Search results for "Parsons Brinckerhoff "

Placeholder Alt Text

The Golden Ticket
Denver's expanded Union Station.
robert polidori

In cities around the U.S., train stations are being converted to multi-modal transit hubs anchoring impressive new neighborhoods, and private developers are cashing in. John Gendall rides the rails to skyrocketing real estate prices.

One of great rites of passage for most Americans, from baby boomers to Generation Y, was the trip, often on a sixteenth birthday, to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the first driver’s license. But research from automotive data company Polk shows the share of car purchases made by young adults (ages 18–34) plummeted by 30 percent between 2007 and 2011, while the share for adults aged 35–44 fell by 25 percent. Younger Americans, it would seem, are not as eager to get licensed up at the soonest opportunity. Not only has this sent carmakers scrambling to render the driver’s seat with all the trappings of a smartphone—the commodity that young adults actually do covet—but it has also instigated a series of land use trends that are reshaping American cities, and train stations are taking center stage.

“Teenagers and young adults aren’t even getting driver’s licenses,” said Amtrak chief of corridor development Bob LaCroix, “These trends are making our stations very interesting to the real estate community.” ‘Interesting’ would be one way to put it. ‘Potentially very lucrative’ would be another.

Opened this summer, Denver’s revitalized Union Station has stimulated urban development in its surrounding areas as well as along the transit lines that feed into it. Real estate prices near the station have jumped from around $435 per square foot to $600 per square foot.
robert polidori

New Yorkers will be familiar with this effect from Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, where the Related Companies and Forest City Ratner are, respectively, developing on the formerly uncovered rail yards of Penn Station, in Midtown, and Atlantic Terminal, in Brooklyn. But in cities across the country—Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles—developers and municipalities are making serious investment in transit and transit-oriented develompents. “Every major metro area in the country, really, is doing a pretty substantial build out of its transit systems,” said Rachel MacCleery, Senior Vice President at the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Since developing suburbs by the swath is becoming less tenable for economic and environmental reasons, municipalities and developers are more tactically considering land use within city centers. In Philadelphia, for example, the main train station, 30th Street Station (which happens to be the third busiest station in Amtrak’s system) is ringed with significant real estate anchors: the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and, just across the Schuylkill River, City Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Center City district. Though the station itself is an impressive historic structure and though it has this orbit of vibrant neighborhoods, its immediate context leaves something to be desired. One local architect, who wished to remain unnamed, called it “the hole in the middle of the donut.” Amtrak, which owns the station and over 80 acres of rail yards, including—and this is important—the air rights over them, is teaming up with neighbors Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust to develop a comprehensive master plan for the station and its context. To do this, Amtrak tapped SOM, Parsons Brinckerhoff, OLIN, and HR&A Advisors in May 2014 to undertake the two-year planning process.

Plan for a new Los Angeles Union Station.
Courtesy Gruen Associates

Real estate professionals and transportation advocates point to Washington DC’s NoMa district as a particularly compelling precedent. Close to Union Station, the area, once dominated by parking lots and warehouses, had long suffered from high vacancy rates. In 2004, though, an infill transit stop was added to the Washington Metro commuter rail line, instigating a surge of real estate activity. Now, Washington is looking to build on that success with a redevelopment of its Union Station. Working with the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maryland Transit Administration, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Amtrak engaged Parsons Brinckerhoff and HOK to author a 15-to-20-year master plan that will triple the passenger capacity in the station, double the train service, and plan for real estate development on and around the station.

