A roadway's history written in stone
The Harbor Boulevard Parkway, part of a much larger revitalization project that spans many miles and hundreds of acres along the Port of Los Angeles in California, was recently renovated using a variety of natural stone. A granite band winds along the ¾-mile-long path punctuated by solid red granite benches and “story ropes” - and the material was supplied by Cold Spring Granite of Cold Spring, MN.
According to Todd Bronk, landscape architect and project manager for EDAW Architecture of San Francisco, the waterfront had been hidden behind port activities and shipping industries for years. “The goal of this project was to reconnect the public back to the water’s edge,” he said.
Tying the Parkway together are 11 granite story ropes that begin at the Cruise Terminal and continue to 5th Street, which were built into the Parkway to tell the history of the Port of Los Angeles. Inside the center of the granite band loops, stories of San Pedro’s waterfront history are engraved in the granite, and lit in the center with the project’s signature compass star.
“The story ropes are a unique feature in that they are really tied to the ropes district in the port, and so the ropes symbolically tell that story,” Bronk explained, adding that Amber Gold granite from India – supplied through Cold Spring Granite was selected for the story ropes.
“Most of us on the design team agreed on Amber Gold,” he explained. “We had used it for projects in the past, and it really is one of most beautiful granite materials that we have seen out there. It lends great contrast to the Radiant Red granite [used for other elements of the project], and it is homogenous with the colors we used for the main beige-colored concrete unit pavers that basically run throughout the whole site.”
Furthermore, Radiant Red granite, also supplied by Cold Spring Granite, is lined along the Parkway on seat walls and curved benches, and was selected for its reminiscence of the restored Red Car Line that once again transports the locals. “It was used as an iconic symbol in the Parkway, which is a diagrammatic color sense tied back to the original colors of the Red Line cars near the waterfront,” Bronk added.
In general, granite was selected for its durability and longevity, according to the architect. “It has been a really long time since the public has had access to the waterfront in a public domain,” he said. “We wanted to create a permanent public access, and granite feels more permanent and solid.”
At the start of the project, representatives from EDAW Architecture, the Port of Los Angeles and environmental design firm Selbert-Perkins, toured the Cold Spring Granite facilities to learn more about the stone and fabrication capabilities for the Parkway.
“Before visiting the quarries, we presented the public of San Pedro with stone colors and options, and in the end, they decided they really wanted to go with this color palette,” Bronk said. “Next, we took the clients out to Cold Spring’s quarry to make sure we had selected the right stone and colors. They showed the clients how the quarry process worked, and educated them on how things were constructed. This was only the second major public endeavor in the last 10 years for the port - it was one of their newest pieces. Graphic artist and principal John Lutz from Selbert-Perkins also spent two days with Cold Spring Granite’s Graphic Design Department to coordinate and approve graphics on the story rope.
According to Bronk, a major challenge regarded the projects tight timeline. “The biggest challenge was the severe crunch time and the fact that some of the designs, especially with the story ropes, were still getting refined when construction was already in progress,” he explained. “Cold Spring made a short timeline doable, even with granite. They put resources together to really meet the timeline and work with the contractor to make sure that the project was installed at the highest level it could be.”
Due to the time restraint, the stone was fabricated at facilities that were the closet to the granite quarries being used, which also saved on freight charges and time in transit. Cold Spring Granite’s Minnesota facility fabricated the Amber Gold granite, and the Radiant Red granite was processed in Marble Falls, TX, while the Academy Black accent pavers came from nearby Raymond, CA.
According to Bronk, every piece of stone was customized, from the story ropes to the curved, split-faced benches, and a total of 5,550 cubic feet of granite was fabricated for the project.
“The whole project has been positive all the way around,” he said. “It was a major public outreach process to make sure the space reflected what people wanted to see and wanted to use. It is the people’s space now.”
According to Bronk, people who pass by absolutely love it. “Even before it was completed, firemen and policemen were using the pedestrian bike pathways,” he said. “The first people we saw on site really had rave reviews about finally seeing some progress and being able to utilize open public space adjacent to their residences without getting in the car to go to it.”