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Ring Around the Genosie

The new Parco del Polcevera will revitalize the site of the Genoa bridge collapse
The Italian city of Genoa is getting a new park district at the site of last year’s deadly bridge collapse, as Parco del Polcevera will be located under the new Renzo Piano-designed replacement bridge set to open April of next year. The Italian architect donated the new bridge to his home city after the original Riccardo Morandi bridge collapsed last August, tragically killing 43 people. The design team for the accompanying urban renewal project consists of Italian architecture firms Stefano Boeri Architetti (SBA) and Metrogramma, as well as Dutch landscape architects Inside Outside. The design features a 5,150-foot-long red steel ring that will bisect Piano’s bridge, providing an elevated walking and cycling path through the valley area. A red wind turbine tower will punctuate the landscape at nearly 400 feet tall and provide the adjacent area with a source of renewable energy. At ground level, the park will consist of several parallel, typographically distinct zones that reflect the rich and diverse plant life of Genoa, along with recreational facilities, riverfront promenades, and industrial, office, and retail spaces.  The project is as much about the urban green space as it is revitalizing the city’s economy. “The Parco del Polcevera will become a new centre," described SBA in a statement. "All around it, the district will be reborn, understood as a community of life, relationships and exchanges. The BIC buildings in the Green Factory area, the New Forts and the ex Mercato Ovaivicolo become new hubs of productivity and innovation, essential ingredients for a sustainable rebirth also from the economic-financial point of view as studied in depth by H&A Associati.”  The Morandi Bridge was an important transportation link for the city, connecting Genoa to the northern cities of Milan and Turin and beyond to southern France. The urban renewal park project offers to revitalize an industrial area badly hurt by the collapse, which left 600 people homeless and isolated an entire neighborhood. Parco del Polcevera is meant to be a catalyst for growth and sustainable innovation in the still-recovering city as well as a memorial to the victims of the Morandi bridge collapse. At the park’s center will be the installation Genova in the Woods by artist Luca Vitone, dedicated to the lives lost in the accident. “A welcome to the world that crosses it and reaches Genoa from a network of infrastructure that stretches from east to west connecting Italy to Europe, parks perched on vertical walls, workers and noblewomen, singers-poets and naval engineers. A Superb City, even though it is afflicted by poignant melancholy; beautiful, even if in the harshness of its everlasting contradictions. A city of steel and sea, sculpted by wind and tragedy, but always able to stand tall,” said SBA founder Stefano Boeri. 
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Urban Ideals

Utopian Hours festival brings international urbanism to Turin
For three full days in October, the city of Turin in northern Italy will become a think-tank for the future of urbanism. The third edition of Utopian Hours, “the first and only international city-making festival in Italy,” according to its organizers, promises an innovative lineup of exhibitions and guest speakers from around the globe. The festival will begin on Friday, October 18, with lectures on everything from smart cities to an Iwan Baan-led talk on capturing the city. Saturday will include a panel of New York-based architects discussing the intricacies and challenges of urban development in the city, moderated by AN’s own Jonathan Hilburg. Other highlights include talks by Patrik Gustavsson of the newly unveiled Copenhill, Bratislava mayor Matúš Vallo on the extensive strategic plan for his city, and a discussion of contemporary urban imagery with Monocle editor Andrew Tuck. Among the many exhibitions taking place over the weekend, the one to look forward to most might be “Paolo Soleri: From Torino to the Desert,” an homage to the Turin-born architect on the 100th anniversary of his birth, curated by Emanuele Piccardo. The exhibition traces Soleri’s roots from early drawings in Turin through his attempts to create utopian forms of urbanism. Utopian Hours will be held at Centrale della Nuvola Lavazza, Turin, from October 18-20. Suggested donations for admission begins at €5 ($5.50). More information, including a full festival lineup, can be found at https://torinostratosferica.it/utopian-hours/. AN is an official media partner of Utopian Hours.
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And It Only Took 52 years

