The pandemic has severely affected the restaurant industry across Los Angeles, with downtown Los Angeles hit particularly hard. The LA Alfresco Dining Initiative that is in effect for the duration of the Safer at Home order allows restaurants to open and serve customers at partial capacity by temporarily relaxing the rules that regulate outdoor dining while still maintaining safe physical distancing. The initiative enables restaurants to maximize the 60% indoor dining capacity required by the state allowing dining on sidewalk, in on-street parking spaces, and in private parking lots; it also enables street closures for additional potential seating.
Our exploration shows the potential for the LA Alfresco Dining Initiative to reactivate the public realm and invigorate the livelihood of streets in the Historic Core and Fashion District of downtown Los Angeles. This concept aims at finding ways to support our neighbors, many of whom operate some of our go-to places for lunch or office happy hours.
There are currently eight bars and restaurants with adjacent retail at the area bordered by Spring Street, Broadway, 8th and 9th Streets. Some street parking lanes along Broadway have already been converted to outdoor seating, but the parking lanes along Spring Street remain. Parklets can incorporate public art and bring vibrancy and culture, similar to DTLA’s monthly Art Walk. Several large surface parking lots and alleys serve as connections between the streets. By connecting these parking lanes, surface lots, and alleyways, we amplify neighborhood pedestrian networks. The application of wayfinding supergraphics to these pathways directs pedestrians to bars and restaurants. These areas are also suitable for new pop-up spaces within portable structures.
Larger surface parking areas could be further activated with temporary farmers markets. Underutilized hardscape spaces can be softened with outdoor parklet-style seating, greenery, and shade trees. Shipping containers provide alternatives to parking areas, offering accessory spaces for restaurant, retail, and bar pop-ups.
Amid the upheaval from today's pandemic, we see one clear implication for our industry: space design is entering a whole new era, and there's no going back. Since March 2020, Omgivning has been exploring the potential of this design evolution and reimagining three space types in particular: Workplace, Commercial and Multifamily.