The Piggyback Yard Conceptual Master Plan envisions a vast, new Park offering a wide range of activities for a diverse community, a developed mixed-use Mission Road corridor, an Arts Campus, a restored Los Angeles River, and a new Transit District, adjacent to Downtown and central to the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The Broadened River variation proposes to restore and widen the Los Angeles River at the Piggyback Yard to create a thriving natural habitat within its course.
The PBy Conceptual Master Plan covers a vast area bounded by the 5 Freeway to the east, the 101 Freeway to the south, the west bank of the Los Angeles River and an existing railroad to the north, adjacent to the Brewery Arts Colony and the San Antonio Winery. The scope of this study also includes the “Transit District” to the west which extends from Union Station to the river bank.
At the heart of the plan is the naturalized river bed, which varies from 800 to 1,200 feet in width over a 45-acre wetland. With the Piggyback Yard Park, the restored riparian habitat form 130 acres of open space, an area comparable to . While most of the site is devoted to public open space, the proposed development along Mission Road is aimed at creating a 24/7 community where people can live, work, learn and play, enriching the day to day life of the Park and weaving it into the fabric of the city. The high building density proposed along the boulevard recognizes that Los Angeles has to grow vertically in order to preserve open space and allow people to live closer to their workplace and public transportation.
Section A cuts through the site from the Transit District to the west (left) to the 5 Freeway to the east. The broadened river overflows into the various levels of the Park during floor conditions to detain flood waters and protect communities downstream. A 5,000-person stadium, formed by grassy berms, sits at the apex with a dominating view of the Park and the Dowtown skyline in the background.
Section B cuts through the site from the existing River channel to the north (left) to the 101 Freeway to the south. The “River Living” Residential Towers engage both the riparian habitat and the Piggyback Yard Park, and stradle the railroads which flow through the public realm above and below without interference. The development of Mission Road proposes a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood alongside a pedestrian-friendly boulevard, also served by Metro rail and underground parking garages. The tall buildings fronting Mission vary in height and step down towards the Park while the landscape climbs on the buildings in the form of roof gardens.
Section C cuts through the site, from the existing railroad to the north (left) to the 101 Freeway to the south. The Arts Campus forms a low-density complex of live/work/exhibit buildings with intimate courtyards open to the Park or facing the adjacent Brewery Arts Colony. The street wall of Mission Road is punctuated by large openings to the Park, which themselves become small urban parks animated by ground level shops, cafes and other amenities. These “green fingers” ooze out of the Park, cross the boulevard and create other green spaces nestled within the “cleantech” buildings, which form a new kind of light, sustainable industrial lining the south side of Mission, equipped with …green roofs, and photovoltaic panel arrays.
The following diagrams illustrate how the Broadened River concept fulfills the promise of the four design principles established by the Piggyback Yard Collaborative Design Group, which are defined by water, open space, connectivity and community.
Mission Road becomes a bustling boulevard with wide sidewalks lined with shops, offices and apartments above, “cleantech” industrial and educational spaces beyond, greened by the fingers of the Piggyback Yard Park reaching out and across the narrower roadway, while a new branch of the Metro Gold Line runs down the median, with two new stations serving the emerging neighborhood.
The Piggyback Yard Park is accessible from all sides and connects east and west, north and south. On Mission Road, the ground floor retail and community amenities penetrate the park while the landscape comes out to the boulevard to draw people in. The buildings of Mission Road form a grand entrance to the Park at the foot of the 5 Freeway, and with the “River Living” Residential Towers in the background frame the view of Elysian Park beyond.
A new pedestrian bridge is a another inviting gateway to the Park as the railroad tracks, no longer barriers, are suspended above the River, which is now the front yard to residences overlooking the riparian habitat and offering new type of living surrounded by active green spaces, just within walking distance of Downtown. The bridge connects to a green street on the west bank, which links to the Cornfields Park and Chinatown to the north.
A daylighted stream runs through the length of the Park collecting, detaining and purifying storm water, providing a wetland habitat, and offering interactive, educational water features along the way, including a demonstration “urban water park”. The walk along the stream takes strollers from the northeast corner of the Park, which opens dramatically under the 5 Freeway, all the way to the Los Angeles River where the stream ends in a playful waterfall.
The Arts Campus, home to live/work artist studios, is nestled in the land forms on the north side of the Park and invites the public to visit its sculpture gardens and exhibition galleries. The path continues beyond, over the railroad, and connects with the Brewery expanding this insular artist community and connecting it to the public space.
The Park offers a wealth of activities and gathering places on 130 acres of open space, including soccer fields, a 5,000-seat landscaped stadium, miles of pedestrian and bike paths, ecological trails, botanical gardens, an edible garden and orchard, a sculpture garden, a multi-functional lawn, children’s playgrounds and interactive fountains, other water features, picnic areas, oak groves and an amphitheater overlooking the river. The Park, which doubles a potentially crucial flood detention basin, sits in a bowl, which rises gently from west to east in three main steps corresponding to various flood water levels. Its topography comes from the existing flood plain accentuated by the cutting into the existing grade and filling in berms that surround the Park and help create a sense of place.
The restored River at the Piggyback Yard becomes a thriving, 45-acre natural habitat seen from a riverfront promenade and experienced through respectful ecological trails accessible from both banks. It also represents the most significant, single urban opportunity to improve water management along to 52 miles of the River, with a large flood detention capacity, and a naturalized wetland slowing down the flow rate to allow further restoration downstream and promoting groundwater recharge.
The Site Model, showing the Conceptual Master Plan in its larger context, illustrates how the Piggyback Yard can help nourish and connect so many different communities of Los Angeles and help reconcile the City and its River.