Montreal's Expo 67 site receives massive renovation by Lemay
More than 50 years after Montreal's Expo 67 World’s Fair, Parc Jean-Drapeau, has received a full renovation by the transdisciplinary design firm Lemay. The vast redevelopment project, titled Espace 67, involved the enhancement of a natural amphitheater and redevelopment of the central concourse that links the island’s Biosphere to Alexander Calder’s Trois Disques sculpture. The project began in 2017 and the revitalization of the site is, in part, a celebration of the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary.  “Lemay’s concept blends the enchanting natural setting and rich historic past of this exceptional site, to offer a truly versatile space,” said Andrew King, partner and design principal at Lemay in a press release, “It has been reborn as a destination unto itself, now able to fully accommodate a wide range of major events.” Building on the 662-acre site’s history, Lemay aimed to recreate the “festive, unifying spirit” of Expo 67, which is remembered as a landmark in Canadian history for its social, cultural, and technological advancements. With a record-breaking number of visitors, it was the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century. The design approach is rooted in adaptive reuse but creates enhanced services, event spaces, and wayfinding through a holistic design strategy.  Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s neighboring geodesic dome, the central pathway has been shaped by inclined planes paved with a geometric pattern. The slight incline (and to many resident’s dismay, the removal of hundreds of trees) maximizes views of Calder’s sculpture as well as the surrounding context of the St. Lawrence River and Old Montreal.  Service pavilions have been added near the site’s entrance with materials that echo the architectural language of the Expo and follow the same geometric design incorporated throughout the rest of the park. The pavilions themselves were also designed with wayfinding and crowd management in mind, and their metallic surfaces and lighting design making them prominent markers throughout the visitor’s journey in the park.  The massive renovation spans 1,502,286 square feet, with the amphitheater alone accounting for 615,265 square feet of that. While the theater can seat up to 65,000 people at any given time, it was designed with flexibility in mind; the stage can be adjusted and the floor shortened to create intimacy for smaller events.  While some are excited about the prospect of holding larger-scale events and festivals on the former fairgrounds, others are disappointed in the redesign. Retired professor and historian, Roger La Roche, told Citylab that, “The main objective of Expo 67’s planners was to make the site completely human-sized. Even if there were people everywhere, you could still feel isolated, in your own little bubble,” he explained, reminiscing on the days of his youth when he worked as a cook at the fair.  The architects insist that the removal of trees for the creation of more open space was due to the disrepair that the entire park, including the landscaping, was in. However, not all is lost for the city’s nature lovers. Société du parc Jean-Drapeau has recently joined forces with the City of Montreal on a naturalization project for the south bank of the nearby Olympic Basin on Île Notre-Dame, in which more than 135 trees and 300 shrubs have already been planted. Done in conjunction with the urban forest action plan, the objective is to plant 300,000 trees by 2025, increasing the city’s canopy index by five percent. 
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Rikers Revolution

