Many people who live in Los Angeles are unaware that the city has a river running right through it. The reason for this lack of river knowledge is quite clear, as the river is hardly noticeable even by those who are standing right by it. This is because the river is currently located inside a concrete barrier that many consider to be an eyesore. Thanks to a $1.4 billion in federal funding, however, the LA River will be receiving a much-needed makeover that will transform the space into an extensive recreational area as the concrete aqueduct is changed into a wetland preserve.

A Master Plan in the Works

While the city has received funding for the project, the exact future of the space still remains uncertain. This is because the city has brought architect Frank Gehry onto the project. According to officials, Gehry is drawing up new plans that are said to be a “broad reworking” of the Los Angles River Revitalization Master Plan that was put in place in 2007. The original plan was developed after receiving extensive public input. The new plan, however, does not include specific renderings and many of the details of the plan remain unclear.

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Gehry is best known for designing the giant hotel/retail/residential Grand Avenue Project located in Bunker Hill. He has also been hired to design a high-profile project on the former Garden of Allah site on the Sunset Strip. Given the type of work that Gehry has a history of completing, some long-time river advocates are concerned that the revised plan will not include green space preservation, public access points and other features that they worked so hard to have included in the plans. Some are also concerned that changing the plans at this point in the development will jeopardize the federal funding that the project has received.

Revitalizing the LA River

The $1.4 billion the city has received for the project is meant to restore an 11-mile section of the river that spans from downtown through parts of Northeast LA. The Amy Corp of Engineers is also expected to contribute some funds for the project, though the exact amount has not yet been disclosed. They have, however, given their initial approval for moving forward with the project.

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The revitalization plans for this 11-mile span of the LA River is just phase one of a much larger plan, which ultimately calls for restoring all 51 miles of the river that run from San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. The renovation of the first 11 miles is expected to involve widening the actual river and terraforming the aqueduct to create the wetland preserve. While the area will look much different, it will still serve its practical purpose of serving as drainage for urban runoff.

In addition to creating a recreational space for residents to enjoy, the city estimates that the project will bring in $5 billion in investments over the next 10 years. The project is also expected to create up to 18,000 jobs.

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(all data current as of 7/24/2017)

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