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Board OKs Reduced Version of Music Center Enhancements

Plaza: The $12.5-million project calls for a realigned Grand Avenue, wider sidewalks and new trees between Disney Hall and cathedral.


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has taken modest steps toward revitalizing the area around the Music Center to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

The supervisors approved a $12.5-million plan Tuesday that will realign Grand Avenue between 2nd and Temple streets and widen sidewalks along those two blocks.

The approved project, supported by the Music Center, retains a fraction of the changes proposed in an ambitious plan developed in 2000 by then-Mayor Richard Riordan, billionaire businessman Eli Broad and a team of influential architects.

That plan was intended to create a more attractive, accessible plaza linking the Walt Disney Concert Hall, scheduled for completion in 2003, with the recently completed Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

It called for a 20-acre park extending from Grand Avenue through the Civic Center Mall to City Hall, a children's theater, the rerouting of traffic from a county garage off of Grand and other major renovations. But it was prohibitively expensive and met stiff opposition from preservationist groups such as the L.A. Conservancy.

At the time it was unveiled, backers emphasized that plans for the project were preliminary. Indeed, Music Center officials said they eventually decided to push a scaled-back version with better chances for approval.

"It's definitely a more modest approach, but it still accomplishes a lot of things," said Joanne Kozberg, president of the Music Center.

She hailed the board's approval of the Music Center plan as a "significant milestone."

There are several components to the approved project, according to county plans and Music Center officials. The existing roadway will be realigned to an average of 20 feet east of its existing location, and sidewalks will be widened to as much as 40 feet deep in front of Disney Hall.

Ficus and jacaranda trees that now line the sidewalk--causing the concrete to buckle in some places--will be replaced with seasonal trees that will "change color and character with the seasons." Three small "pocket" parks will be constructed on the east side of Grand, and new street and pedestrian lighting will be installed.

The changes were welcomed by some political and cultural leaders who for years have lobbied for the creation of a grand public space in Los Angeles. "It's helpful that they're moving forward," Broad said.

Broad, a member of the Grand Avenue Committee, a public-private partnership that continues to push for components of the more ambitious original concept, said, "This is in line with our plans."

John Edmonson of the county auditor-controller's office said funding for the plan approved Tuesday was cobbled together mainly from Metropolitan Transportation Authority grants for pedestrian and road improvements.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a motion next week to advertise and award a construction contract for the work, Edmonson said, and workers were taping removal notices to trees along the proposed construction site Wednesday afternoon.

A number of other improvements and alterations to the Music Center Plaza were also approved by the board, but have not yet been funded. Those include raising sunken portions of the Music Center Plaza, widening the stairway from Grand Avenue to the plaza, and construction of a glass-walled, two-story educational center.

"This project is being done with money in hand," said Martha Wellborne of the Grand Avenue Committee. "We started out with a vision and our job is to make that vision a reality. We still haven't given up on that."

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