As the Rikers Island replacement plan moves forward, activists and architects look for alternatives
On September 3rd, to the dismay of many community members and prison reform activists, New York City’s Planning Commission (CPC) approved Mayor de Blasio’s “Smaller, Safer, Fairer” plan to shut down Rikers Island's jail facilities and replace them with four smaller borough-based centers by 2026. With CPC’s 9-to-3 approval, the plan now moves forward to City Council before heading to the Mayor for approval as the last step in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The council was given 50 days to consider the details before making the make-or-break vote scheduled for October 17.  The Mayor’s plan would introduce a 1,150-bed jail tower to a site in close proximity to each borough’s courthouse—down from what was originally proposed—as a way of improving transportation to court dates as well as bringing inmates closer to their families and communities. (Bronx residents are already suing the city for not living up to this promise with the jail proposed in Mott Haven.)  Bronx Community Board 1 wasn’t the only board to unanimously vote against new jails. Each community board in an area sited for a new jail tower voted down the plan for a number of reasons, which have been echoed by local residents and prison reform activists—including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who recently endorsed the most prominent advocacy group, No New Jails. For Ocasio-Cortez, the Rikers Island complex should absolutely be closed but no jails should be built in its place. She hopes that at the “bare minimum” the vote is delayed until further information on what will be done with Rikers Island after its decommissioning has been gathered.  She also points to the lack of clarity in what the plan will actually do. This lack of concrete vision was also a concern for Orlando Marín, one of the three CPC commissioners who voted against the project. “At this point, we are being asked to vote on an application but have few details,” Marín said during the September meeting, according to Curbed. “The programming thoughts are clearly not finalized by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and contradictions that exist in the thinking and planning of physical structures.”  “For me one of the red flags is the fact that the largest infrastructure investments that we’re going to make as a city ($11 billion) won’t be towards homelessness, fixing our subways, or repairing NYCHA...it’s going towards incarcerating people,” Ocasio-Cortez explained to a reporter on C-SPAN. America currently incarcerates more people than any place in the world, and Ocasio-Cortez added, “We need to de-carcerate our country.” While de Blasio’s plan claims that it will shrink the city’s jail population from 7,400 to 4,000 by 2026 through a combination of sentencing and bail reform, jail abolitionists are questioning whether building new towers is the right way to accomplish this. The question remains: How does architecture enforce systemic injustice, and how can architects develop ethical guidelines to address the right way to navigate the country’s jail crisis? One group of New York City architects, engineers, and designers have organized to develop an alternative to the borough-based towers in favor of a college-campus-like plan (seen above) that they believe would create more humane conditions for inmates, save money for taxpayers, and not impose new development on any neighborhoods.  The 45-page plan was delivered to City Council last Friday. It includes razing the existing Rikers Island Facilities and creating a new campus that includes a hospital, mental health facilities, open farming space, and work-training centers. To cut back on the travel time issue, a ferry system would be implemented. A last-minute attempt to be sure, and according to the New York Post, one de Blasio spokeswoman, Avery Cohen, declined to address questions about the plan.  Cohen wrote in a statement: “We consider this a historic opportunity to build on the city’s decarceration efforts that have fundamentally reshaped our criminal justice system, and will continue working with the Council as we move forward to finalize our plan.”
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Gathering MOS

