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State Sowing Seeds for a Future L.A. Landmark

Officials are soliciting design ideas from architects nationwide as they plan a `world class' park at the Cornfield site near Chinatown.

March 13, 2006|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

It will take a nationwide search to create a world class park at a nondescript Los Angeles lot.

That's what state officials have decided as they ponder what to do with 32 acres east of Chinatown that they intend to turn into the future Los Angeles Historic Park.

"It's kind of a microcosm of Los Angeles in one spot. So we want to attract the best designer in the nation," said Ruth Coleman, director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Known locally as the "Cornfield" because of stalks of corn that sprouted from seeds spilled from railroad hopper cars being pulled into Los Angeles starting in the 1870s, the former industrial site next to Broadway most recently was used for a nine-month conceptional art installation called "Not a Cornfield."

A designer selection committee will be formed from local professional and community representatives to review sample proposals submitted by competing landscape architects, Coleman said.

Three finalists will be selected and each will receive a stipend of $25,000 to create a formal submission.

The designer whose plan is judged the best will receive a fee of up to $500,000 to complete the park master plan.

Cash for the stipends will be provided by the Annenberg Foundation through the California State Parks Foundation. It was the Annenberg Foundation that funded last year's $3-million corn-growing "Not a Cornfield" display.

Parks officials say that the art project left about $2 million worth of fresh organic soil, underground irrigation pipes and electrical service behind after the corn was harvested last fall.

That infrastructure will be used as the future park is developed.

Coleman said the competition is open to all and there is no entry fee, although bids are due by 5 p.m. April 17.

Public design workshops will be staged so the competitors can solicit suggestions and gauge community reaction.

The selection committee will rank the three winning entries and make a recommendation to Coleman, who said she will pick the winner.

Previous community discussions have indicated "there's a strong feeling against a large museum" or construction of athletic facilities at the site, Coleman said.

Parks department spokesman Roy Stearns said his agency's own staff of professional designers is taking the use of outsiders in stride, recognizing that the train yard site is intended to be different from a traditional park.

Coleman said the park's cost will depend on the scope of the winning design. Although bond money will be sought for construction, a world class design would give "us something to go out and raise money with," she said.

The competition will also "avoid the World Trade Center" situation, she said. In New York City, various designs have been floated for a memorial to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "But nothing has been built so far," she said.

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