Thursday, March 12, 2009

Civic Center Park takes Shape

It is the kind of topsy-turvy switch the culture is full of these days. For months, the planned Civic Park downtown languished as a much-overlooked sibling to a huge $3-billion mixed-use development on Grand Avenue designed by Frank Gehry for the developer Related Cos. Setting aside $50 million to help finance the park was, literally, the price Related had to pay to strike a deal with the Grand Avenue Committee, which controls the publicly owned land on which Gehry's commercial development as well as the park would rise.

But now, with the commercial portion of the development delayed by financing troubles, the park has emerged as the more viable of the two projects. A substantial chunk of funding for its first phase -- $56 million, including interest that has accrued from Related's original payment -- is sitting in the bank, ready to be spent.

That makes the park, which would cover four parcels of land running downhill between the Music Center and the steps of City Hall, the rare development project whose funding, at least for an initial phase, is secure. Construction is scheduled to begin a year from now, with a sizable "event lawn" opening along Spring Street as early as 2011.

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