Mexico's Housing Laboratory shows off 32 low-cost prototypes
At the heart of social housing in Mexico is a contradiction: Flimsy houses built far from city centers sit empty, while millions of Mexicans are still waiting to use publicly financed housing credits. Developers continue to replicate the much-maligned cutter-cut model to keep costs down. But how can new construction not just meet the bottom line but satisfy the needs of low- and middle-income families? That is the question Carlos Zedillo and Julia Gómez Candela set out to answer at the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute (Infonavit). After several years of research and design, they inaugurated the nine-acre Housing Laboratory in Apan, Hidalgo, in November 2018. The laboratory is made up of 32 prototype homes that explore new typologies for social housing to meet the needs of Mexico’s diverse cultures and climates. Infonavit partnered with Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of New York–based architecture firm MOS to execute the ambitious project. “For a long time, developers have built the exact same housing in the north of the country as the south, without thinking about climate or materials,” said architect Gómez Candela in an interview by phone. That’s why the same boxy, concrete block homes dot the outskirts of almost all Mexican cities. Homes as small as 325 square feet stay within the budget, but are hardly adequate for families. Mexican workers gradually build up credit with Infonavit to finance their first home purchase. Infonavit used to build housing, but since the 1990s it plays the role of financer—workers use their Infonavit loans to pay for houses built by private developers. Along the way, architects’ role in the process diminished. Gómez Candela says that as director of the research center, the Yale-educated Zedillo set out, “To get architects to redirect their attention back to social housing in Mexico.” The research center began with an exhaustive study of the state of social housing in Mexico, identifying where the supply of homes was failing to meet demand. Then they selected 84 counties with high rates of Infonavit credit holders who had not yet bought homes. The target counties represented the nine climate zones of Mexico. The research center then worked with MOS to solicit proposals from around the world, settling on 32 prototype homes for the Housing Laboratory. Architects including Enrique Norten, Tatiana Bilbao, and Fernanda Canales designed houses for the project. The laboratory was conceived in Apan, a small town two hours to the east of Mexico City. Built on land owned by Infonavit, the site’s proximity to the capital allowed frequent visits. Towns and cities like Apan, in the outer limits of the Mexico City metro area, are usually known for drab, uniform housing. The small village of prototype homes is a welcome variation. The houses include vernacular architectural styles from around Mexico, including adobe, thatched roofing, and Mexican timber, designed with the country’s different climates in mind; from the humid, tropical south to the arid, hot north. Each architect described their inspirations and reference points, from local architectural styles like the wooden cabins known as trojes in the state of Michoacan to self-constructed housing. Collaborating with MOS allowed the research center to learn from their extensive experience designing housing. The Apan Housing Laboratory shows how developers could build high-quality housing within the tight budgets of Infonavit credits. It is only natural that Gómez Candela says cost was the greatest difficulty in the international collaboration. “In Mexico, we are used to building with very little money,” she says. “With our colleagues from the United States and other countries, we kept having to say, ‘Make it cheaper!’” The extra effort was necessary to convince developers that the models are feasible. Even so, developers have been slow to adopt the ideas proposed in the laboratory. “They [developers] still think it will be more expensive to build this way, even if we showed them otherwise” says Gómez Candela. “The numbers do add up.” Most visitors to the Housing Laboratory are students, urban planners and developers. Gómez Candela and Zedillo both left Infonavit when the new federal administration entered in December 2018. But the laboratory remains open and the floor plans are available online under open access. The laboratory is the start of a long process to refocus social housing in Mexico on the experience of the residents, not just efficacy for the builder. The research center’s work is seeing results, as Mexican architects focus more energy on designing housing. Gómez Candela is optimistic, saying, “The architects we worked with have continued to champion the cause of housing in Mexico.”
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Needling for Space

Microsoft chips in for major affordable housing strategy around Seattle
Like many American cities with more than half a million residents, Seattle is in a housing crisis. The growth of local tech companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia Group, is reported to have increased Seattle’s population of higher-income residents by 16 percent, making the task of finding affordable housing more difficult for the city’s working class. It was announced on September 26 that Microsoft, King County, and the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) will work together to create affordable housing for more than 3,000 residents. Together, they will provide more than $245 million to purchase five apartment complexes in Kirkland, one in Bellevue, and one in Federal Way. These complexes across the three King County cities were chosen for their proximity to transit hubs and burgeoning real estate markets, which would have likely caused significant rent increases in the targeted buildings if they had not been slated for affordable housing. “This is a long-term effort to stabilize rents in communities where rents are rapidly rising,” said Dan Watson, deputy executive director of the King County Housing Authority, “and fully expect to continue over the next 10 to 15 years.” Watson also confirmed that after the complexes are purchased, their monthly rents could be as much as $500 below similar developments in their respective neighborhoods. To accrue the necessary funds for the project, Microsoft provided a loan to the KCHA for $60 million, King County provided an additional $20 million, and the KCHA itself chipped in $140 million in bonds. Jane Broom, the senior director of Microsoft Philanthropies, announced that its involvement in the collaboration is one part of a $500 million strategy initiated by the company earlier this year to respond to the myriad of challenges facing Seattle’s middle class (defined as households earning between $60,000 and $120,000 a year). "We are committed to maintaining and bolstering strong, vibrant communities here in the greater Puget Sound region," said Broom. "Thriving communities include safe, reliable and affordable housing options for people at all income levels. To do this, we all need to come together to not only build more housing options, but also to preserve what already exists." The remaining $440 million allocated by Microsoft is planned to eventually go towards the construction of additional affordable housing and homeless services.
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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Mall

