Eve Critton starts a Graduate Program at Columbia University

Co-Written by Eduardo Santana & Chance Kawar

After two and a half years leading efforts to “Reimagine the Heart of Los Angeles” at Pershing Square Renew, Eve Critton has moved to New York City to pursue a Master’s Degree at Columbia’s School of International & Public Affairs. Eve joined PSR in January 2016—during the final stage of the project’s design competition – and made an indelible mark on PSR and the DTLA community through her advocacy for greatness in our public space. It was an exciting time for the organization, and she hit the ground running as she helped spearhead numerous important projects and community events.

Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs

“I was really starstruck by the design competition—and I realized this was going to be such a cool job,” Eve said describing her experience. “There were so many talented people talking to each other about creative strategies for public spaces. They all had different ideas, but there were certain recurring themes: easier access for pedestrians, more trees & greenery, taking down walls and bringing the park to street level.”

This was Eve’s first full time position since graduating from Occidental College, which also happened to be the alma mater of PSR’s Executive Director, Eduardo Santana. The two of them bonded quickly while working together, and were even highlighted as “Urban Outfitters” in Oxy’s alumni magazine. “It was clear from the day we met her, that what Eve lacked in experience she made up with her skills, work ethic and personality,” Eduardo later reflected. “We believed she had great potential and without a doubt, she proved us right over and over again.”

Occidental Magazine, Fall 2017

Throughout her time in the organization, Eve grew beyond the original duties of her job description, taking on new leadership roles and helping to shape the mission of Pershing Square Renew. “I felt that as a young woman being given significant responsibility within the organization—I was able to bring a perspective that had been lacking,” Eve recalled with a smile. “I often felt a responsibility to speak up in meetings, to share my opinions and ideas.”

Eve’s advocacy and leadership gained the respect of PSR’s community partners and board members. At Eve’s last board meeting, members one-by-one sung Eve’s praises.  “Eve is an exceptional young woman, who grew with every step she took with us, and ambitiously embraced every challenge we offered with thorough and effective organizational skills, infectious enthusiasm, and elegant execution,” said Jeff Berris, PSR’s Co-Founder and first Chairman of the Board. Alex Sasayama, a DTLA resident and PSR volunteer commented on Eve’s talents by saying “From suits in conference rooms to people in the park experiencing homelessness, Eve made everyone feel like they mattered.”

Eve saw PSR’s role as being more than redesigning an urban park, but also as facilitating a community process. She proactively sought to bring stakeholders together by producing outreach events and even overseeing robust public comment process. Eve also developed a nuanced understanding of “placemaking” as the key to transforming Pershing Square into a popular destination. One of her proudest accomplishments was developing a report that articulated an inspiring vision for how “lighter, quicker, cheaper” methods of placemaking could breathe new life into Pershing Square in the near-term, specifically by introducing improved shade, seating and food offerings combined with a full slate of innovative programming.

“We learned so much from working with the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), and they pushed us to think about a vision for the park beyond just a new design,” she noted. “There’s a lot to be learned from how similar parks across the country have modeled their programming and operational structures as collaborative efforts between the city, private sector, and non-profit organizations.”

Checking out chess in the square.

It’s no surprise that Eve is ready to begin the next chapter of her career—and she already has set her eyes on the global stage. After finishing graduate school, Eve is contemplating applying what she’s learned about the opportunities for communities through public spaces enhancement to communities around the world.

For now she’ll be residing in New York City, home to some of the country’s most innovative public such as Bryant Park, High Line, Union Square, and Central Park. Living in a metropolis like NYC will undoubtedly provide a unique chance for Eve to gain new perspective on the urban experience— through the lens of, arguably, the nation’s most mature and dynamic city.

Years from now, perhaps Eve will reflect back on her time at Pershing Square Renew as a launching pad for a distinguished career. She left a substantial impact in a relatively short period of time, and she’ll be remembered fondly by those who she worked with on the initiative. Hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, she’ll come back to Los Angeles to admire and enjoy the renewed Pershing Square which she envisioned and championed.

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Eve’s accomplishments were recognized widely by everyone that worked with her.  In their own words, here is what PSR’s team members, partners and supporters had to say about Eve:

“Eve is an exceptional young woman, who grew with every step she took with us, and ambitiously embraced every challenge we offered with thorough and effective organizational skills, infectious enthusiasm, and elegant execution.  Columbia University is lucky she chose them…and so are we.” — Jeff Berris, PSR Co-Founder and 1st Board Chair

“The Caspian Agency team loved working with Eve on the Pershing Square Renew Event. Her friendly demeanor, knowledge of the Pershing Square community made working with her not only enjoyable but extremely helpful. We wish her all the best in her Grad School adventures and can’t wait to see what she does next!” — Caspian Agency

“Pershing Square has an amazing ally in Eve. I’m grateful to have had the chance to watch her keen sense of living urbanism at work. I can’t wait to see what city space gets the benefit of her inspiration next.” — Josh Kamensky, Ocean + Mountain Consultants

“Eve has three critical qualities that are far more important in our work than decades of experience. The first is genuine curiosity about the most persistent challenges we face in civic life. The second is an unfailing sense of humor when facing those challenges on the ground. The third is no hesitation around doing whatever the next thing is that needs to be done on a project immediately.” — Philip Winn, Project for Public Spaces, Inc.

“From suits in conference rooms to people in the park experiencing homelessness, Eve made everyone feel like they mattered. While Pershing Square is the heart of the city, Eve helped shape the heart of Pershing Square Renew. We already miss her.” — Alex Sasayama, DTLA Resident & PSR Volunteer