Issue: Spring 2020

Heart of Hollywood

Nyla Arslanian

Above and below: renderings for concepts of planned revitalization of Hollywood Blvd.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Master Plan’s initial findings were rolled out last August at a community event presenting various concepts for Hollywood’s famed boulevard and Walk of Fame. On January 30, the Concept Plan was released.

Gensler, one of the country’s leading urban architectural firms, was retained to work on a “Master Plan” for the historic Walk of Fame with the goal of designing a more pleasant, cohesive, and enjoyable experience along the world-renowned thorofare. Based on the recommendations now being vetted in weekly stakeholder meetings, the desired result is that the City will support the targeted area improvement construction projects.

“The Walk of Fame Master Plan is the signature project of the ‘HEART of Hollywood’ initiative, and the concept plan is just the first step,” according to Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. “We are working to update the area in a balanced, holistic, cohesive way.” He went on to state the importance of building a sense of consensus and collaboration encouraging Hollywood stakeholders to view the concept plan, provide feedback and join in the process.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a National Historic Landmark and the Hollywood Boulevard Historic District was included in the National Register of Historic Places thanks to the efforts of Hollywood Heritage over 40 years ago.

According to Hollywood Heritage, the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District is one of the most significant historic districts in the country: “Its buildings tell the story of Hollywood’s famous ‘main street’ during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the period when the community received worldwide attention as the motion picture capital of the world. Between 1915 and 1935, Hollywood Boulevard was transformed from a residential street of stately Victorian homes to a bustling commercial center. This concentration of buildings on the Boulevard is a microcosm of the era’s significant architectural styles, and the massing, scale, and continuity of the streetscape are an excellent example of development patterns of the period.”

The concept plan proposes reduced traffic lanes, wider sidewalks, better lighting and landscaping. Although significant, parking on Hollywood Blvd. would be eliminated, however, startling that seems, it would impact only 114 parking spaces in an area with more than adequate public and parking lots available.

The plan states:  “Pedestrians, tourists, vendors, and performers compete for space with necessary infrastructure, along with street furnishings, street lighting, landscaping, signage, bicycle parking, scooter parking, as well as other authorized and unauthorized uses. Not surprisingly, the star attraction—the Walk of Fame—gets lost in the clutter.”

The idea for a Master Plan to improve Hollywood Boulevard is not new. As early as the late 1970s, Skidmore-Owens-Merrill embarked on a similar venture. It was followed by another plan initiated by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. In 1999 the Urban Land Institute took a turn and made recommendations for improvements. When the now-curtailed Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency named Hollywood as one of its project areas, Hollywood Boulevard and its environs were slated for improvement as a blighted area.

The Hollywood “renaissance” was well underway when the Agency was disbanded by then-Governor Jerry Brown. The $4 million to embark on a new Master Plan are Hollywood designated funds initially generated by the CRA activities.

As the Concept Plan, under the direction of Councilmember O’Farrell’s deputy, Dan Halden, continues the vetting process through weekly meetings open to individual stakeholders, it has been presented to the board of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the Preservation Committee of Hollywood Heritage, the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission, neighborhood councils and other organizations.

Indeed, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was an early improvement project for Hollywood Boulevard. By 1960, Main Streets throughout the country started to decline as shopping centers and suburbs were built away from town centers. When luminaries Stanley Kramer and Joanne Woodward first received their stars, what started as a promotional gimmick grew to be an internationally recognized landmark that draws millions of annual visitors. What previously had been a street lined with shops and strolling “window shoppers,” has evolved as Los Angeles’ Number One tourist attraction.

In 2021, the long process to reap the benefit of its famous name, capture its designated historic essence, bring residents pride of place and satisfy the yearnings of millions will mark its 60th year.

Can the Heart of Hollywood initiative fulfill on the promise? Well, it is Hollywood after all, where dreams can come true.

Excerpts From the Plan

The Streetscape Concept is inspired by a simple, but transformative idea: the street is for everyone. The street is the most democratic public space in our city. It is a place that everybody from all walks of life is free to use, congregate within, and enjoy together. As an international attraction and local resource, Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame cater to a highly-diverse audience of users from a multitude of places including the local neighborhood, the region, and the world.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Concept Plan transforms Hollywood Boulevard from a traffic artery to a place for people. Today, 70% of the existing right-of-way is devoted to cars with just 30% for everything else. The Concept Plan flips that ratio, more than doubling the amount of space available for people and alternative mobility and creates new opportunities for community gathering, to become one of the world’s great streets.

A street that is for everyone needs to to include something for everyone. These qualities can come in the form of icons, but many times also come in the form of the everyday.

The Walk of Fame itself is an icon with its many gems stretching from the TCL Chinese Theatre on its west end to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on its east end. Hollywood is also a diverse and dynamic neighborhood. With new housing and additional residents, there is a growing demand for neighborhood retail and open space that serves families and people of all ages and abilities, in addition to the traditional tourist-serving businesses.

The Concept Plan recognizes Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame as an icon, and as a neighborhood Main Street. It is an organizational and visual framework to adapt to changing neighborhood demographics, without sacrificing those communities that are already present or the historic character that makes this global icon unique.