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Sam Hall Kaplan

South Park Takes Right Direction

May 31, 1987|Sam Hall Kaplan

The architectural stew that, hopefully, will add some flavor to South Park--on the edge of downtown--at last is bubbling.

A bit of spice was added last week when the city's Community Redevelopment Agency approved the schematic plans for the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, which will be located on Grand Avenue, just north of Olympic Boulevard.

The institute is being designed by the Jerde Partnership with its now characteristic flair for busy facades; hopefully not too busy or too cliche as the firm searches for an appropriate style to express the school and its varied uses.

Making the challenge more interesting is that the institute is being developed by the Ratkovich Co. to include in its perky five-story structure retail shops, a gallery, a fashion museum and cafes--in addition to classrooms and other usual school spaces.

The multiple use of the projected $22-million building makes both design and economic sense, and should help energize the neighborhood.

Next up for approval by the CRA is the schematic design for Park Place, a 192-unit apartment building to be located at the northwest corner of Grand Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, adjacent to the Fashion Institute. The item is scheduled to go before the agency this week.

Park Place is being designed by San Diego architect Rob Wellington Quigley in association with the Nadel Partnership and John Williams as a 10- and 18-story tower complex in a style that at this stage can best be described as idiosyncratic. Glimpses of early studies revealed a hard-edged geometric massing straining to be a statement.

While reportedly the more recent studies were toned down in deference to function and neighbors, hopefully, the spirit of the building to be more than just another slab of apartment units will persevere, and Quigley and company will demonstrate that affordable housing also can be aesthetic.

Attempting to prove that also in the South Park area, albeit in somewhat more subdued styles, are architects Kurt Meyer and Clifton Allen of the Meyer Partnership, and Daniel Dworsky Associates.

Meyer and Allen have designed a 200-unit, eight- and 14-story apartment complex at 9th Street and Grand Avenue to be called Parkside and developed by the Lowy Corp. Plans indicate a modified Post-Moderne style, with a playful use of columns and arches and a respectful bow to adjacent buildings.

Busier is Dworsky's design of a 270-unit Skyline 11 project for Forest City Dillon. It calls for a low rise on Hope Street, containing ground-floor retail, second-floor commercial and third-floor residential use, and a 14-story apartment tower on Flower Street. The total is a street-sensitive urban mix.

Both Skyline and Parkside already have been approved. Their construction is scheduled to start late this year, to be followed early next year by the construction of the Fashion Institute and Park Place, the latter if its schematics are accepted at this week's CRA commissioners meeting.

The focus of this emerging community will be Grand Hope Park, a 2.5-acre intensely landscaped, lushly planted space at Olympic Boulevard and, as its name indicates, Grand Avenue and Hope Street. Its construction is expected to start this summer.

Designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, assisted by the local firm of Campbell & Campbell, the park will contain a variety of spaces for playing, displaying art, eating or just sitting and letting the world go by. There also will be a rich variety of tropical and subtropical plants that promise to "celebrate the Los Angeles climate with a scale and range not found elsewhere downtown."

Marking the park with a Southern California style will be a clock tower, pergolas and trellises focused on a broad inner courtyard in the center of which will be a large, playful fountain. The court also will be used as an outdoor theater.

The plan for the park is purposeful, energetic and imaginative, as it must be. The planners realize well that the success of South Park as a neighborhood with a public presence instead of just a collection of secured, well-styled structures depends on the success of Grand Hope Park.

It cannot be treated as an afterthought, an extra, or the roof of a garage, but as the keystone in the urban design of South Park.

Beyond the ambitious plans are a few recently completed projects in the emerging South Park area worthy of applause.

The new local branch of the Federal Reserve Bank at Grand Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, designed by Dworsky Associates and dedicated this spring is a well-massed, nicely detailed structure.

The red-polished granite facade forming a flowing two-story pedestrian arcade is a respectful gesture to present-day styles and the adjoining, projected streetscape.

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