Designs, Traffic Changes Revealed At Final Armory Park Meeting

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Latest designs for Armory Park as designed by AECOM. Photos by Sarah Bennett.

More finalized designs and major traffic changes for 6th and 7th streets were announced Monday night at the final community meeting for the proposed Armory Park near Downtown.

Envisioned as a green-space extention of the cultural complex that includes the Museum of Latin American Art and the Pacific Islander Ethnic Art Museum, the .8-acre park will turn the southern portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. below 7th St. into a neighborhood oasis complete with picnic tables, public art, a playground and a skate area. Design firm AECOM presented its latest designs for the park including where the central promenade and various areas would be located within the small space.

The park–which was first proposed by Post contributor Brian Ulaszewski of City Fabrick more than three years ago–is now fully funded by two state grants as well as some city funds and is expected to break ground by the end of the year.

Monday’s meeting was the first since last summer and also included major announcements from the City’s Chief Traffic Engineer Dave Roseman, who outlined plans to eliminate the “mini-freeway” feeling of 6th and 7th streets near the park and hopefully further reduce accidents at what is officially Long Beach’s number-one intersection for deadly car accidents. 

“We’ve been working on fixing this intersection for a long time and trying to get people to stop running into each other, but they can’t see through this building,” Roseman said of the PieAM building which sits on an awkward island between Alamitos Ave. and MLK Blvd. “We’re not going to remove the building, so by eliminating this roadway, we eliminate this prominent accident potential.”

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The portion of MLK Blvd. that will soon become Armory Park.

One reason that the intersection is problematic, according to Roseman, is that cars exiting the I-710 freeway at 6th St. are pushed down the one-way thoroughfare, turning what should be a timid roadway lined with residences into an extended freeway exit. The 6th St. speedway only stops at MLK Blvd. when cars must turn left into where the park will be placed then right onto 7th St. to continue into more eastern parts of the city.

Roseman’s plans call for diverting this cross-town traffic off of 6th St. earlier and utilizing Atlantic Ave. as the main road to access 7th St., thereby pushing only slower, local traffic through to the intersection where Armory Park will be placed. To do this, construction will take place simultaneously on 6th and 7th streets to extend two-way traffic through Atlantic Ave., which is in the final stages of its own street light and traffic upgrades. 

“One of the things we’re most excited about in the office is the transformations that will come to 6th St.,” Roseman said. “6th St. is used as a freeway extension with streets being used like offramps. But were really going to be changing the character of that street. Instead of waiting for the race track to go by, hopefully pedestrians will be able to cross safely because we are going to use Atlantic as the key connector. It will change the entire nature of the neighborhood for the better.”

{loadposition latestnews}Though the master project calls for building the park in the middle of MLK Blvd. and creating two-way traffic on currently one-way streets, the net loss of parking spots for the neighborhood is only 13, a trade many residents in attendance agreed was fair for the gain of a park in one of the City’s most green-needy areas. Nearly 30,000 people live in walking distance to the intersection and the nearest accessible parks are Miracle on 4th Street and the Art Park–themselves small in size.

With the basic layout of the park designed, the next step is to name the space which has been called Armory Park by Ulaszewski and Alamitos Park by the City’s planning officials. Plans are in place to involve the community in this process including meeting with neighborhood groups, the nearby museums and other stakeholders such as St. Anthony’s and the Armory itself. 

“There were many times when we thought this wasn’t going to happen,” Ulaszewski said. “But I am so glad the community came forward to say that they want this and that this is needed here. This is everybody’s park.”

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