For Washington D.C.’s Union Station, Amtrak hired Parsons Brinckerhoff and HOK to author a master plan that will tripple passenger capacity, double train service, and plan for real estate development around the station.
courtesy hok

The Washington project highlights one of the challenges of working with historic train stations in urban contexts: they come with what LaCroix called “serious constraints.” Unlike the suburbs, which, for the most part, can be transformed into buildable lots with the sweep of an earthmover, train stations typically demand greater finesse. “There tends to be more complexity to transit-related developments,” said Eric Rothman, president and transportation expert at HR&A Advisors. “There are always very important operational concerns.” As a simple case-in-point, LaCroix explained, “we can’t expand south because there is a little something called the U.S. Capitol.” Each of the other cardinal directions come with their own inviolable obstacles, so the Parsons Brinckerhoff/HOK plan goes below grade, but, LaCroix is quick to point out, “in an elegant way—not a Penn Station way.”

courtesy hok

In Seattle, where ZGF Architects completed a restoration of King Street Station in 2013, Daniels Real Estate is undertaking the so-called North Lot Development, a four-acre, 1.5 million-square-foot mixed-use project directly adjacent to the station. Though he identified the transit hub as the catalyst for the project, Daniels president Kevin Daniels conceded, “working with transit is a challenge,” citing the intricacies of moving people through infrastructure, between heavy rail and light rail, rail and bus, regional busses and local busses. “Developers can tend to get very myopic from our side, and transit folks can get very myopic from their side,” he said. “While it might be easiest to line up busses in front of restaurants, that doesn’t work from the development side. The design has to find common ground with what works for them and what works for us.”

Amtrak has partnered with Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust to develop a master plan for the area immediately surrounding Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.
Courtesy SOM

Cases abound of historically preserved train stations that contribute little to community and economic development. What these cases demonstrate is that architectural attention on the station itself needs to be coupled with a serious commitment to the underlying transportation infrastructure. While the historic restoration of Seattle King Street Station was a critical element for the success of the project, that alone was not sufficient to anchor the neighborhood. The city and its transit agencies have committed to investing in transit and undertaking the gritty, long-term work of transforming the historic building into a multi-modal hub, orchestrating heavy rail, light rail, and local and regional buses.

Courtesy SOM

Cutting the ribbon on its transit hub this summer, Denver Union Station has become an important model for other transit-related developments. Having effectively reshaped the metropolitan experience in Denver, the project has stimulated urban development both at and around the station itself, but also along the network of transit routes that the station catalyzes. The Denver Union Station Neighborhood Development Company, a joint entity between developers East West Partners and Continuum Partners, has essentially shifted the city’s center of gravity toward the train station, which, for decades, had been dangling on the margins of Denver’s downtown area. The project included the historic preservation of the station itself, a robust public investment in transit, but also a real commitment to neighborhood building. Where Amtrak passengers once looked out onto acres of dusty landscape is now in the midst of becoming over five million square feet of commercial, residential, and civic space spread over nearly 20 acres. Several restaurants and a new hotel opened this summer. A Whole Foods is on the way. “It’s an incredibly complex station, but we’ve created a neighborhood, not just a transit station,” said Chris Frampton, a managing partner at East West Partners. Private developers play a fundamental role in realizing these transformations. “We typically seek developers through competitive processes,” said LaCroix, acknowledging that Amtrak is not in the best position to build neighborhoods. “When transportation agencies do the developing, they do it wonderfully, but they do it for trains,” said Frampton, making the case for private development to help in making neighborhoods.

“Transit investments are important, but they are only one part of making a neighborhood,” said Rothman. “The stations should be as inviting a place as possible to non-transit riders and transit riders alike. It needs to be a civic asset, not just a transit asset,” said Rothman. “Transit itself is not going to make a neighborhood.”

This is not just an act of civic altruism. “The marketplace is paying,” said MacCleery. In Denver, where the property leases had peaked at $435 per square foot, East West and Continuum recently leased One Union Station at $600 per square foot.

With this arrangement between transit agencies, private developers, and architects, everyone stands to profit. “We don’t have to own the real estate to get value out of it,” said LaCroix. “Smart, good development works for us. We can develop a very symbiotic relationship with private developers.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Come Hell or High Water
The team led by BIG proposed a landscaped berm around Manhattan to protect against flooding.
Courtesy BIG

In April, when the 10 finalists in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild By Design competition presented their plans for a more resilient Northeast, the underlying question behind the initiative was: What’s Next? What—if anything—would actually come out of Rebuild By Design? Today, that question was answered.

