Pedal to the metal at Los Angeles' Union Station

Pedal to the metal at Los Angeles' Union Station

Proposed new east entrance to Union Station (Grimshaw/Gruen/Metro)
Proposed new east portal to Union Station (Grimshaw/Gruen/Metro)

After refining their master plan over the last several months, Metro, Grimshaw, and Gruen are ready, as Metro Deputy Executive Officer for Countywide Planning Jenna Hornstock put it, to “put the pedal to the metal.” They’re asking the Metro Planning and Programming Committee to approve several recommendations (PDF) to begin the implementation of their Union Station Master Plan, including the development of a Program Environmental Impact Report. Yesterday they presented to the committee, and a vote is expected at the next gathering on October 15.

After sitting down yesterday with Hornstock, Grimshaw partner Vincent Chang and Gruen partner Debra Gerod, AN has an even clearer idea of their plans. The ambitious scheme, which will be carried out in stages, will greatly improve connections to Alameda Street and the Pueblo de Los Angeles to the west and to Vignes Street and the Los Angeles River to the east, vastly expand  and upgrade the station’s concourses, map out mixed-use development site-wide, and plan for the eventual incorporation of High Speed Rail. Renderings are beginning to look much more real, as is the whole endeavor.

The master plan’s proposed forecourt (Grimshaw/Gruen/Metro)

To the west the team is planning a large forecourt, or “outdoor room,” replacing what is largely surface parking in front of the station. They’re heavily programming it with open space, tables and seats, a cafe, community amenity kiosks, bike facilities, water features, and shade trees. Street improvements will calm traffic on Alameda and rows of trees will connect the station to the Plaza.

Conceptual rendering of the station’s new concourse (Grimshaw/Gruen/Metro)

The concourse behind Union Station, programmed with more retail and amenities, will be significantly widened and opened to natural light, with openings cut between platforms and elevators and escalators improving access to tracks. Its flaring shape will trace not only the path of trains but of local subways. Above the tracks the team is investigating a planted, criss-crossing bridge structure providing another level of access across the site.

Raised bus plaza above new north/south open space (Grimshaw/Gruen/Metro)

A new east portal behind the tracks–largely open to the sky–will open to another plaza, creating a new public face east of the station where Patsaouras Transit Plaza currently sits. If the plan is approved the facility will be moved to the center of the station, branching into a north/south open space and a lower west terrace (inspired by Union Station’s lovely courtyards) forming, pending approvals, where the Mozaic Apartments and a facility for Amtrak currently sit. The team is mapping out about 3.25 million square feet of commercial, retail, residential, and hotel development over the more than 40 acres that Metro owns around the station. With the support of the California High Speed Rail Commission the team will also move to accommodate High Speed Rail, perhaps on a site east of Vignes Street that encompasses the city’s aging Piper Center. That move is still pending issues like funding and track alignments.

Overview of Union Station development area (Grimshaw/Gruen/Metro)

“This is a completely new way of engaging the city,” commented Chang, who sees the station as a centerpiece and growth catalyst not only for its neighborhood but for all of Downtown Los Angeles. His team hopes to proceed first with the development of the forecourt and other perimeter spaces, which he calls a “quick win,” then move on to more challenging task of rebuilding the concourse, the transit plaza, the east portal, and so on .

Site plan for Union Station Master Plan (Grimshaw/Gruen/Metro)