CIVIC CENTER — It’s expected to become the cornerstone of City Hall’s ambitious plan to remake Santa Monica’s Civic Center.

The seven-acre site that today is a makeshift parking lot will one day become a pedestrian friendly juncture between the city’s two main business districts, the future Expo Light Rail stop and the ocean, officials say.

And last month, they revealed the team that is likely to be charged with turning that vision into a reality.

Noted New York firm Field Operations, which was responsible for the acclaimed High Line Park completed last year in Manhattan, has won the recommendation of a City Hall selection panel.

The panel worked with City Hall staff to narrow a field of 24 applicants before unanimously agreeing to recommend Field Operations for the job. The firm won out over a group of finalists that included Frank Gehry and Shigeru Ban.

The City Council is expected to vote on hiring the team later this month. Terms of a design contract have not been finalized, and Public Works Director Lee Swain could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Lisa Switkin, an associate principal with Field Operations who will be the project manager for Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square, said the project represents a rare chance to design a significant public space in the Los Angeles area.

“It’s an incredible opportunity. It’s an incredible opportunity for L.A.,” she said. “There hasn’t been a large civic project like this in a long time.”

There are no conceptual drawings of the firm’s vision yet, Switkin said.

Besides her firm’s experience, she said an important aspect of her pitch to the selection committee was a long track record of incorporating public input into the design process. She said the committee responded to the firm’s commitment to “involve people in different ways” while staying on schedule.

The panel that has recommended the firm was composed of Qingyun Ma, dean of the USC School of Architecture; Ken Smith, a landscape architect and designer of the Orange County Great Park; and Marc Fisher, vice chancellor and campus architect at UCSB.

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