All posts in City Terrain

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Pending Voter Approval

Denver may get a stand-alone Department of Transportation
Denver may get a stand-alone Department of Transportation and Mobility, joining other major American cities like Seattle, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, in an announcement by the city’s mayor Michael Hancock earlier this month. Right now, the city’s transportation decisions are managed by the Department of Public Works, the agency that also manages the sewer system, trash removal, and water quality. In response to “worsening congestion and safety and limited mobility options,” Hancock ordered a restructuring of Denver Public Works with the ultimate goal of a Cabinet-level transportation department, according to the press release. “Restructuring Denver Public Works to elevate transportation and mobility—now one of the highest priorities for the people of Denver—and then creating a new Department of Transportation and Mobility, will advance our ability to move more people, more efficiently and more safely,” the mayor said in the release. According to The Denver Post, it will take voter approval of an amendment to the city charter before the department can be created. While this could take a while, all transportation and mobility-related planning in the Public Works will be consolidated into a new mobility subdivision for now.
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Roots of Urban Renaissance

The untold story of Harlem's gentrification and growth

Architecture should never be excused from conversations on gentrification, but building design often takes a back seat when we consider the various forces behind neighborhood change. Ultimately gentrification engages so many issues—of city planning and policy, of income and racial inequality, of housing discrimination—that it’s impossible to tackle one without bringing in the others. Through this lens, architecture becomes part of a much larger conversation about our cities, and also a powerful tool in efforts to make rapidly changing neighborhoods more equitable.

A gentrification story that lends itself easily to study and dissection can be found in Harlem, an Upper Manhattan enclave that emerged as the best-known African American neighborhood in America following the Great Migration of the early 1900s. One hundred years later, the neighborhood—still a stronghold for New York’s African American community—is also home to multimillion dollar townhouses, big-box retail, a soon-to-open Whole Foods, and a dramatic uptick in white residents. What happened? The latest author to tackle the subject is Brian D. Goldstein, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of New Mexico. His book, The Roots of Urban Renaissance: Gentrification and the Struggle over Harlem, takes a multipronged approach to tackling that loaded question.

In his book, Goldstein explains how Harlem became a sort of testing ground for government-backed redevelopment throughout the 20th century—an often-hostile effort that sowed the seeds for more grassroots, community-led development. This push and pull between the government’s ambitions and community-based organizations persisted through the decades before the neighborhood essentially become a case study for “New York City Gentrification 101.” But the most fascinating question posed again and again by Harlem residents, and echoed throughout Goldstein’s book, is what the streets of Harlem should look like, who should design them, and who gets to inhabit them.

It would be a disservice to the book to boil down the many factors at play between Harlemites and the city government to decide that fate of the neighborhood. Goldstein makes the argument that Harlem’s recent wave of gentrification is a result of effective community-led developers who brought new mixed-income housing, supermarkets, and shopping malls to the neighborhood—which in turn brought a growing middle-class, and then upper-class, population. His point, essentially, is to debunk the idea that the gentrification of Harlem was solely imposed by outside developers and investors.

Goldstein makes a convincing argument to prove this—he traces the strength of these community organizations to ARCH, a radically innovative community developer founded in the mid-1960s, then details the proliferation of community development corporations (CDCs) in the following decades. It’s worth noting, however, that if these organizations are to be “blamed” for the gentrification of Harlem, they were founded in response to a city government with Robert Moses–like tendencies to bulldoze communities and replace them with “towers in the sky,” or to ignore the needs of the neighborhood altogether. Harlem always has been a radical neighborhood in that it has flourished even as the city government treated it with disregard—and it has hardly lost that energy today.

Goldstein, an architecture professor, is sure to point out cases of innovative and notable architecture and architectural practices, of which there are many. Not all are considered successes. In 1966, when the city opened Intermediate School 201, designed as a “showcase” for modernist architecture and curricular innovations, parents protested. As Goldstein explains, “Initially, the city had touted the intermediate schools as models of racial integration, but little in the initial planning of I.S. 201 in the early 1960s suggested that administrators were pursuing that objective with conviction.” The same year, at a vacant lot known as Reclamation Site #1, a proposal for a modernist state-office-building complex designed by the African American–led firm Ifill Johnson and Hanchard caused controversy. Local activists considered the block-long project a threat to Harlem’s identity, as well as their aspirations for community control—a flyer released in 1969 asked, “What’s to be built on Reclamation Site #1? Something for black people or a state office building for white people?” Both projects illustrate that architecture in Harlem has often gone beyond simple building design—the process has long engaged questions of race, inclusion, and community needs.