At the Jacob Riis Houses, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer, Governor Andrew Cuomo, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Zia Khan of the Rockefeller Foundation announced that hundreds of millions of dollars are in place to implement BIG’s berm for Lower Manhattan, Scape’s living breakwaters off Staten Island, Penn Design/OLIN’s resiliency upgrades for the South Bronx, and Interboro’s strategies to protect Nassau County.

Later in the day, in Little Field, New Jersey, Secretary Donovan and Governor Chris Christie revealed that MIT’s plans for new parkland in the Meadowlands and OMA’s comprehensive flood protection system for Hoboken would also receive federal funds.

These six winning teams are out of an initial 148 who entered the competition last summer.

BIG's plan protects Manhattan with A LANDSCAPED BERM. See more of their proposal here.
Courtesy BIG

“Implementing these proposals is morally the right thing to do because they will save lives,” said Secretary Donovan at the day's first announcement. “But it also makes economic sense because for every dollar that we spend today on hazard mitigation, we save at least four dollars the next time disaster strikes.”

While the design and implementation specifics of each plan have not been finalized, the investment in these proposals is significant: $355 million for New York City, $185 million for New York State, and $380 million for New Jersey. The money comes out of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program and is in addition to the billions of dollars already being spent on resiliency projects led by the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.

A team headed by OLIN and PennDesign called for "INTEGRATED STORM PROTECTION AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE). See more of the proposal here.

At the announcement, Mayor de Blasio said that within the next four or five years, New Yorkers are going to see “a hugely different physical reality in this city.” And that is because these plans do more than protect against the water, they reimagine and reopen the city’s connection to it.

A key component of SCAPE's proposal was LIVING BREAKWATERS. See more of the proposal here.
Courtesy SCAPE

About 95 percent of New York City’s money goes toward realizing a section of BIG’s “Big U” proposal to wrap Lower Manhattan in a berm and green space. The new “bridging berm” along the Lower East Side will provide waterfront space for the neighborhood and protect 29,000 public housing units from the next storm. The city will also receive $20 million for continued study and planning as part of PennDesign/OLIN’s proposal for Hunts Point in the South Bronx, which is a regional hub for food distribution.

Interboro's proposal called for green-blue corridors See more of the proposal here.
Courtesy Interboro

For New York State, $125 million will help fund Interboro’s proposal for Nassau County, which transforms the Mill River into a blue-green corridor. And another $60 million is set for SCAPE’s oyster reefs—or “living breakwaters”—to protect Staten Island’s South Shore.

OMA's team proposed strategy for hoboken resiliency. See more of their proposal here.
Courtesy OMA

In New Jersey, Hoboken will receive $230 million for OMA’s plan to flood-proof the city with a mix of hard and soft infrastructure. There is also $150 million set for the “New Meadowlands”—a public park designed by MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism.

Secretary Donovan said that the winning projects were chosen not just for their feasibility, but because they could best serve as models of resiliency for other vulnerable parts other country.


The Full List of Participants:

Team BIG: One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Project Projects, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, Arcadis, and the Parsons School of Constructed Environments.

Team Interboro: Apex, Bosch Slabbers, Center for Urban Pedagogy, David Rusk, Deltars, H+N+S Landscape Architects, IMG Rebel, NJIT Infrastructure Planning Program, Palmbout Urban Landscapes, Project Projects, and TU Delft.

Team OMA: Royal HaskoningDHV; Balmori Associates; and HR&A Advisors.

Team MIT CAU: ZUS + URBANISTEN with Deltares; 75B; and Volker Infra Design. 

Team PennDesign/OLIN: R&A Advisors, eDesign Dynamics, Level Infrastructure, Barretto Bay Strategies, McLaren Engineering Group, Philip Habib & Associates, Buro Happold. 

Team SCAPE: Parsons Brinckerhoff, Dr. Philip Orton / Stevens Institute of Technology, Ocean & Coastal Consultants, SeArc Ecological Consulting, LOT-EK, MTWTF, The Harbor School and Paul Greenberg.


