After several months of refining a design, Metro, Grimshaw, and Gruen Associates are ready, in the words of Jenna Hornstock, Metro Deputy Executive Officer for Countywide Planning, to “put the pedal to the metal.” On October 27, the Metro Board of Directors approved actions to move their Union Station Master Plan from planning to implementation. Metro can now pursue the station’s programmatic environmental review, recommended transit improvements, commercial development program, and can seek funding for improvements to the station’s perimeter.
The plan will be carried out in phases. It seeks to 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 provide for the eventual incorporation of high speed rail. To the west is a large forecourt, or “outdoor room,” replacing what is currently a surface parking lot in front of the station. The forecourt is programmed with open space, tables, seats, a cafe, community amenity kiosks, bike facilities, water features, and shade trees. Street improvements calm traffic on Alameda and rows of trees connect the station to the plaza.
In the design, the concourse behind Union Station is programmed with more retail and amenities and is significantly widened and opened to natural light with openings cut between platforms. Elevators and escalators improve access to the tracks. It has a flaring shape based on the paths of the trains and subways. Above the tracks the team is investigating a bridge that will provide another level of connectivity across the site.
A new east portal behind the tracks opens to another plaza, creating a new public face east of the station at Patsaouras Transit Plaza. If the plan is approved the transit plaza 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 courtyards) forming where the Mozaic Apartments and a facility for Amtrak currently sit. The team is planning approximately 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 is studying a site east of Vignes Street that encompasses the city’s aging Piper Center for possible high-speed rail. That decision is awaiting funding and the approval of track alignments.
“This is a completely new way of engaging the city,” said Grimshaw partner Vincent Chang, who sees the station as a centerpiece and growth catalyst not only for its neighborhood but for all of downtown LA. 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 the more challenging task of rebuilding the concourse, the transit plaza, and the east portal.