So it’s a welcome history lesson that the book highlights the work of J. Max Bond Jr., an architect and the first African American director of ARCH, who pushed forward a vision “of an alternative urban future centered on [Harlem residents’] daily lives.” Bond celebrated the “black aesthetic” in architecture, integrating the language of Black Power into ARCH’s work. It’s around this time that the concept of “activist architects and planners” took hold—professionals and amateurs who saw their work as deeply integrated with radical forms of participatory democracy. In that vein, Bond established a program in 1968 to help bring African American and Latino talent into the hardly diverse world of architecture.

The strength of ARCH highlights how things shift when community-centered organizations have agency over neighborhood development. Goldstein puts it this way: “[The] concern was with representation, with the resonance between those who made decisions about the shape of New York and those impacted by such decisions.… [It] was the idea that a designer’s race or ethnicity mattered, that people of color—whether professionals or amateur activists—were particularly attuned to the needs of neighborhoods like Harlem, and that they could thus uniquely plan their future.”

But as anyone familiar with the world of New York real estate knows, much development with public interest is the result of a number of compromises. Harlem’s community development corporations, for example, were still highly reliant on outside partners and city funds, often threatening activists’ dreams of local self-determination. With ample public funding, some CDCs were able to spur large-scale, profit-oriented projects along 125th Street, Harlem’s main drag, but the projects lacked the community engagement once prioritized. The arrival of these new projects also coincided with a rush of newcomers to New York, who pushed gentrification to its limit not only uptown but in Brooklyn and Queens.

But the practice of architecture and planning engaged with matters of race, equality, and empowerment persisted, and even offered a blueprint to other African American neighborhoods like West Oakland in California and Bronzeville in Chicago. In the conclusion of the book, Goldstein recounts a 2001 event in which J. Max Bond Jr., no longer with ARCH, asked, “In what image will Harlem be re-created?” It’s a question New Yorkers will never stop asking of their neighborhoods. But Goldstein illustrates well how Harlemites not only asked, but thoroughly engaged. Although the results were mixed, it’s impossible to deny how the neighborhood was radically shaped by the opinions, persistence, and ingenuity of the people who actually lived there.

The Roots of Urban Renaissance: Gentrification and the Struggle over Harlem Brian D. Goldstein, Harvard University Press $39.95

