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Station to Station
Scheme selected for Los Angeles Union Station master plan.
Courtesy METRO

On October 24, the Metro Board of Directors unanimously approved a final recommended alternative for the Union Station Master Plan, an extensive redesign of Los Angeles’ transit hub and its surrounding 40 acres to serve as Metro’s roadmap for future facilities and operations. The recommended scheme came out of four alternatives presented in August.

The concepts were developed by a team made up of LA’s Gruen Associates and London and New York-based Grimshaw Architects. Back in 2012, Gruen and Grimshaw beat out rivals including Renzo Piano and Norman Foster for the job. All four alternatives set out to revitalize the historic station building, improve pedestrian and bike pathways, create new open spaces to connect to surrounding neighborhoods, manage already entitled development opportunities throughout the site, and provide a plan to accommodate high-speed rail (if it ever materializes). But the schemes differed in how they organized and oriented transit operations and the main passenger concourse, and how they located high-speed rail.

Plan shows configurations of the east-west concourse and north-south terminal.

The winning scheme orients a multi-modal passenger concourse in an east-west configuration, perpendicular to Union Station, and an elevated transit terminal in a north-south orientation. Positioning the two-level concourse (one floor at grade, one floor below) perpendicular to the original building frees up the station for other functions—most likely retail and hospitality. Metro is looking to capitalize on the development potential of the station and its immediate vicinity. The orientation also may produce a better link between Gateway Center/Metro Headquarters and Union Station on the other side of the rail yard. Metro says it favors placing the terminal in the north-south orientation to allow for better connections between different types of transit.

Critics of the project have questioned the scope of the changes and have been vocal about the need to maintain the original terminal orientation, saying it works just fine. Additional questions concern the logic of tearing down the existing TOD Mosaic Apartments and the relatively new, taxpayer-funded Patsaouras Plaza, which currently serves as the main bus terminal.

Gruen and Grimshaw are now free to develop a final master plan, which includes studies on implementation strategies, governance, financing, and phasing. The final master plan is expected by summer 2014.

Guy Horton