ULI report presents a strategy for developing a Union Station District

ULI Advisory Panel: Flanked on the east by the potential of the Los Angeles River, Union Station and its environs are ripe with development opportunity.

ULI Advisory Panel: Flanked on the east by the potential of the Los Angeles River, Union Station and its environs are ripe with development opportunity, but successful revitalization will require a detailed strategy and indentificaiton of the types of development most appropriate for the area. Click on image to view in full.

  • Aerial photos by Gary Leonard

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Services Panel visited Los Angeles in December, sponsored by Metro and the City of Los Angeles planning department, to examine the Union Station study area and to advise the city on what land use and infrastructure investments the city should pursue given the pending master plan for Union Station.

The ULI report is precursor to the development of the Union Station Master Plan. On June 28, the Metro Board of Directors approved Gruen/Grimshaw as the consultant team to develop the master plan, which will be completed in 24 months.

Although the Union Station Master Plan will deal strictly with the actual 40+-acre Union Station site purchased by Metro in April 2011, the ULI report provides a useful inventory of existing conditions and strategic options that will inform Metro’s planning process.

In the big picture, the ULI panel recommends the creation of a transit-oriented development district (TOD) for the 500-acre Union Station study area, aimed at fostering sustainable growth in walkable, urban mixed-use districts centered on transit assets.

Union Station would be the center of a Transit-Oriented District universe populated by portions of the cultural and historic neighborhoods of Chinatown, El Pueblo, the Civic Center, the Arts District, Little Tokyo, and Boyle Heights.

Union Station would be the center of a Transit-Oriented District universe populated by portions of the cultural and historic neighborhoods of Chinatown, El Pueblo, the Civic Center, the Arts District, Little Tokyo, and Boyle Heights. Click on image to view in full.

Here’s a few sparks the panel suggests would help spur the TOD:

  • The naturalization or reclamation of the Los Angeles River would shore up a dramatic eastern flank of the study area with open space and surrounding development.
  • Cap a portion of the 101 Freeway with retail rather than green space to generate steady pedestrian activity as well as connectivity between Bunker Hill and Union Station.
  • A network of linked public spaces composed of streetscapes, bikeways, parks, plazas and historic sites would create a unified identity.
  • Redevelop the Terminal Annex.
  • Relocate the adjacent Men’s Central Jail and the smoldering California Drop Forge and replace with a hotel and large-scale residential development
  • Parcel out the underused Los Angeles Mall site, directly south of El Pueblo, for mixed-use development with ground-floor retail serving the considerable Civic Center daytime population.
  • Full speed ahead, with or without High-Speed Rail. Plan B: Leave room for it.

    ULI Panel: As the regional transit hub, Union Station connects five southern California counties with multiple rail and commuter lines, including Amtrak, Metro Rail, and Metrolink as well as Metro and other tranist buses.

    ULI Panel: As the regional transit hub, Union Station connects five southern California counties with multiple rail and commuter lines, including Amtrak, Metro Rail, and Metrolink as well as Metro and other tranist buses. Click on image to view in full.

The 37-page report gets into the details of the strategy and types of development that would likely thrive.

Here’s the situation: “The Union Station study area is under pressure to grow and change. The region’s rail and bus transportation system will continue to grow.”

Here’s the question: “Should the City of Los Angeles’ land use policies for the area influenced by Union Station change to reflect the emergence of Los Angeles Union Station as the transit hub for southern California?”

Through-line: Pedestrian-friendly.

Answers below: “If so, how?”

Have a read:

ULI Advisory Services Panel Report: A strategy for renewing the Union Station District in Los Angeles

6 replies

  1. I like the idea of capping the freeway as a way of linking Union Station/ Olvera Street with the Civic Center/ Little Tokyo. But I do wonder why adding more retail would be considered better than adding “over the freeway” green space.

    It looks like the grand majority of Little Tokyo — that is, everything south of First Street — is left out of the study area. Perhaps this is because Little Tokyo does “operate independently” from the Union Station study area. However, this also leaves a lot of retail out of the picture as well.

    Add to that the Mangrove property as a possible Transit-Oriented Development, and it seems like retail over the freeway won’t really be needed, unless you’re trying to suck retail out of Little Tokyo.

  2. I like the California Drop Forge. And feel that a relocation of it will lead to a relocation out of state.

  3. I do, however like the idea of retail/restaurant/vendor/beer garden space above the 101 rather than green space. I think that green space should be developed at the LA river instead, and that the vitality of retail/restaurant/vendor/beer garden space above the 101 would provide a better day and night link between Chinatown/Union Station and Little Tokyo/Civic Center.

  4. I am in full agreement with the ULI recommendations. I especially like the idea of putting retail atop the 101 instead of green space. Lets create a dynamic flow along Alameda and around The Plaza. I feel open space is essential but can be better achieved along the LA River. Lastly I would reconfigure the gold line to drop off in front of Union Station. Not only will people be dropped off a little closer to urban amenities abut it frees up a lot of potential development area by way of getting rid of the LRV ramps.