A study of L.A. strip malls validates a long-ignored building type
Sunset Market Plaza: Meditations on Strip Malls in Los Angeles Edited by Shaina Goel and Use All Five Published by Use All Five List Price: $35.00 If there was ever an official tribunal to determine what Architecture is and what it is not, the strip mall building type might be placed in the latter category without hesitation. Strip malls, sometimes known as mini-malls, can rarely be traced back to an architect, virtually never receive historic protections, and are rarely perceived as anything more than a response to the modern consumer’s demand for convenience. Even their origins struggle to align with any familiar canons of architecture history: when the 1972 oil crisis caused several gas stations to close throughout Los Angeles, their small corner parcels became ideal sites for the inexpensively-constructed building type, which attracted small business owners due to their relatively cheap rental costs. A new self-published book by the Los Angeles-based design firm Use All Five and edited by Shaina Goel intends to elevate the strip-mall into a building type as worthy of study as any other, complete with a historical overview, fine-art photography, and genuine speculations concerning its future against the prevalence of online shopping. Sunset Market Plaza: Meditations on Strip Malls in Los Angeles begins with a plea for clemency from Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s 1972 classic Learning from Las Vegas: “Learning from the existing landscape is a way of being revolutionary for an architect. Not the obvious way, which is to tear down Paris and begin again, as Le Corbusier suggested in the 1920s. But another, more tolerant way; that is, to question how we look at things.” Just as the two saw the common person’s tastes made legitimate in Sin City, so too does the team behind Sunset Market Plaza elaborate on its subject without a hint of irony or derision. Its spiral-bound spine and numerous fold-outs, in fact, lend it the essence of a field guide. The first half of the book details several of the “best strip malls in L.A.” and nearby San Gabriel Valley, each distinguished by their site plans rendered in dense green stripes and the businesses they contain. Comparing plans, it becomes clear that the strip mall is an infinitely variable thing: some are more than one story, some are irregularly shaped, some have scores of underground parking and many have surprising relationships to the street(s) in front of them. Reading through their descriptions tells us that many of the businesses have not only survived for decades but have also become some of the most popular destinations in the city for a variety of cuisines and specialty services. Sunset Market Plaza also includes a few proposals for the future (or alternate past) of the strip mall, in response to the highly informed marketing present in the world of online shopping. “What would happen,” its editors ask, “if these strip malls were designed with more explicit intentionality?” The results, as they imagine them, are “made with consolidation in mind.” One proposal imagines a strip mall as a one-stop-shop for self-publishing, with independent shops that, when combined, would become a graphic designer’s paradise, while another, titled “Wedding Chapel Plaza” divides the space into several independent businesses catering to the wedding crowd. It becomes up to the reader to determine whether these spaces function better with all of its spaces united under one industry or, more traditionally, as divided among many independently-spirited businesses. An interview between urban planner Jonathan Crisman and urban developer Sam Bachner, the “key figure in the history of strip malls because of his role in co-founding La Mancha Development Company,” succinctly reveals the thought process behind their unique aesthetics. When asked about his approach towards the architecture and design of strip malls, Bachner claimed that he has always aspired “to incorporate elements which are reflective of the specific community in which they are located… Some places might care more about color schemes, or I might have one place with a bell tower, or maybe I will use a blue tile roof in Koreatown—it’s all about community context.” Near the end of Sunset Market Plaza are Catherine Opie’s panoramic photos of strip malls across Los Angeles, all of which honorably confirm the site-specificity Bachner describes as well as their delicate beauty. “[Strip malls] are about the American dream for me,” writes Opie. “But they’re very fragile. They change almost overnight, and are often forgotten about, just like the freeways.”
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Over Troubled Waters