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Seeking Input

Lawrence Halprin's Freeway Park in Seattle to undergo wayfinding-focused renovation
Seattle's Freeway Park, a pioneering work of modernist landscape architecture by Lawrence Halprin and Angela Danadjieva that is widely recognized as the world’s first freeway cap park, is preparing to undergo a series of wayfinding-oriented renovations over coming months. The renovations are being undertaken by the Freeway Park Association (FPA)—a nonprofit organization created in 1993 “in response to the community’s demand for greater public safety in their aging neighborhood park.” The FPA recently completed a RFP for the project and hired Seattle-based landscape architects SiteWorkshop to perform the improvements and proposed alterations to the iconic Brutalist park. The 5.2-acre park opened on July 4, 1976, spanning over a depressed stretch of Interstate-5 in downtown Seattle. The park was expanded over the years, including the construction of a major addition in the 1980s and implementation of a tree canopy minimization plan in 2005; the original designers remained involved variously throughout these changes. When originally built, Danadjieva’s and Halprin’s designs symbolized the city’s effort to weave highway-adjacent areas back together following the route’s destructive beginnings. As a result, the park is organized as a web of stepped and zig-zagging walkways and terraces that surround a central walking path directly above the depressed highway. These walkways link the central path to formal park entrances, lawns, and plazas that are scattered on surrounding blocks and footholds. These areas are individually programmed to provide various types of leisure spaces. Architecturally-speaking, the park’s hardscapes are of their time and follow a Brutalist material palette. Throughout, the park features board-formed concrete surfaces—Halprin envisioned the park as a type of “freeway vernacular” that was inspired by and built from freeway-associated forms and materials—that become the retaining walls, planters, and knee walls that give the park its stark character. These terraces and planters are filled with broadleaf trees and shrubbery in mounds that rise and fall according to the surrounding natural and human-made geographies.
The park is also well-known for a magnificent cascading raw concrete fountain that originally emptied into a deep pool that park-goers used as a swimming hole. The fountain’s steep and angular surfaces are based on the abstracted geologic forms of western mountain ranges and the fountain bears much resemblance to the Ira Keller Fountain designed by Halprin and Danadjieva in Portland, Oregon.   At the time of design and construction of Freeway Park, Danadjieva was a project manager at Halprin’s office; the scheme was carried out by the firm with assistance from Peterson Landscape Architects. One big issue with the contemporary park is a byproduct of its “freeway vernacular” aesthetic and site arrangement: many of the park’s formal entrances are located behind blind corners, at the feet of steep staircases, and without direct sightlines through the park’s interior spaces. Further, Halprin pursued a landscape-based narrative strategy for arranging the park’s interior rooms that has resulted in closed-off spaces, as well as picturesque arrangements. These former qualities are seen by FPA and some in the community as opportunities for crime. As a response, the design team has been tasked with not only increasing wayfinding strategies within the park to highlight paths but also with transforming each of the park’s 12 main entrances into urban beacons that use signage, pavement graphics, and other placemaking approaches. There are concerns regarding how far some of these changes might go and which aspects of the park are changeable, given its importance as a work of landscape architecture. At 41 years old, Freeway Park is too young to meet the 50-year age eligibility requirement for the National Register of Historic Places, though it does meet the City of Seattle’s age requirement for historic status. One note—Although Freeway Park is less than 50 years old, it might be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places due to individual and exceptional merit. Pershing Park in Washington, DC by M. Paul Friedberg is such an example. The park is described as “one of the most compelling treatises on post-war landscape architecture” by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), an organization that raises awareness about historic landscapes around the United States. Charles Birnbaum, founder of TCLF, said the potential changes should bear in mind that Freeway Park is "not just as a National Register of Historic Places candidate but also a potential National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site." Halprin, always looking forward, was reportedly “enthusiastic and supportive” of upgrades performed to the park’s tree canopy in 2005, according to the Daily Journal of Commerce. Perhaps, the designers will take a page from Halprin himself and embrace some of the park’s rougher qualities, following a line from the designer’s 1966 book, Freeways, where he writes, "The trick is to perceive the old freeway as a part of the cityscape and tame it, rather than complain about it." For now, FPA is engaging in community outreach to ascertain which aspects of the park nearby residents want to see amplified and upgraded. The organizers held a public meeting last week, with more scheduled throughout the summer. For more information, see the FPA website.   This post has been edited with updated information.
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No Small Plans

This graphic novel aims to shape Chicago’s next generation of city planners
The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF)'s latest venture is an educational graphic novel about urban planning and its challenges. While the book—titled No Small Plans—raises questions that aren’t new, it serves as an introduction for its target audience, namely children in grades six to ten. It’s tough to write a book for young teenagers on issues like urban planning, civic engagement, and the socioeconomic factors that shape our cities today, but No Small Plans, armed with colorful drawings and references to modern day life, brings light to these topics. As part of its 50th-anniversary celebrations, the CAF published No Small Plans and modeled it after Wacker’s Manual, a 1911 textbook on Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago. Wacker’s Manual was required reading for eighth graders in Chicago Public Schools for at least three decades and it aimed to engage children with Burnham’s grand, ‘City Beautiful’ vision for Chicago. No Small Plans, by Gabrielle Lyon and in partnership with Eyes of the Cat Illustration, has the same goal and will be taught in the city’s public school starting this year. It’s a reimagined Wacker’s Manual, in a 21st-century medium, to help young Chicagoans envision and build a city that they want now, and in the future. The graphic novel is split into three different time periods: the past (1928), present (2017), and future (2211). Each section follows different groups, all of whom are grappling with different issues such as racial discrimination, gentrification, affordable housing, zoning, and community engagement. It’s set in the Chicago we know today, featuring sites like the Chicago Theatre and the 606. It’s also a dive into what Chicago’s future could be. In the year 2211, the book depicts Chicago so fractured that virtual reality is the only means of connecting people between different neighborhoods. The lack of “real facing” (i.e. actual human interaction) has led to a disconnect between what residents need and what big-time developers plan for the city. The book is an attempt to bridge the civic education gap: low-income students, students of color, and those not planning to attend college have fewer opportunities to engage with questions every young city resident should be thinking about, according to Lyon. “When young people have opportunities to consider questions like the ones the characters wrestle with in No Small Plans, it makes a difference,” Lyon said in a press release. The book’s success on Kickstarter—raising more than double of its $20,000 goal—is an indication that the questions of what makes a city livable and how to foster civic identity are ones that Chicagoans both old and young are interested in. Thirty thousand free copies will be distributed over the next three years. No Small Plans is available to purchase through CAF's website.
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Bent Into Shape

