Redesign Planned for California Plaza's Watercourt

by Steven Sharp | Urbanize

The Watercourt at California Plaza, home to the long-running Grand Performances concert and live event series, is poised for a makeover that will leave the sunken space with much less of its namesake substance.

Last week, the CRA/LA Governing Board took up a recommendation to approve a renovation of the Water Court which would replace its main water pond with a round central lawn.  The Gensler-designed plan also calls for adding new landscaping, potted plants, trees, and outdoor furniture.  

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The renovation is budgeted at approximately $4.5 million, and is being funded by the property owners at California Plaza, which include CIM Group, the Omni Hotels, and Rising Realty Partners.  Construction is expected to occur over 24 weeks starting in early 2019.

According to a report to the Governing Board, the central water feature has required increasingly costly maintenance, and has been prone to leaks that are impacting the concrete and steel structure which supports the plaza.  The owner-estimated cost of repairing the Watercourt as designed exceeds $4 million.

The property owners have also worked with Grand Performances to limit any impacts on their upcoming performance season.  The organization is considering alternative venues located both on and off the property during the course of construction.

A support letter submitted by Grand Performances notes that the existing pond, though aesthetically pleasing, creates a 43-foot gap between the Watercourt's main stage and the audience's first row.  Removing the pond would allow for better engagement between the audience and the performers.

The Watercourt, built with the adjoining California Plaza office complex in the early 1990s, was originally intended to be flanked by a third building on the long-undeveloped Bunker Y-1 Parcel at 4th and Hill Streets.  That property is now the site of the skyline-altering Angels Landing development, which would feature condos and two hotels above retail space.

The project comes as many landlords look to soften the sterile, fortress-like environment of Bunker Hill with subtle modifications to 1980s office towers.  Most notably, Brookfield is spending $60-million to renovate the atrium at the Wells Fargo Center across Grand Avenue.