The Los Angeles River is in the midst of a transformation, from a concrete jungle made famous by cinematic car chases to a natural waterway that's driving up nearby property values.

While there are years of work ahead, officials say City Hall's recent purchase of a “crown jewel” plot of land is a major step in its plan to make the river green, natural and inviting again. The 42-acre parcel, which had belonged to Union Pacific Railroad's Taylor Yard in Cypress Park, will become the centerpiece of the river's Griffith Park–to-downtown, $1 billion–plus redevelopment plan, Alternative 20, adopted by the city and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“It's seen as the big keystone step in making this vision a reality,” says Marissa Christiansen,
executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Los Angeles River. “It looks to restore these 41 some-odd acres to a more natural state while creating open space, parklands and wetlands.”

The city will allocate about $60 million, including $25 million pledged by the state, for the purchase, according to the office of Councilman Mitch O'Farrell. Other parts of the old Taylor Yard have already been developed into Rio de Los Angeles State Park, the Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies and the Taylor Yard Transit Village. The purchase will allow the city, state and federal governments to open a new mile of riverfront access to the public, officials said.

“I made the acquisition of this site a top priority, ” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement, “because it will create much-needed public open space in the middle of the city, provide extensive habitat restoration, and serve as a key access point for local communities to connect to the river.”

According to Friends of the Los Angeles River, the city will be taking a “phased approach” to developing the land and handing it back over to both nature and the public. City officials say escrow on the property is expected to close in March.

O'Farrell's office says that when the parcel becomes parkland, it will offer views of downtown, the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign.

LA Weekly