How Ball-Nogues Studio crafted this sculptural steel pavilion for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
The Max Factor Building—built in 1974 by A.C. Martin & Associates as an extension to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles—has never really been well-loved. The forlorn hospital complex is made up of a trio of institutional towers placed atop a pair of parking structures that are arranged around what should be a courtyard but is actually a five-lane boulevard that delves underneath the main tower. In a 1992 review of complex for The Los Angeles Times, critic Aaron Betsky described the black glass and limestone-clad structures as an example of “purposeful blandness” and labeled the hospital an “anti-urban bunker of bad form.” Flash forward to 2017: The towers remain unchanged in their appearance but stand renewed along the podium terraces that flank either side of Gracie Allen Drive, where AHBE Landscape Architects and Ball-Nogues Studio (BNS) recently completed work on new healing gardens and a pavilion, respectively. According to Calvin Abe, principal at AHBE Landscape Architects, the terraces had been a forgotten public space at the hospital for many years, a fact Abe hoped his interventions could shift by reorienting the way patients and visitors arrived at Cedars, as they made their way from the parking structure to the hospital proper. Benjamin Ball, principal at BNS, explained that the neglected terrace “had not been given much consideration as public place for the hospital” when originally designed, a fact worsened by its sensitive location sandwiched between air intake grilles and operating rooms. The arrangement meant that any construction activity would have to be undertaken rather silently and without generating much dust. To boot, the site’s existing structural arrangement meant that improvements would need to be vigorously studied in order to guarantee that new loads were being resolved without disrupting the podium’s original structural grid. As a result, the project team came to consider the site as more of a performative skin than a static structure. The surface-level project tries to heal the “epidermis of the complex,” as Abe explains, referring to the outermost public region of the hospital, by “grafting a piece of living, breathing landscape above the existing parking decks.” To achieve this goal, the firm re-designed the two terrace areas as a series of multi-functional outdoor garden rooms—what they call “portable gardens” due to the fact that the structural requirements forbade permanent installation of these new planters. Even so, Abe was able to soften the edges of the terraces with wide swaths of tall grasses, wooden boardwalks and benches, and ancillary, succulent-rich beds framed in three eights inch thick stainless steel sheets. Along the north arm of the terrace, sinuous benches made from kiln-dried Brazilian hardwood pop in and out of their surroundings, sometimes nestled into supple berms, at other times sitting proudly under the sun above the boardwalk. The planted areas are mirrored in a more minimal and integrated fashion across the way, where the edges of the wide, wavy beds seamlessly transition from stainless steel border to wooden bench and back again. The north arm of the terrace is organized as a tripartite band of terraces, with a large wooden boardwalk sandwiched between the grassy precipice and succulent bed. At the center of the run, the path bulges out to make room for BNS’s pavilion, a looming husk crafted by humans and CNC machines out of woven networks of stainless steel tubes. Ball explained that his team wanted to contrast the prototypical architecture of the medical towers with a sculptural pavilion that could stand out on the improved terrace. To counter the geometric, stone-clad exposures of the towers, BNS designed a multi-lobed shade structure that would be inspired by self-supported concrete shell structures but be constructed out of CNC-shaped steel tubing. “We tried to develop a language that could only be achieved using this type of machine-shaped caged shell,” Ball explained. Ball described the pavilion as having “no hierarchy in terms of structure,” a quality that would instead be lended by the pavilion’s billowing forms, which themselves were finessed by the quotidien requirements of the structure’s lateral loads. The billowing form wraps over the walkway on one side and frames a smooth, J-shaped bench underneath a parallel and transversal lobe. When seen from the boardwalk, the structures appear squat and wide, a quality that disappears entirely when the pavilion is viewed from the opposite edge, where the shells rise proud of the boardwalk and slip past one another. BNS, working with local fabricator Hensel Phelps, worked to meld into reality a form that not only faithfully represented the computer-generated mass—Rhino and Maya were used, among other programs—but that also reflected what the CNC machines could ultimately produce. Ball explained that the design and fabrication teams had to work iteratively to establish limitations for the structure, adding that  the back-and-forth process ultimately “outlined the aesthetics of the project—It created the rule book, not the other way around.” The structure was eventually fabricated off site, assembled in its entirety prior to installation, and finally craned into place. Ultimately, the structure came within a two centimeter tolerance of the digital model, due in equal measure to the digital tools and the highly skilled craftwork of the fabricators. Ball explained finally: “To get a project like this to look polished and highly crafted, you need hand skills.”
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Like? Dislike?

