Construction is set to kick off next month on The Music Center plaza’s extensive $40 million renovation in Downtown Los Angeles. After receiving approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on December 19, the 53-year-old plaza is poised for a major transformation into a new, modern outdoor gathering space.

Cumming, an international construction consultancy and project and cost management firm, will oversee all renovation phases on behalf of The Music Center, with Los Angeles-based Rios Clementi Hale Studios leading design, and Matt Construction serving as general contractor.

When completed in the spring of 2019, the current split-level plaza will be transformed into an accessible single level court and feature five new one-story buildings. The new Music Center plaza will include a new full-service restaurant, a wine bar, a coffee house/cafe, a welcome center with valet and security, and permanent restrooms that will replace the temporary facility currently adjacent to The Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum.

The 57,350-sq-ft renovation will also include the refurbishment of the central plaza fountain as well as the replacement of the Grand Avenue stairs and nearby escalators for increased visibility and improved pedestrian flow between Grand Avenue and the Plaza level.

Because the facility will remain open to the public during the renovation, the project team will have to carefully organize the construction.

"On a typical day, the Music Center accommodates over half a dozen resident theater and performance groups, actors, employees, performance attendees, private events, and other visitors interested in its architecturally significant buildings," says Jodie Mendelson, project manager at Cumming. "The most interesting challenge we are facing on this project is to maintain a fully operational campus that supports these individuals, while coordinating the dynamic access requirements inherent in a constrained urban construction site."  

Mendelson says the owner’s representative and contractor have been working closely with the engineering department and other stakeholders to "ensure not only seamless operations, but a positive visitor experience as well."

During early pre-construction phases, the project team worked with The Music Center to conduct extensive due diligence for the plaza. That intensive effort uncovered the need to increase the construction budget from the original $30 million estimate to $40 million to avoid unexpected cost overruns or cuts to the master design. Due to the findings from the detailed initial planning and cost breakdowns, both the County of Los Angeles and The Music Center agreed to increase capital contributions.

"The degree of structural reinforcement of the existing parking structure was unforeseen during the early planning stages," says Mendelson. "Additionally the owner’s requirement for vehicle loading on the plaza triggered a more expensive steel paver pedestal system. The team weighed various options for cost cutting such as eliminating some of the pavilions, but revenue opportunities would be lost."