Controversial Lower Manhattan flood protection plan moves forward
New York City's City Planning Commission met last Monday to vote on the future of the $1.45 billion resiliency plan to bolster flood protection in Lower Manhattan, a mammoth scheme designed and planned by One Architecture & Urbanism, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, AKRF, and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The approved East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project will stretch from Montgomery Street to 25th Street and, controversially, rebuild the East River Park eight feet higher than it currently stands. That plan, which was first unveiled in January, was designed to withstand a 100-year coastal flood scenario through 2050. In addition to elevating the East River Park, the ESCR project will also replace several bridges and build new flood walls, flood gates, and underground flood protection.  The ESCR is one of several projects initiated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to prepare the city for the continued threats of sea-level rise. The complete 10-mile-long plan, initially envisioned by BIG as the "BIG U," will wrap around the southern tip of Manhattan from West 57th Street to East 42nd Street. As far back as 2015, the original design proposal for the ESCR was rejected by Community Boards 3 and 6. Three years later, the city released the current iteration of the project, shocking some residents with its huge price tag and new design. The current version of the project will cost $1.45 billion, up from the original $338 million, but will shorten construction time by 1.5 years compared to previous proposals. The new scheme would also allow equipment to be brought in via barge to avoid closing the neighboring FDR Drive.  While the park and surrounding area were heavily flooded in 2012 by Sandy and fall well within FEMA’s 100-year flood zone, residents expressed outrage at the flood protection plan. Protestors were distrustful after previous plans were unexpectedly scrapped, and doubt the city's ability to meet the new  2023 deadline. Residents have expressed such intense opposition to the project that Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, recently commissioned an independent review by the Dutch group Deltares to assess it. Despite weighing the pushback, the City Planning Commission ultimately voted to approve the project, citing the immediate threat that rising sea levels pose. The ESCR plan will next need to receive the City Council's blessing before it can be voted on by Mayor Bill de Blasio for final approval.
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LeGrand Scheme

Is Bleutech's Las Vegas smart city on the level?
“We’re working on a project that will blow your mind” is the first thing one sees when visiting the website for Bleutech Park, a Las Vegas “engineering firm” with the tagline “The future of infrastructure.” The firm is responsible for pitching what was anticipated to be the Las Vegas Valley’s $7.5 billion smart city, revealed earlier in August. The mastermind behind the futuristic development? Janet LeGrand, formerly known as Janet Garcia, a Florida woman with a history of alleged fraud and seeking out high dollar construction contracts, according to the Miami Herald Announced earlier this Summer by Bleutech Park Properties, Bleutech Park Las Vegas was promised to be the “first digital infrastructure city of its kind in the world,” complete with autonomous vehicles, 100-percent renewable energy, AI, “supertrees,” and self-healing concrete structures, among other features that sounded perhaps too good to be true. It was expected to break ground this December and take six years to complete, despite the fact that many of the technologies promised in the proposal are still in their infancy (and commentators on AN's original article voiced similar suspicions).  As it turns out, the Miami Herald has been reporting on LeGrand’s alleged transgressions since July 2017 when she first attempted to use an allegedly "fake" engineering firm, Bleu Network Inc., to score a $33.3 million construction contract with Homestead for a similar urban venture. She was then arrested, booked into Miami-Dade County Jail, and later filed a lawsuit against the city. In December 2017, she was charged again for wage theft, after allegedly failing to pay her employees hundreds of thousands of dollars.  While the Miami-Dade charges are set for trial next month, that didn’t stop LeGrand from posting bail, relocating, and attempting an even grander undertaking in Las Vegas. From the beginning, the advanced technology seemed to promise lofty sustainability goals. Such goals included creating tech that would make its “own off-the-grid energy” powered by the sun, wind, and even footsteps; “supertrees” that would support a 95-percent reduction in water consumption; as well as entire building facades functioning as solar panels. Tom Letizia, a spokesperson for Bleutech, told Commercial Property Executive, “We hope to inspire other developers to commit to sustainability in a whole new way for our future and to put benefits ahead of costs.” Over email correspondence, Letizia delivered a statement to AN from LeGrand: "The Miami Herald story was a total misrepresentation. I have complete faith in our judicial system and I have total confidence that justice will prevail with this case." Bleutech’s key technology partners—Cisco, Knightscope, Pavegen, and Onyx Solar, all reputable companies with tangible products—demonstrated their respective contributions at an event held in Las Vegas on August 28, where the project designer, KME Architects, also presented a batch of new renderings. The aforementioned tech partners, as well as the general contractor, Martin-Harris Construction, expressed excitement in moving forward with the plans on time. Guy Martin, president of Martin-Harris, declined AN’s request to comment on the current situation. KME could not be reached for comment at the time of writing, and AN will update this article accordingly if they respond. It remains to be seen whether the project will be completed as originally scheduled.
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Build it Buffalo