Facebook and OMA team up for Menlo Park master plan
Today social media giant Facebook announced it had tapped international firm OMA to master plan its Willow Campus, a mixed-use neighborhood that will be located next to the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Shohei Shigematsu, the partner who helms OMA's New York office, will lead the design. “It’s exciting to collaborate with Facebook, whose innovation in networking and social media extends to urban ambitions for connectivity in the Bay Area," said Shigematsu in a release. "The Willow Campus masterplan creates a sense of place with diverse programming that responds to the needs of the Menlo Park community. The site has the potential to impact the future of regional transportation, housing, and environment." Facebook first moved to Menlo Park in 2011, with Frank Gehry designing a major 434,000-square-foot expansion a few years later. In terms of this latest round, said John Tenanes, Facebook's VP of global faculties and real estate, "our goal for the Willow Campus is to create an integrated, mixed-use village that will provide much needed services, housing, and transit solutions as well as office space. Part of our vision is to create a neighborhood center that provides long-needed community services. We plan to build 125,000 square feet of new retail space, including a grocery store, pharmacy, and additional community-facing retail." Housing and regional transportation will both figure prominently into this master plan. Tenanes said that this development will see 1,500 units of housing built, with 15 percent listed at below market rates. Having housing on site will hopefully reduce traffic, he continued, while also adding that "Willow Campus will be an opportunity to catalyze regional transit investment by providing planned density sufficient to support new east-west connections and a future transit center. We’re investing tens of millions of dollars to improve US101." (As Tenanes noted in the press release, this isn't Facebook's first foray into affordable housing.) Tenanes stated that Facebook and OMA will file a plan with the City of Menlo Park this month. From there, they will "begin more formal conversations with local government officials and community organizations over the course of the review process, which we expect to last approximately two years." He estimates construction will occur in several phases, with "the first to include the grocery, retail, housing and office completed in early 2021, and subsequent phases will take two years each to complete."
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Water Street Tampa

Here's the $3 billion project that will give Tampa a skyline
Correction 7/7/17: The article initially stated that Water Street Tampa was spread out over roughly one square mile. It is on nearly 50 acres. A $3 billion project will add Tampa’s first new office towers in almost 25 years and is set to reshape the city’s downtown. The nine-million-square-foot development will take just under a decade to build. Spread over almost 50 acres on the edge of the Garrison Channel and Hillsborough Bay, one of Water Street Tampa's focal points is a new college and medical center via the University of South Florida. But the Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute is only part of the package: The development will include 3,500 condominiums and apartments, two hotels with 650 rooms in total, and one million square feet of mixed-use retail threaded between 13 acres of public space. According to a press release, the project will break ground this fall, with the college's ribbon cutting set for a not-too-distant 2019. That building will be the first of the development's 18 buildings to open. So who's behind the project? The developer is Strategic Property Partners, an alliance between Jeff Vinik, the owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, and Bill Gates's Cascade Investment. In addition to this mega-project, and sibling projects in the Sunshine State, Construction Dive notes that there's a substantial number of new development in Downtown Tampa. The latest is Lafayette Place, a tri-tower complex near the University of Tampa, that will feature a hotel, apartments, office space, plus restaurants and entertainment programming over 1.8 million square feet. Water Street Tampa is seeking a special wellness certification through the International Well Building Institute (IWBI). Like the WELL building certification, its close cousin, the WELL Community Standard applies to new developments that encourage healthful behaviors, like walking, while mitigating environmental hazards like noise and air pollution that detract from quality of life. It's a relatively new framework, but given how quickly wellness has spread from the crunchy margins to the mainstream, the designation is catching on: In March, Gensler and construction services company Structure Tone scored the country's first WELL office certification for a New York City building. At Water Street Tampa, all buildings will be cooled by a central facility, eliminating the need for cooling towers atop each individual structure. Instead, the developer promises green roofs with views over the water and downtown.
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Impartial Infrastructure?

