Figueroa Street to Become More Pedestrian-Friendly

The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles hosted an open community forum Thursday about the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project, a $30 million planned renovation funded by the California Department of Housing and Community Development Proposition 1C.

Lanes · Oliver Schulze, a director and architect with Gehl Architects, said a main goal of the initiative is to design more bicycle lanes along Figueroa. - Niranjan Madhavan | Daily Trojan

The project will cover three miles of Figueroa Street, from Martin Luther King Boulevard in Exposition Park to 7th Street in Downtown, as well as half-mile sections of Martin Luther King Boulevard, Bill Robertson Lane and 11th Street.

Members of the project have been doing research and drafting designs since June, and have until the end of 2013 to use the money provided by the Proposition 1C grant, according to Scott Baker, a landscape architect with Meléndrez.

Thursday’s forum, held at the Expo Center, gave the architects of the project a change to present their plans.

According to Oliver Schulze, a director and architect with Gehl Architects, one of the project’s main focuses is creating a Figueroa Corridor that is friendlier to pedestrians, bicyclists and other alternative modes of transportation.

Steve Yang, a sophomore majoring in economics, said he thinks the renovations might cause more traffic on Figueroa.

“Cutting down on car traffic could create more traffic in other places,” Yang said. “But I would like to be able to walk down a better Figueroa.

On the current Figueroa Street, up to 80 percent of the right-of-way area is dominated by vehicles. Schulze and the rest of the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project hope to create a street with more balance, especially in pedestrian-heavy areas like those around USC and L.A. Live.

“We know that not far from here there are already thousands of bikes on the USC campus,” Schulze said. “There is a real potential here to actually create one of the major cycling commuter areas in the city. If this is a commuter artery, it should be so for cyclists too.”

The architectures of the project plans to reach this goal by creating more sheltered bicycle lanes along Figueroa Street that will allow for more efficient bicycle traffic. The bicycle lanes would be separated from vehicle traffic by a buffer zone that could be used for mass transit buses or parking cars.

In addition to renovations aimed toward balancing types of traffic on Figueroa Street, the project also hopes to make major changes to public spaces like those around Exposition Park. Bill Robertson Lane, which runs down the west side of the park, is a focus of the project.

“In the future we think that all of Bill Robertson Lane should change,” Schulze said. “We would like to redesign it so that it’s not something you drive through from point A to point B like a highway.”

Schulze outlined plans to create a more park-like atmosphere around Bill Robertson Lane, including a reduction of traffic to one lane and an increase in trees, green space, places to sit and more public space.

The project also aims to take a similar approach to Martin Luther King Boulevard. Plans for the road include creating a “linear park” that has shade structures, vending kiosks, a public running track and more access points into Exposition Park itself.

“The solution for MLK Boulevard is not just beautification,” Schulze said. “It should be reconfigured, removing the fence and remodeling in a different way so that people can start colonizing these places.

Students feel the renovations will be positive for the USC community.

“Work needs to be done on Figueroa to revitalize the area and make it feel more like a community,” said Matthew Redhead, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law.

The forum brought together members of the project including designers, architects and consultants from firms like Gehl Architects, Meléndrez and Troller Mayer Associates with residents and stakeholders of the communities surrounding the Figueroa Corridor.

“We want to hear from the communities that live, work and play here along the street,” said Deborah Murphy, a consulting senior associate at Meléndrez. “This project is all about improving the public realm.”