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Northeast Los Angeles Placemaking Competition: Confluence Colonnade Parkway

Support Provided By
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Project submitted by Steven Appleton

Project designed for Elysian Valley

Project Summary and Scale

My proposal enters the fray of discussion about the re-use of historic Riverside Figueroa bridge with a nod to the valuable dialog begun by my friends at RAC.

Under the hybrid clutter of the pre 1939 bridge and later revisions, a majestic colonnade is buried. This is the real gem of the old bridge. It is aesthetically pleasing and appears structurally sound. By removing the later sections a piece of history will breathe, revealing new vistas on the Arroyo Seco and Figueroa Street. From the archways facing the river one will have a peek-a-boo view to the hills between the new bridge on the North and the 110 freeway on the South.

By removing the heavy overhead sections of the 1939 bridge, parkland space is opened to the air. In some cases the distance between the face of the colonnade is more than 80' from the river. This overhead lightening creates more usable riverside park space that other proposals to cover the old bridge with green space.

Use and purpose?

1. The create an epic destination that can be programmed in a variety of ways and is complementary to the planned bike and pedestrian functions of the new bridge and nearby river pathway.
2. To bring to light a historical architecture and place of true lore in our urban Northeast culture.
3. Reuse the architecture of the colonnade for enclosing architectural space, but also open archways for markets, exchange, performance and exhibition.
4. To establish a large parkland that interacts with useful and majestic destination.

Why are you committed to this project?

I care deeply about my neighborhood, Elysian Valley. I undertook this study to enter a dialog with our community, other designers and the City. It is useful for all of us to brainstorm and suggest the best solutions. Let's balance old and new, including expressions of our youth.

What are the most relevant characteristics of project site and scale?

The site is a collage of historical architecture, disaster and recovery, human foible and haphazard urban planning. Under the bridge is truly another world to behold. I've been going there for many years, following the graffiti, meeting people who transit through and for a time make it their home.

Scale is truly majestic. Views provoke some vertigo both by nature of height but also the sensation of being in the belly.

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Photo: Courtesy Kevin Break/Bridges of L.A.
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Photo: Courtesy Kevin Break/Bridges of L.A.
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Describe how this project will reinforce a sense of place or enhance the built environment.

1. It will reveal a hidden architectural gem.
2. It will give a place to bike to, walk to, and gather.
3. It will provide a view across the river to the newly renewed Figueroa Street and connect us visually to Arroyo Seco as well.
4. If we choose to do so this can be an art destination and we can reinforce and support historic L.A. styles by commissioning murals here.
5. It will join the underground and the official process of change.
6. It will be a destination for both sides of the river that people can easily access.

Provide a description of the project's necessary planning activities.

Though I did a layman's survey for making my third model, there is obviously need for very detailed study of the site. The good news is that the pre-1939 bridge and the post section are completely structurally separate.

Detailed program for the site would need to be determined with community input and dialog with City agencies. Cooperation.

Create a stage plan-ranging from simple restoration/ opening of the site, to landscaping /paths to full occupation of a section of the old colonnade, and extension of the bike path.

Some parking is possible, which serves local Rec zone.

What is a rough estimate of your project budget?

This is a major project that can proceed in stages. Depending on the details of already existing Bureau of Engineering plans, it may be possible to start very simple and proceed to the more extensive effort. The full treatment might also include a viewing deck above and re-use of historical lamps and rails. Full treatment is a several million dollar cost. Stages could be accomplished in pieces in the range of 10's to 100's of thousands of dollars.

How does this project leverage existing resources and efforts?

First, it harnesses the substantial community interest in saving and valuing some aspect of the historic bridge.

Second, it extends the developing Rec Zone and river pathway in a significant way.

Third, it offers the change to create substantial park land with majestic views without the need to acquire new lands and for less cost than many dreams currently on the books.

What community need is your project serving?

This project serves all of Northeast and, in fact, all of Los Angeles. However, its greatest impact would be on Elysian Valley. Because the site is directly adjacent to bike path and the new bridge bike and pedestrian ways, it is very accessible. It is also adjacent to major roads and may allow for some onsite parking.

The project also intends to directly serve youth and creative forces in Northeast. This is a location that has been sought out by many for expressive activities. I'd like to have the goal of providing a real meeting place for our varied community.

If your project is realized, what does success look like?

First, would be for all of us to work toward consensus and an increased capacity for public dialog and design. All proposals having to do with bridges at this key moment carry the weight of big changes where separated communities are being joined and new vista's reveal. So one form of this project's success would be its contribution to the discussion.

Thinking big, I'd like nothing better than to pedal my bike to an open air produce market under the colonnade to follow with a picnic and then music in the CONFLUENCE COLONNADE COMMUNITY CENTER.

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