U.S Department of Transportation withdraws from $24 billion Gateway Program
Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated commitment to building new infrastructure, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its cooperation from a massive $24 billion transportation project between New York and New Jersey, as reported by New York Daily News. The Gateway Program Development Corporation planned to bring a new rail bridge, Portal North, to Newark as well as a new tunnel under the Hudson River that was meant to replace the existing, crumbling tunnel that suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy. The program also looked to expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. However, the DOT notified the Gateway’s board of trustees of their withdrawal last Friday. "It is not DOT’s standard practice to serve in such a capacity on other local transportation projects," read the letter to the Gateway board of trustees, which also counts Amtrak and board members from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority as members. Plans to build the new tunnel have been in the works since the Obama administration, where a deal was struck so that New York and New Jersey officials would take on half of the costs while the federal government and Amtrak would undertake the other half. Trump had also included the Gateway program in his list of "Emergency & National Security Projects," a list of about 50 national infrastructure projects that was first published in January by the Kansas City Star. The Gateway project has been billed as one of the largest regional transit projects in the Northeast, one that would address the growing number of commuters from New Jersey as well as the region’s deteriorating infrastructure. The current two-tube tunnel linking New Jersey and Penn Station shuttle more than 200,000 riders daily. If one tube fails before new tunnels are built, capacity could be reduced by 75 percent, according to Amtrak. The DOT clarified their withdrawal, saying that “the decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide,” in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
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Garden Room with a view

Another L.A. parking lot bites the dust for MLA’s Ishihara Park

Since opening in 2016, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (Metro) new Expo Line light rail has yielded an array of world-class public amenities at its western end in Santa Monica, including the new Ishihara Park by Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA).

The 2.35-acre buffer park—named after local World War II veteran George Haruyoshi Ishihara and commissioned by the City of Santa Monica—is built on a slight 110-foot-by-55-foot space set aside during construction of a new maintenance facility servicing Metro's Expo Line fleet.

Astrid Sykes, senior associate at MLA, said that the firm designed Ishihara Park to be “more than just a buffer” between the low-rise neighborhood and the monolithic maintenance depot. “We designed it to be a true asset for the community as well,” Sykes explained. The multifaceted park, shaped by local input, reflects a desire to create spaces for recreation and decompression that also sequester carbon and groundwater.

To meet these ends, the park is organized as a series of discrete “garden rooms”—a bird habitat, community pavilion, rock garden, fruit grove, and meadow—connected by a meandering half-mile-long walking trail.

The far western end of the park not only contains vine-covered trellis structures, salvaged pine trees, and lush undergrowth habitats for birds, but also has a collection of stationary exercise equipment. Tranquil wooded trails flow through the bird-habitat/exercise area and lead to a central community space. Here, a pair of lawns and two picnic pavilions flank a plaza. The picnic pavilions are spared in their construction: A set of steel-beam structures that provide shade over streamlined cast-concrete picnic benches. Between the pavilions, low concrete walls studded with integrated cantilevered seating frame the plaza, while four light poles run tidily through the center of the space in parallel with surrounding trees. The eastern pavilion runs into a second, diminutive lawn populated by smooth concrete sitting-rocks and benches made from planed-off logs.

Beyond the lawn is a fenced playground—called the “rock garden”—containing a parabolic swing set, climbing-rock area, merry-go-round, and an assortment of sinuous cast-concrete benches. Further down its length, the park contains a fledgling orchard and a teaching garden. At the far eastern end, the walking path splinters into a series of sand-packed trails that frame a collection of ficus trees.

