Take a walk though the country’s newest urban park

Tess Vigeland Jul 27, 2012
Host Tess Vigeland conducts an interview from an interactive fountain in downtown L.A.'s Grand Park. Megan Larson

Take a walk though the country’s newest urban park

Tess Vigeland Jul 27, 2012
Host Tess Vigeland conducts an interview from an interactive fountain in downtown L.A.'s Grand Park. Megan Larson

Tess Vigeland: Cities are the place to live these days. And for the first time in a long time they’re growing faster than the suburbs. Here in downtown Los Angeles — including Marketplace world headquarters — it’s no different For the last 10 years, DTLA, as we call it, has become a huge draw with bars and restaurants, theaters and sports venues, and lofts. And now, a new addition to the cityscape — Grand Park. Twelve acres of open space smack in the middle of bunch of government buildings. And less than a block from Walt Disney Concert Hall. Grass, flowers, a huge fountain, and a bunch of bright pink moveable benches and chairs. It opened this week. So earlier today we went for a walk in the park.

Vigeland: Well I’m here in downtown Los Angeles and I’m joined by Dawn McDevitt who is the project manager for Los Angeles County. Thanks for joining us.

Dawn McDevitt: My pleasure.

Vigeland: And Mark Rios, one of the park’s designers. Hi there.

Mark Rios: It’s great to be here.

Vigeland: When we talk about the revitalization of downtowns, it’s really happening all over the country and a lot of people are moving back into the city. Why do you think that is at this point in our history?

Rios: I think that there is a real desire to have interaction and not be isolated. So I think that the social community that a downtown area provides is really an incredible experience. There’s more theater, sports, restaurants, there’s more a life. I think the environmental movement contributes to it. Nobody wants to stay in their car and commute and pollute any more. And so it’s better to live closer to where you work. We have a metro station in the middle of our park. It’s fantastic.

Vigeland: And yes, for those of you in the rest of the country, we do have public transportation here in Los Angeles.

Rios: We are happy to say that.

McDevitt: I think having residences moving downtown and residential lofts that have now rejuvenated downtown Los Angeles will be a draw for them. I was here last night at 10 and people were walking their dogs through the park and they were sitting down watching the fountain.

Rios: This is a place that we see in other great cities — whether it’s in New York or Europe. It really gives us a chance to learn about all of us in this great city and just have a place to go to that doesn’t cost money.

Vigeland: All right, now we’re walking toward what is really an extraordinary and giant fountain that I understand has been here for many, many years. And yet I feel like a terrible citizen of Los Angeles, I had no idea this was here.

Rios: So this is the Arthur Will Fountain and it was built about 50 years ago. And it was a really great example of modernism, sort of the optimism of the ’50s and ’60s. It’s a great sculptural form, looks like something from George Jetson. It’s really iconic. And then the new kind of spectacular thing is this interactive fountain that’s at the base of it. It’s really a big splash pool. And so kids and adults — I’m going to — will run into…

Vigeland: We can go in there?

Rios: Yeah, we’re going to.

Vigeland: We have to go down there right now.

Rios: Let’s go do it.

Vigeland: Oh, I cannot tell you the last time I played in a fountain.

Rios: How does it feel?

Vigeland: It feels amazing, especially because it’s a warm day.

Rios: Is it cold?

Vigeland: It’s cold.

Rios: Yeah. It’s in the pavement, it’s dark here, the stone that it’s on. So it holds in heat and basically kind of warms up the water a little bit.

Vigeland: It’s absolutely beautiful and what a fun, fun way not just for kids — but maybe adults — to maybe spend a little time in the water. Well, of course, this was hardly free — $56 million, 10 years in the making. As we get splashed with water from the fountain, how will you know that it’s paid off?

McDevitt: I think just watching the interaction from the public, from the county’s point of view, and government’s point of view, is the interaction where our patrons can enjoy it. And just watching them enjoy it, we know it’s already paid off.

Vigeland: I guess in closing, Mark, what is your grandest vision for Grand Park?

Rios: I just want it to be packed with people all the time. Great urban parks take a long time to happen. If you look at Central Park, it took a long time. This is a 50-year goal here.

Vigeland: Dawn McDevitt and Mark Rios this has been awfully fun, but I really want to go now because I just want to stand here and play.

Rios: Great. Thank you so much.

McDevitt: Thank you very, very much.

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