Time to rethink Pershing Square (again)

This is what the park in the center of Downtown Los Angeles apparently looked like in the mid-1960s. There were no walls around Pershing Square to block the view of the park from outside, like today. There was grass. There were walkways across the five-acre expanse, inviting people to walk through instead of around the park like now. Downtown advocate Brigham Yen and others are pushing a group they call Friends of Pershing Square to promote a remake of today's square into a gathering spot that could become a key place in the future downtown.

There's a lot of history behind Pershing Square looking like it does now. When it was called Central Park around the start of the 20th century, radicals like Gaylord Wilshire gave such fiery speeches in the square that the City Council banned public orating. The park was later redesigned to discourage gay cruising, religious proselytizing and sitting or lying by homeless people. From Yen:

Fast forward to 2013 and the park is still seldom used by any of the nearby residents or office workers. And if it weren’t for the efforts of the park to host events, Pershing Square would virtually be vacant....

So how can we fix Pershing Square’s flawed design?

1) Tear down the walls and rearrange the driveways so they are perpendicular. This frees up space for park users and allows people to see inside, while giving users of the park to see the lively city atmosphere, as seen in the Union Square pictures.

2) Add walkways around the park, dotting them with tables to play chess, ping pong and places to sit. Not only are these great simple amenities, but it is also entertaining and pleasing to watch for anyone walking through the square.

3) Add a well designed cafe or restaurant. This will provide income for the park as well as another reason for people to come and enjoy their time here.

Photo: LAPL via Brigham Yen

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