Hale Studios, which sought to transform an expansive, underused public space at Bunker Hill into a vibrant gathering place.
It will be bordered by City Hall to the East; the Music Center to the west; the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration and Criminal Courts Building to the north; and another courthouse and the Law Library to the south.
Spring Street, Hill Street and Broadway all intersect the park space, dividing it into four distinct blocks.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said the park will be one of the largest in metropolitan Los Angeles. Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes downtown, said it "will be in the great tradition of the world's most enjoyable urban spaces."