7 Cities Transforming Their Rivers From Blights to Beauties

LOS ANGELES WANTS to rethink its river. Late last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that Gruen Associates, Mia Lehrer + Associates, and Oyler Wu would be designing the last twelve miles of the Los Angeles River Valley Bikeway and Greenway. The scheme, encompassing a new bike, trail, and park network from Canoga Park, in the San Fernando Valley to Elysian Valley just outside Downtown, is the latest of several initiatives set to transform the former flood control channel into an actual river. The city, county, and federal government are reshaping the river and restoring ecosystems; several parks, trails, and amenities have already popped up; and development is following quickly behind. And LA isn’t the only metropolis looking to reclaim its once-mocked waterway. Cities around the world are realizing that water can be a cultural and recreational asset, not something to hide or pillage, and it seems no waterway will be wasted for long.

The Valley Bikeway and Greenway project includes bike paths, shade devices, pedestrian walkways, landscaped areas, and educational signage. The biggest challenge, points out Gruen Associates partner Debra Gerod, is connecting existing paths in places they couldn’t be built originally, like under freeways and near bridges. It’s just the tip of the iceberg for the 51-mile LA River. The federal government and the city plan to invest over a billion dollars to reclaim an 11.5 mile stretch of the waterway, from Griffith Park to downtown, hoping to terrace walls, widen stretches, restore natural habitats, and open up riverbanks for recreation, following the guidelines of the LA Bureau of Engineering’s 2007 Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, created by TetraTech, Civitas, Wenk, and Mia Lehrer + Associates. Frank Gehry and his firm Gehry Partners is working with the nonprofit L.A. River Revitalization Corp to transform the river into what one of their displays described as a “linear Central Park.” It’s unclear if this still-in-research-stage scheme will conflict with existing plans

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Chris AlexakisL.A. River