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New L.A. River Plaza Opens in Cypress Park


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This post is in support of Departures, KCET's oral history and interactive documentary project about Los Angeles neighborhoods. In March 2011, the L.A. River series was launched.

An industrial corner crammed between the din a freeway exchange, street traffic, the occasional train and a Home Depot parking lot has turned into something a bit unusual for the area. Instead of an abandoned lot with soil poisoned by a former automotive business, the property is home to the first phase waterway improvements that celebrates the confluence of the Los Angeles River and Arroyo Seco, which was "described in the earliest written account of the Los Angeles area," according to local river expert Joe Linton.

The $4.7 million project dubbed Confluence Plaza is part of a larger vision that will swallow three of the four corners at San Fernando Road, Figueroa Street and Riverside Drive in Los Angeles' Cypress Park neighborhood. After the catty corner bridge is retrofitted, the intersection will lose its traffic lights making way for a two-lane roundabout featuring public art in the middle. Two additional city-owned corners closely adjacent to the L.A. River and connected under the bridge will be developed into a pocket park along a future bicycle path that will connect to Chinatown and Union Station.

Photo by Justin Cram/KCET

L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes who grew up in the neighborhood and represents the area called it "an industrial zone that has been forgotten" that will now be a place for families and cyclists to rest.

"I think the acoustic gains made by this fountain really change this environment in a really significant way," said Lewis MacAdams who heads up the Friends of the Los Angeles River at the nearby L.A. River Center and Gardens. He called the concrete plaza, which caps the toxic soil, elemental but beautiful.

Not all were thrilled at the new space, including graffiti artist Leo "Katz" Limon. "It seems they've put homeless showers out here in Northeast L.A." he joked, adding some optimism: "Maybe it will bring some unity here." He noted that the concrete space would be a prime target for taggers.

Photo by Justin Cram/KCET

The park was funded by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and constructed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Association. The water used in the dancing fountain is not from the river, but from the LADWP, and the system will recycle it, explained Joe Edmiston, who leads both agencies. "We're greening the river," he said. "It's one of a string of many projects along the river."