The ends of the park are populated by trees, some already existing on the site, others transplanted from along the light rail line’s path. The end result, according to Sykes, is “a new park in the spirit our changing metropolis.”

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Link Up

L.A. Metro takes multi-pronged approach to improving aging Blue Line
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA) is working toward making a series of modest but necessary improvements on the 27-year-old Blue Line light rail line connecting Downtown Los Angeles with downtown Long Beach. The 22-mile-long transit link was the first modern transit line built in the region and with 83,612 boardings per day, is considered one of the transit system’s workhorse lines. The LAMTA recently approved a $81.5 million contract to move forward on several practical improvements to the line that would boost efficiency, shorten disruptions caused by maintenance work, and speed up overall travel. The biggest item on the list of improvements for the line consists of the addition of four new interlocking segments to the route. Interlockings provide opportunities for trains to bypass certain segments of track in the event of a stalled train or while maintenance work is being performed on a certain section of track, for example. The transit line currently features only six such interlockings, a situation that can create waits of up to 40 minutes when track maintenance is being performed. These delays typically disrupt service for several hours after the fact, when they do occur, snarling the transit system’s already spotty on-time performance throughout the day. The new interlockings are expected to reduce these types of delays substantially, allowing trains to run every 15 to 20 minutes or so, while maintenance work is performed. The transit authority has also begun switching out the line’s aging fleet with new rail cars. The line’s train fleet has not been substantially upgraded since the early 1990s, so the aging Kinkisharyo P865 trains will be replaced by newer P3010 trains, the same locomotives that run on the system’s Gold and Expo Lines. The first of the new trains went into service in May of this year and are going be completely rolled out by the end of 2018, according to The Source.   Long Beach is also working toward implementing a long-delayed light synchronization improvement plan throughout the line’s final stretch in downtown Long Beach, Longbeachize reports. The improvements would coordinate traffic signals along the parallel and intersecting streets that run around the transit line in order to assure Blue Line trains hit green lights at each intersection, speeding the line’s passage through the downtown area. Delays along this stretch due to the lack of synchronization reportedly increase travel times by between five and 30 minutes. The transit authority has also studied creating express lines between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Long Beach but has not released any plans to implement such measures.
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Berkley Riverfront Park

Kansas City officials unveil plans to redevelop the city's riverfront
The Kansas City Port Authority (Port KC) revealed its master plan to redevelop the city’s riverfront into a live-work-play area last month. Despite roadblocks during the early phase of development, the 80-acre Berkley Riverfront Park redevelopment project plans to make the area into an attractive, high-density mixed-use destination. Union, a mixed-use development by Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins Properties, broke ground last year and is on track to open next summer with more than 400 apartments and six acres of retail space. Once completed, the park will have new pedestrian and bikeway paths and have spaces for hosting events like Kansas City PrideFest, Riverfront Fitness, and KC Nanobrew Festival, according to a Port KC press release. The annual July 4 Riverfest is already held in the park. Other amenities and attractions will be built along the water, including a dog park that is slated to be built next year. The city is also looking into the possibility of expanding the streetcar line from the Downtown River Market to the Riverfront for better public access, with a feasibility study coming out in the next few weeks.
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RPA

WORKac, PORT Urbanism, DLANDstudio, and others unveil visions for a resilient tristate area
Last night the Regional Plan Association (RPA) unveiled designs from four teams that address the future of infrastructure and resilience in the tristate area. The nonprofit, boosted by a Rockefeller Foundation grant, asked seven firms across four teams—WORKacRafi Segal and DLANDstudioPORT Urbanism + RANGE; as well as Only If and One Architecture—to show how policymakers, designers, and citizens, could best prepare four geographies within the region for the next quarter-century. (The Architect's Newspaper covered the competition in March when the firms were selected.) The competition asked the groups to zero in on revamping New York City's inner ring suburbs; creating coastal buffers; improving local waterways; and linking the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn by passenger rail, respectively. The competition coincides with RPA's fourth regional plan, A Region Transformed, due out later this year. Until then, take a look at their ideas in the gallery above, or if you're at the beach anytime in August or September, go see the designs—and give feedback—at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways. See rpa.org for more details.