Placeholder Alt Text

Rebuild By Design> SCAPE's Living Breakwaters Transform Staten Island's South Shore
In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, AN is taking a closer look at each of the final ten proposals. Here’s SCAPE's plan for Staten Island's South Shore. Team SCAPE proposes a series of living breakwaters to protect Staten Island's South Shore, which was absolutely pummeled during Hurricane Sandy. The breakwaters—made partially from oysters—can clean water, reduce storm-surge, provide new habitats, and protect against coastal erosion. The use of oysters would not only protect the South Shore, it would pay homage to the region's history. As Kate Orff of SCAPE noted, the town of Tottenville, which is located in Phase One of her team's project, was once known as "the town the oyster built." This plan would also create a "learning hub" in Tottenville to teach local communities about the benefits of oysters. "This new, layered infrastructure will clean and slow the water, catalyze the regrowth of protected ecosystems, and create an amazing textured environment for marine life, as well as shore-based communities to thrive in," said Orff. The team includes SCAPE/Landscape Architecture with Parsons Brinckerhoff, Dr. Philip Orton / Stevens Institute of Technology, Ocean & Coastal Consultants, SeArc Ecological Consulting, LOT-EK, MTWTF, The Harbor School and Paul Greenberg.
Placeholder Alt Text

Rebuild by Design> Ten Proposals for a Resilient East Coast Revealed
A year ago, Hurricane Sandy swept through the East coast—destroying thousands of homes, shutting down infrastructure, and knocking out substations—which resulted in $68 billion in damage. Yesterday, a day before the anniversary of the super storm, ten finalists in the Rebuild by Design competition  unveiled their proposals to remake a more resilient coastline. The competition—launched by Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), among other participating organizations—called on the final teams to provide ideas for making the affected coastal areas more resilient to withstand future storms and climate change. After spending three months investigating and identifying the region's challenges, the teams have have honed in on specific areas—from Red Hook and Newtown Creek to Hoboken and the Rockaways—and come up with a number of strategies to protect coastal communities, including improving communication channels, mapping out new community micro-grids, reconfiguring vulnerable neighborhoods, and implementing hard and soft ecological infrastructure. In the next stage of the process, the finalists will be granted $100,000 to collaborate with communities and government entities to further develop site-specific strategies. In March, design solutions from a winning design team (or teams) will be selected, and then later implemented. Interboro Partners with the New Jersey Institute of Technology Infrastructure Planning Program; TU Delft; Project Projects; RFA Investments; IMG Rebel; Center for Urban Pedagogy; David Rusk; Apex; Deltares; Bosch Slabbers; H+N+S; and Palmbout Urban Landscapes. Team statement: "Our unique team combines the best of Dutch land-use planning, environmental and coastal engineering, and urban water management with the best of American urban design, participatory planning, community development, engineering, and economic analysis and financial engineering. The Dutch contingent, which consists of design professionals who have extensive experience working together to adaptively plan coastal regions around the world, have envisioned, designed, and implemented some of the most important flood mitigation and management strategies worldwide." PennDesign/OLIN with PennPraxis, Buro Happold, HR&A Advisors, and E-Design Dynamics Team statement: "The PennDesign/OLIN team combines the strength of PennDesign in cross-disciplinary research, design, and communication; experience across the Northeast region; and institutional capacity to sustain long campaigns for change with a core team of high-capacity, strategic design practices: OLIN for landscape and urban design, and design and research integration; HR&A Advisors for market and financing strategies; and eDesign Dynamics for hydrology and ecosystems. The core team, led by Marilyn Taylor, John Landis for research, and Ellen Neises and Lucinda Sanders for design, and Harris Steinberg for engagement, will draw heavily on an engaged group of advisors in architecture, planning, sciences, geographic information systems, and climate modeling, and Wharton Business School, which will inform an approach on how best to shape alliances to layer buildings, living systems, social fabric, infrastructure, and economies." WXY architecture + urban design / West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture with ARCADIS Engineering and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers University; Maxine Griffith; Parsons the New School for Design; Duke University; BJH Advisors; and Mary Edna Fraser. Team statement: "XY/WEST 8 is framing the benefits of a shared approach to coastal protection. Studying systematic and large-scale issues— market failures in the assessment of risk, provision of insurance, and ecological impact, as well as the disproportionate representation of low-income populations in high-vulnerability areas—allows a fuller understanding of the region and nation. This approach leads to investigations of the outermost conditions of the Northeastern American Coastline (its barrier islands, inlets, shorelines and riparian estuaries) and