Landscape architects organization gives our downtown their highest honor

Photo courtesy of city of Paramount Downtown Paramount’s streetscape has been recognized with an Honor Award given to Studio One Eleven by the Southern California chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

In 2016, planning began on the reinvigoration of the City of Paramount’s main downtown street, Paramount Boulevard. This included incentives to develop new urban retail opportunities and to transform the street from a high-speed arterial to a multi-model destination.


During the 1920s-1950s, the downtown developed as the hub of a major dairy and hay center. In fact, the price of hay was set each morning underneath a large tree, then quoted in markets around the world. Known as the Hay Tree, the 50-foot-tall camphor is now 120 years old and a California State Historical Landmark.


Between 1960-1975, the area slowly changed as the dairy farms were sold off and infilled with suburban development. With the continued suburbanization of the region, downtown Paramount fell out of fashion and went into decline. In the 1980s, the city encouraged investment with suburban-style retail, tearing down great stretches of storefronts and replacing them with shopping centers. Also, Paramount Boulevard was widened to accommodate more traffic at greater speeds.


Recently, the City worked with Long Beach-based design firm Studio One Eleven to create a new vision for the commercial stretch between Jackson Street and Alondra Boulevard. The $3.6 million streetscape renovation – paid for with funds from the former Redevelopment Agency – re-envisioned the character of downtown to produce a fresh, contemporary identity and craft a more livable street in the heart of the City.


The streetscape was designed as a “Boulevard of Gardens.” An inviting pedestrian environment was created by reducing traffic lanes to accommodate widened sidewalks with curb-adjacent rain gardens, street trees, and enhanced lighting. Sustainable measures included drought-tolerant landscaping and bioswales to capture initial rainfall to reduce run-off through infiltration.


Mid-block pedestrian crossings, a public parklet, custom bus stop trellises, traffic-calming medians, bike racks, street furniture, the extension of The Pond plaza, and other elements were incorporated into the design to encourage people to spend time within the attractive surroundings.


Additionally, stylish signage and pole banners unified downtown thematically to Alondra, where the Clearwater Crossing restaurant development had opened, a development designed to also encourage street activation and walkability.


Now, the Downtown Paramount renaissance has been recognized with an Honor Award given to Studio One Eleven by the Southern California chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the organization’s highest accolade for the region. The firm’s Senior Principal Michael Bohn said that he “welcomed the opportunity to help transform Paramount’s Main Street from a car-centric to a people-centric place.”


“The City congratulates Studio One Eleven on this wonderful acknowledgement of its superb efforts,” said Paramount Mayor Brenda Olmos. “We knew going in that this would be a thoughtful, creative, beautiful design. We have been very pleased with the results, and appreciate that the ASLA was similarly impressed.”


“The Paramount Boulevard design elevates the importance of pedestrians and the local community’s needs,” according to the ASLA Jury. “The design is an excellent example for other cities in California to follow as a prototype of an urban corridor redevelopment where vehicular traffic and pedestrians coexist in harmony with nature.”


The Jury continued: “Among its many positive features, the bus stop shelter reflected a design with dignity, for neighbors and community who are transit dependent, do not own a car and deserve a lovely spot to wait and meet up. This sensitivity to the social and economic context is to be applauded.”

A culmination of years’ worth of planning by City officials, the project has become a magnet for strolling, shopping, dining, and relaxation, and has also attracted new commercial life, featuring a mix of local, regional, and national retail businesses.