Cuomo’s Buffalo Skyway Corridor competition announces top prizes
Last Tuesday, a panel of New York state and local officials announced the winning design of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Aim for the Sky” competition to reimagine the Buffalo Skyway Corridor. Out of over 100 entries, nine finalists were asked to pitch their ideas to a live audience and panel of judges. The $100,000 top prize was awarded shortly after the presentations to Rochester-based firm SWBR Architects for their submission titled “City of Lights: Re-View our Waterfront”, a collaboration with Fisher Associates and MRB Group.  The competition’s aim was to define “a clear vision for the City of Buffalo’s waterfront, helping inform the direction for investment in placemaking and economic development opportunities.” The Skyway, a four-mile-long, four-lane expressway that follows the Lake Erie waterfront was completed in 1955 and originally designed to connect truck traffic to and from factory complexes along the Port of Buffalo. Since the closure of the area’s steel plants in the 1980s, the corridor has transformed largely into a commuter highway system carrying up to 400,000 trips per day.  SWRB’s $300 million dollar proposal involves a portion of the Skyway north of the Buffalo River to be torn down. “This is going to let people view the skyline of Buffalo in a way that they have never been able to see it before... and we were able to break down the barriers that separate the waterfront from the community and the individual neighborhoods around it,” said Bill Price, a landscape architect with SWRB, according to local Buffalo news network WGRZ. The remaining portion of the skyway would be turned into a High Line-Esque elevated park for both pedestrians and bicyclists. The proposal aspires to strengthen connections between downtown and the Outer Harbor.  In fact, all of the proposals promoted connectivity to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which currently has no direct bike or pedestrian route to downtown. The second and third place finalists included the “Skyway River Loop” by Marvel Architects and “Queen City Harbor: Bringing Buffalo to the Water’s Edge” by Christian Calleri, Jeannine Muller, Min Soo Kang, and Andrea De Carlo, and the teams were awarded $50,000 and $25,000 respectively. “Queen City Harbor” also calls for portions of the Skyway's removal but focuses on how to open up that land for mixed-use infill development. Marvel’s proposal emphasizes the opposite form of action—keeping the skyway completely—but adding a street-level greenway and local bridge connections. Whether or not the grand winning scheme could be a reality is yet to be determined especially considering that New York State just spent close to $30 million to repair the Skyway and the estimated cost for its removal could be up to $600 million. But Cuomo is hopeful that this is the right move for this rust belt city. “The Buffalo waterfront has always been one of our state’s great assets, and by removing the existing Skyway we will lay the foundation for further transformation and growth in this community,” he said during the announcement. If all goes as planned, by utilizing an expedited Environmental Impact Statement, project construction could possibly be completed in five years.
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Literary Lodgings