examines a series of prototype transects that run from the shoreline to hinterland, from nature to culture." OMA with Royal Haskoning DHV; Balmori Associaties; R/GA; and HR&A Advisors. Team statement: "With a focus on high-density urban environments, the team’s driving principal is one of integration. The tools of defense should be seen as intrinsic to the urban environment, and serve as a scaffold to enable activity—much in the same way that the dam is the genesis of the city of Amsterdam. This will necessitate an approach that is both holistic and dynamic; one that acknowledges the complexity of systems at play; and one that works with, rather than against, the natural flow." HR&A Advisors with Cooper, Robertson, & Partners; Grimshaw; Langan Engineering; W Architecture; Hargreaves Associates; Alamo Architects; Urban Green Council; Ironstate Development; Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation; New City America. Team statement: "Our team focused on the resiliency challenges of key commercial corridors across the region. We explored solutions that fully integrate design and engineering of buildings and infrastructure with programs, financing tools, and management strategies. Commercial property, including local retail and services, forms the critical backbone of a community, supporting it in everyday conditions and serving as a lifeline for supplies, information, and recovery efforts during storm conditions, including Sandy." SCAPE Landscape Architecture with Parsons Brinckerhoff; SeARC Ecological Consulting; Ocean and Coastal Consultants; The New York Harbor School; Phil Orton/Stevens Institute; Paul Greenberg; LOT-EK; and MTWTF. Team statement: "SCAPE has brought together an energetic, experienced design team that has been both at the forefront of innovative, speculative thinking on resiliency and a key public sector partner in re-building critical infrastructural systems. We have, together as a team and in separate initiatives, mapped, modeled, and studied in depth the Northeast region’s vulnerabilities and developed precise, innovative solutions that tie the regeneration of ecological and water networks directly to economic benefits, community development scenarios, coastal protection solutions, and public space enhancements." Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Urbanism and the Dutch Delta Collaborative with ZUS; De Urbanisten; Deltares; 75B; and Volker Infra Design. Team statement: "The team of MIT+ZUS+Urbanisten proposes a grouping of resiliency districts at the edges of the flood zones of the metro area of NY-NJ. Each resiliency district will have its own layered approach that combines emergency infrastructure, evacuation capacity, ecological protection/absorption landscape infrastructure; as well as a development mix of light manufacturing/warehousing with residential. Every dollar of federal investment should help address a wide portfolio of risks – storm surge, rainwater events, and heat islands; and cover a spectrum of vulnerabilities – economic, social, and pollution." Sasaki Associates with Rutgers University and ARUP. Team statement: "The Sasaki-led team, with Rutgers University and Arup, leverages the interdisciplinary perspectives of designers, planners, ecologists, social scientists, and engineers to design opportunities and strategies for long-term coastal resilience. Sasaki’s research focuses on the value of “the beach,” a place of special significance to human memory and economy, and a vital component of coastal ecosystems.  New Jersey’s northern shore (Ocean and Monmouth counties) is an ideal place to study the identity and function of the beach; it includes the three coastal typologies found across the eastern seaboard of the United States: Barrier Island, Headlands, and Inland Bay." Bjarke Ingels Group with One Architecture; Starr Whitehouse; James Lima Planning & Development; Green Shield Ecology; Buro Happold; AEA Consulting; and Project Projects. Team statement: "BIG Team brings together significant international experience in Denmark and the Netherlands with a deep understanding of this Sandy region’s economic, political and social environment. Team Leader, BIG, is a group of architects, designers and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development with offices in New York City, Copenhagen and Beijing. For over a decade, BIG has been building a reputation as one of the most creative and intelligent architecture offices in the world. Our projects are also widely recognized as sophisticated responses to the challenges of urban development that create dynamic public spaces and forms that are as programmatically and technically innovative as they are cost and resource conscious." unabridged Architecture with Mississippi State University; Waggoner and Ball Architects; Gulf Coast Community Design; and the Center for Urban Pedagogy. Team statement: "There are places that are too valuable to abandon, even in the face of climate change.  Such places hold our traditions and memories, our past enterprises and dreams for the future.  The design opportunities we chose have demonstrated their value over generations of inhabitation, and are worth continued investment to make the people, structures, and systems more resilient. Resiliency is not a fixed target, but a strategy with technical solutions, such as elevating structures or constructing structural defenses, and adaptive solutions to encourage new behavior. Adaptive resiliency changes human behavior as well as the physical environment."
Placeholder Alt Text

