As Highland Park Changes, a Gas Station Becomes a Park

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A new park replacing a defunct gas station coincides with the rapid transformation of Highland Park.

York Boulevard Park under construction.

Construction is underway on a new park in Highland Park across the street from the popular coffee shop Cafe de Leche at the intersection of York Boulevard and Avenue 50. Designed by Craig Raines of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, the new space will occupy what was formerly a gas station.

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Craig Raines at York Boulevard Park construction site

After a series of community meetings Raines’s design was selected for the park, and it will feature a small amphitheater, a free library, play equipment (some of it is even made to look like gas pumps), regionally compatible plants, chess tables, shade structures, fitness areas and, in a nod to the site’s former tenant, the old gas station sign will be modified to become the park’s sign.

“The community didn’t want to lose touch with the past or what the space used to be.” Raines said. “So I came up with the idea of taking the gas station sign and cleaning it up and making it into the park signage.”

The park is located in a neighborhood that has become a lightning rod in the gentrification debate. Late last year, Marketplace started a project called “York & Fig” and opened an office in the neighborhood to study the changes occurring there. Just a block away from the park, CurbedLA reports that there is a new “one-story, 3,500-square-foot retail development” in the works.

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Gas station sign that will be modified to become the park’s new sign. Photo by Craig Raines.

IMG_2210Raines aims to integrate the park with the local landscape. “I look at it as a real extension of the coffee shop across the street,” Raines said. “There will be a place where people can come and chill, drink coffee, bring their kids.”

The park designer has worked for the city of Los Angeles since 2006, he’s designed dozens of parks and runs the city’s skate park program. His projects include Stoner Skate, Sheldon Skate, Peck Park Skate, Westwood Garden Park and many others.

York Boulevard Park is slated to be completed around the end of February or early March.

Read our full interview with Craig Raines here, where he talks about how he designs skateboards parks.

This is part of DnA’s coverage of “retrofitting the suburbs.” For more on how LA and other regions are modifying suburban or automobile-based designs into more urban or human-scale developments, tune in to DnA on this Tuesday on January 20th at 2:30 PM on 89.9 KCRW.

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Rendering of York Boulevard Park