New task force aims to transform Downtown's historic Pershing Square

Occupy LA Anniversary - 2

Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The Pershing Square task force aims to make the historic square a more accessible place for Angelenos. The plaza currently hosts everything from rallies to farmers markets. Occupy L.A. protesters held many of their protests and meetings in the square as well.

Not too long ago, Downtown's Pershing Square was not exactly the neighborhood's crown jewel. Community members complained of blatant drug use, fighting and overall belligerence.

Fingers have been pointed at everyone from homeless individuals, to Occupy L.A. protesters and everyday criminals. LAPD Capt. Horace Frank said they installed surveillance cameras in the area as well as extra officers. These efforts have helped make the area an overall safer place.

“This issue isn’t so much people going there – homeless people –  but it’s the fact that they have the tendency of leaving their stuff," Frank said. "Hanging around the park, the dogs in the park, a lot of trash in the park, those are things that a lot of people have been complaining about.”

But the police have had a bit of help. In recent years, Pershing Square has hosted regular farmers markets, outdoor concerts, art shows and more. And now, stakeholders in the area hope to continue this upward trajectory through the Re-envisioning Pershing Square Task Force.

"Pershing Square has a rich and prolific history," said area councilman José Huizar in a statement. "My hope is that this task force will honor that history by bringing a wide-range of ideas and perspectives to the discussion, all aimed at improving Pershing Square and recapturing the magic it once held as a significant and important gathering place for all Angelenos."

The task force of 21 people is led by Huizar and includes business owners, government agencies and representatives from the Business Improvement District. The task force met Tuesday at Gensler offices in downtown L.A., the design firm that's helping the group re-think the plaza in the long term.

Gensler has worked on multiple projects in this neighborhood before, including The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences to designs for the new Farmers Field.

Last year the company launched a project called Town Square Initiative that looked at public spaces throughout the world. The L.A. Gensler branch used Pershing Square as their "case study" to explore ideas of what makes a "town square" – from location to surrounding demographics and accessibility to public transit.

Gensler presented their findings and possible design concepts for the plaza's revitalization. Now, the task force is expected to create a "long-term vision" for Pershing Square, including a possible redesign and beefed up programming schedule. They will also work to secure the funds needed to execute all these future improvements.

Below is the video produced by Gensler as part of their Town Square Initiative.

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