The meeting was part of the data
collection and analysis phase of
planning that will eventually lead
to the preferred-plan stage by April

(Save the date: RealShare Los Angeles comes to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, CA, on March 27, 2013.)

LOS ANGELES-Metro invited the public to attend a community kick-off meeting here earlier this week for the Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan. The meeting sought public involvement in the preparation of a master plan to upgrade Union Station to a world-class transit facility and was the first in a series of community meetings that will be scheduled throughout the planning process.

Metro is currently in the first phase of the planning process, which consists of data collection and analysis. A draft plan is the second phase, followed by a preferred plan, which is expected by April 2014.

The master plan will be a roadmap for the long-range future of the station and the 40 acres that surround it, which Metro purchased in April 2011. After its acquisition of Union Station, the Metro Board saw the opportunity to take a fresh look at the current and future uses at the site and directed a long-term master-planning process to be undertaken.

The master-planning process will encompass near-term passenger and other circulation improvements as well as longer-term rail and joint development opportunities, including an analysis of high-speed rail-station alternatives. It will also create better access for pedestrians and bicyclist as and clearer linkages among the transit modes on site. Finally, the master-plan team is charged with exploring close linkages with Union Station’s neighbors and downtown itself that will support and catalyze activities in the city around the station.

At the meeting, “We heard a repeat of some of the themes we’ve heard throughout,” Jenna Hornstock, deputy executive officer of countywide planning for Metro, tells “Wayfinding—finding one’s way around the station—is a concern, and there’s a lot of passion and enthusiasm about the station regarding transit use.”

Questions about incorporating technology with regard to wayfinding arose, as did attendees’ interest in incorporating the cultural performing arts into the revitalized station. “A lot of import was placed on respecting cultural tradition and heritage and celebrating it as part of the station,” Hornstock says.

Ultimately, the goals of the master plan are to accommodate current and future transit needs, crate an iconic place of extraordinary design, protect the value of Metro’s investment in the property and incorporate the best sustainability features for the site. In order to accomplish this, a series of information-gathering sessions starting with this week’s meeting will be held in order to gain stakeholder feedback for the process.

Among the short-, medium and long-term projects involved in revitalizing the station are projects that will likely include real estate development, Hornstock says. The draft alternatives phase will approach how Metro will fit all of the refined priorities and objectives on the property. “We plan to take those to the Board in September 2013, and from those we hope to narrow down to one preferred alternative that would be the final plan.”

As reported in July, higher-density developments around urban transportation facilities is a resurgent trend in some of the larger California cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and even parts of San Diego, say industry experts. With single-family homeownership challenges and the time and cost of driving commutes—not to mention the ongoing volatility of the multifamily sector—cities are seeing renewed vitality through transit-oriented development.