Pershing Square’s lousy reputation as an ugly concrete park is about to change. Ten design firms are vying to do a major facelift on the plaza, last remodeled 20 years ago.

The goal is to transform a dead zone near the Jewelry District into a popular gathering spot that would further downtown L.A.’s ongoing revitalization.

The first wave of design ideas released this month vary greatly. But all share the vision of stripping away Pershing Square’s giant purple walls to invite pedestrians to stop and explore a multipurpose space.

Mid-Wilshire firm Mia Lehrer + Associates envisions attracting diverse people throughout the day by allowing pedestrians to easily cross the five-acre park from end to end. Rios Clementi Hale Studios of Hollywood would create a flexible space to accommodate diverse uses including sports courts, sculpture gardens and flea markets. Culver City’s Morphosis, working with SWA Group’s L.A. studio, would add shady trees and colorful gardens watered by a drought-friendly irrigation system. Culver City firm wHY proposes architecture that would sync with technology.

Other companies based in France, Norway, Berkeley, San Francisco and New York are also pitching ideas. The project developer, Pershing Square Renew, expects to select a winner in the spring. The organization is a nonprofit public benefit corporation spearheaded by Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar, San Francisco development firm MacFarlane Partners and San Francisco design company Gensler.

“With downtown on the rise once again, one of its most treasured public spaces deserves its moment to be uplifted,” Huizar said in a recent statement, referring to the square that dates back to 1866. From now through Jan. 28, Angelenos can drop by for holiday ice-skating.

Home Sweet Home

The executive team of real estate operating firm CoreTrust Capital Partners helped redevelop much of downtown, so it’s fitting that the new company has planted its roots there.

“We all started our careers downtown. We are very familiar with the downtown market,” said CoreTrust Managing Principal John Sischo.

Through their prior work at Thomas Property Group and Maguire Thomas Partners, CoreTrust executives redeveloped and rebranded iconic downtown buildings such as the Wells Fargo Center, Gas Co. Tower, U.S. Bank Tower and City National Plaza, said Sischo.

After Thomas Properties Group merged with Parkway Property Inc., three of the four partners decided to reboot and form CoreTrust last year.

“You’ve got a group of individuals who have worked together for almost 20 years,” Sischo said. “We are really building the company back up with individuals who have been time tested and cycle tested.”

Flush with its first $200 million investment fund, from Hawkeye Partners of Austin, Texas, the firm is looking to buy office buildings between 500,000 and 1 million square feet in California, Texas and the Mid-Atlantic. CoreTrust is also looking to close its first downtown deal in the next couple of months.

“Downtown L.A. is going through a redevelopment period now,” said Sischo. “We used to say, not-so-affectionately, that the sidewalks rolled up at 5 p.m. You can really feel the last 20 years of work.”

Form Meets Function

Another company has decided to call downtown home.

Commercial design firm Ware Malcomb is no stranger to taking on large design projects, particularly creative office spaces such as Landing 2040 in El Segundo.

But it took on a more personal project when it relocated its office from West Los Angeles to downtown this month.

Radwan Madani, principal of Ware Malcomb’s L.A. office, said the move gave the company a chance to practice what it preaches.

“In the new space, we practiced what we sell our clients, which is a creative office,” he said.

Its 3,200-square-foot space features exposed ceilings, polished concrete floors, glass-walled conference rooms and open workstations. There is also an open collaborative space where employees can sit at bar stools while watching TV, or even use the area for presentations and team projects.

It’s a different décor when compared with its West L.A. office on Santa Monica Boulevard. Madani said the previous setup was more traditional, with partitions separating each desk, and the space was about half the size of the new office.

Relocating didn’t just offer a chance to switch up its design, Madani added.

“Over the years most of the clients and brokers we deal with have been located in downtown,” he said. “We found ourselves traveling to downtown about two to three times a week.”

And a subway stop just two blocks away from its building at 915 Wilshire Blvd. makes getting to the office that much easier, Madani said.

The company, which is headquartered in Irvine, first opened its L.A. outpost in 1985.

Staff reporters Daina Beth Solomon, Subrina Hudson and Garrett Reim contributed to this column. #DTLA is compiled by Managing Editor Omar Shamout. He can be reached at oshamout@labusinessjournal.com.

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