Design for New Park on El Molino/Union is Being Crafted by Downtown Residents

[edited May 18th]

This past Saturday, members of the DPNA attended a “Park Now” workshop sponsored by the Playhouse District, in order to provide community input on the new park that the City of Pasadena is attempting to build on the corner of El Molino and Union, in Downtown Pasadena.

For more info, visit the playhouse district website (click here)

Currently, this lot is a city-owned parking lot that is directly behind Vroman’s Bookstore and Laemmle Theatres.  Other neighbors are Trio apartments, Granada Court condos, a medical laboratory building, and Crown City Adult Daycare (formerly the Odd Fellows Hall).  I had the chance to walk around the site on Sunday afternoon, and it has a very nice view of the San Gabriel mountains, and although it isn’t a very big plot of land (3/4 acre, or 28,000 sq ft), it is large enough to place a playground or two and still have plenty of land remaining for green space, gardens, public art, walking paths, etc. 

This is an ambitious plan, because the parking will be retained by digging an underground parking garage, and building the park on top of the garage.  This was done in downtown Los Angeles, outside of the Central Library, where there is a beautiful park filled with birch (?) trees and sculpture that is built on top of a parking structure.

Saturday’s workshop was focused on brainstorming the design and layout of the park.  We split into five six different groups and, armed with a large blueprint of the park boundaries, markers, and cut-outs of various park elements, each group discussed what elements were most desired, and experimented with placing and arranging the elements within the plot. 

Since land area is limited, some park elements did not make the cut.  For instance, a dog park was one element that was available to all the groups, and no group chose to place it in their final design.  At my table, we decided that although it would be great for all the downtown dog owners who really could use it, it consumed too much space.  Similarly, no group proposed a basketball court, or other athletic field.

However, all five of the groups recommended the inclusion of a children’s playground, which makes downtown living a feasible option for families with young children who, as condo or apartment-dwellers, would otherwise not have a backyard for their children to run around in.

The sixth group proposed forgoing a traditional playground in favor of using materials and structures that could double as things that kids, dogs, and everyone could enjoy equally, albeit in different ways.  This design called for an education-focused park with lots of garden exploration, for older kids.  It also had a dog-centric area to serve as a tiny dog park-like place.

Another group was extremely concerned with ensuring that the park would not attract or provide shelter to the homeless, and suggested benches, lighting, etc. that discouraged sleeping and overuse.

Besides playgrounds and/or children’s activity areas, other common park elements chosen by multiple groups were water features, walking paths, and arbors.  Specifically, two groups recommended a riparian stream to run the length of the park.  The groups seemed to like the idea of the sound of rushing and bubbling water  flowing over smooth stones.  This sound of rushing water will mask traffic noise, and children will be drawn to splash around in shallow ponds.

Other elements mentioned were perhaps a small community garden, and perhaps the placement of public sculpture and/or climbable art.

After cutting and pasting, drawing and markup, each group selected a spokesperson and presented their ideas to the entire group, and to the landscape designer who will actually be designing the park.

There are two more workshops remaining in the series, so the opportunity for further community input remains.

  • Thursday May 19, 2011, 6-8 p.m., at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Room 301 – Design Alternatives will be Reviewed, Discussed and Selected
  • Thursday, June 2, 2011, 6-7 p.m., at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Room 301 – The Design will be presented and confirmed.

It should be mentioned that attendance at these meetings is urgent, because as I understand it, Pasadena is depending on winning a very competitive $3 Million State Grant in order to fund this park, and one of the criteria for winning is participation at these meetings. 
If not enough people show up at these meetings, Pasadena may not win the state grant. 

Please come out to the remaining workshops and help us make this park a reality!  See you on Thursday!