VIRGINIA AVE — Virginia Avenue Park is growing into its role as a regional attraction with residents countywide discovering the benefits of the new library, revitalized park and popular farmers market.
Several organizations that use the park said a series of changes to the immediate area has changed the personality of the park’s neighborhood, making it more user friendly, safer and a place that families use as part of their day to day lives.
Councilman Terry O’Day, a Pico neighborhood resident, said the foundation for the current success was laid 15 years ago when the City purchased land to expand the park to it’s current size. That renovation also included installation of a police substation that he said began a movement towards the family friendly environment residents are enjoying today.
“We’ve built on that momentum ever since with use growing every year,” he said.
O’Day said the City continued its commitment to the neighborhood by funding construction of the Pico Branch Library that opened this year.
Pico Librarian Cecilia Tovar said the community has embraced the facility since opening several months ago with hundreds of residents using the site every day.
“During the week, we see everyone in the community,” she said. “Also on Saturday, we do see more of the young families with their little kids. I notice they come in and they have their groceries, they have bags, they are going to have fun at the park as well.”
Many of those grocery bags are filled at the Saturday farmers market.
Farmers Market Coordinator II Jodi Low said each of the City’s markets develops its own personality and the market at Virginia Avenue Park is becoming the most interactive of the markets.
“That market at that location, because of the facilities at Virginia Avenue Park, is great for cooking classes and demonstrations,” she said.
She said the market hosts a monthly visit from the Master Gardener’s association, hosts sold-out preservation classes and will be home to the seasonal Chile Roast again this year.
“We do a variety of seasonal promotion events to get people the market and keep people interested in what is available seasonally and to have fun,” she said.
Low said the market has evolved with the neighborhood. While the park was being rebuilt, the market temporarily moved to the Santa Monica Airport. She said when the market moved back to the park, it brought with it some of its West LA customers who are now using the park as part of the Saturday community.
“The customer mix has been changing for the last 10 years,” she said “The market is growing and changing. We’ve got a seafood company, that’s a new addition in the last six months. It’s definitely changing and I think it’s going to continue to grow in the next year.”
Tovar said she also sees a diverse crowd on Saturdays as an example of the Park’s newfound regional popularity with attendance at the library increasing by several hundred people. However, she also sees a lot of locals making use of the park day-to-day.
“The community is still very excited,” she said. “I’m so glad that it’s part of the community, happy it’s part of the park. Most people are very positive to the fact that we’re there and they have more resources in the park. The community has been very happy, they have been advocating for the library for a long time and now that it’s here, they are really taking advantage of it.”
She said she has seen a lot of residents with 90404 area codes signing up for library cards as a sign the area is embracing the Library.
O’Day said the area has also seen investment by the school district and developers making for an overall improvement to the surrounding streets.
“Now with the launch of the library, you see a truly invigorated park with multiple uses at all different hours of the day and folks are really enjoying the park in many new and different ways,” he said.