Historic Hollywood library converted into emergency homeless shelter
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has treated the city’s homeless crisis as a high priority since he first took office in 2013. A Bridge Home, one of Garcetti projects developed in collaboration with City Councilmember David Ryu, was launched in April of last year in response to a new state law that enables cities to construct a relatively expedient building type known as “bridge housing” to provide shelters for the region’s homeless female population. For its planners, this has meant applying a $20 million budget to the construction of an additional 222 units of bridge housing across the city’s 15 City Council districts within the first two years of the program. After 10 months of construction, the Gardner Street Women’s Bridge Housing Center, the seventh bridge housing project to date, opened in Hollywood inside a former library on September 16. Originally built in 1958, the Honnold & Rex-designed Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library required very little transformation to become the permanent home of a housing center. The main space was divided to provide the majority of the building’s services, including beds for 30 women, bathrooms, a communal kitchen, and support services, while the original front desk and central clock were left in place. “The fact we were able to salvage this building, keep its historic integrity and help meet the crisis of our time is beautiful,” commented Ryu. To ensure that its occupants feel safe, the original outdoor spaces are now gated, the entire facility is staffed by licensed clinical social workers, all of whom are women, and many of its public spaces will soon host various skill training services. While some of the other shelters completed through the program have more beds and amenities—The Bread Yard St. Andrew’s offers 100 beds in the nearby Chesterfield Square of South Los Angeles—the Gardner Street Center demonstrates the benefits of repurposing a building as opposed to constructing anew. Eighteen additional shelters are in the works throughout the city, and statistics suggest they can’t come soon enough; an estimated 18,000 women are currently experiencing homelessness citywide, with 2,500 in Hollywood alone. Critics of A Bridge Home have drawn a connection between the program and the restrictions the city council is currently reviewing that would limit where the city’s homeless population can live and sleep. One proposal being considered at the moment would disallow the homeless from sleeping with 500 feet of most public spaces.
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Transit-Oriented Non-Development

One of Los Angeles's most successful housing programs is facing a lawsuit

According to the Los Angeles Times, an L.A.-based nonprofit has filed a lawsuit seeking to eliminate one of the city’s most successful affordable housing programs. Fix the City (FTC), which board members describe as a “pro-safety, pro-livability, pro-‘rules-matter’ group,” is suing the municipal government over its implementation of the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) program, which loosens planning regulations for developers who build near transit stations. FTC’s leaders assert that the TOC scheme, which was initiated after Los Angeles voters came out in favor of Measure JJJ to address the city’s homelessness crisis, has allowed local officials to bypass the elected leaders of the city council and operate without proper civic oversight.

The lawsuit is intended to halt progress on the construction of a 79-foot-tall apartment building on Santa Monica Boulevard, which would accommodate 120 residential units spread across seven stories. If the project moves forward, it will be allowed to exceed existing height limitations on Santa Monica Boulevard by more than 20 feet in exchange for a guarantee that a certain percentage of the units will be set aside for affordable housing—a provision of the TOC program aimed at increasing residential density. FTC board members have accused the city of providing developer incentives that go beyond what voters approved under Measure JJJ, insisting that officials should redraw the housing plan with greater attention to due process and community oversight.

Contrary to what the FTC’s most recent lawsuit might suggest, the Transit Oriented Communities strategy has actually been quite successful in encouraging developers to build more residential units across the city. Since it went into effect in late 2017, the program has led to developer-led proposals for 20,000 new units, almost 4,000 of which are designated as affordable. Mayor Eric Garcetti has also indicated that the initiative’s focus on transit corridors will help to reduce L.A.'s crippling congestion problems.

Supporters of the TOC program and Measure JJJ have criticized the lawsuit as an impediment in the city’s quest to address its mounting housing crisis. The FTC, which has repeatedly sued the city over planning decisions ranging from the construction of a 27-story tower in Koreatown to the addition of hundreds of miles of bus and bicycle lanes through the Mobility Plan, is a known impediment to such actions. Whether the latest lawsuit will mark a legal victory or defeat for the city still remains to be seen.