Ten Teams Shortlisted for HUD's Rebuild by Design Competition
In response to Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Rebuild by Design competition to develop strategies to increase the resiliency of urban and coastal areas in the face of extreme weather events and climate change. According to HUD's website, the goal of the competition is "to promote innovation by developing regionally-scalable but locally-contextual solutions that increase resilience in the region, and to implement selected proposals with both public and private funding dedicated to this effort. The competition also represents a policy innovation by committing to set aside HUD Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding specifically to incentivize implementation of winning projects and proposals. Examples of design solutions are expected to range in scope and scale—from large-scale green infrastructure to small-scale residential resiliency retrofits." The shortlist of 10 teams—including architects, landscape architects, university groups, developers, engineers and others—has been announced. Interboro Partners with the New Jersey Institute of Technology Infrastructure Planning Program; TU Delft; Project Projects; RFA Investments; IMG Rebel; Center for Urban Pedagogy; David Rusk; Apex; Deltares; Bosch Slabbers; H+N+S; and Palmbout Urban Landscapes. PennDesign/OLIN with PennPraxis, Buro Happold, HR&A Advisors, and E-Design Dynamics WXY architecture + urban design / West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture with ARCADIS Engineering and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers University; Maxine Griffith; Parsons the New School for Design; Duke University; BJH Advisors; and Mary Edna Fraser. OMA with Royal Haskoning DHV; Balmori Associaties; R/GA; and HR&A Advisors. HR&A Advisors with Cooper, Robertson, & Partners; Grimshaw; Langan Engineering; W Architecture; Hargreaves Associates; Alamo Architects; Urban Green Council; Ironstate Development; Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation; New City America. SCAPE Landscape Architecture with Parsons Brinckerhoff; SeARC Ecological Consulting; Ocean and Coastal Consultants; The New York Harbor School; Phil Orton/Stevens Institute; Paul Greenberg; LOT-EK; and MTWTF. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Urbanism and the Dutch Delta Collaborative with ZUS; De Urbanisten; Deltares; 75B; and Volker Infra Design. Sasaki Associates with Rutgers University and ARUP. Bjarke Ingels Group with One Architecture; Starr Whitehouse; James Lima Planning & Development; Green Shield Ecology; Buro Happold; AEA Consulting; and Project Projects. unabridged Architecture with Mississippi State University; Waggoner and Ball Architects; Gulf Coast Community Design; and the Center for Urban Pedagogy.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bus Terminal Blues> Port Authority Bus Terminal to be Improved
The Port Authority Board of Commissioners has endorsed a study to investigate options to accommodate growth in bus commuting to and from midtown Manhattan. The authority hired Kohn Pedersen Fox and Parsons Brinckerhoff to craft a long-term master plan to improve interstate public transit services and reduce the impact of interstate buses on nearby communities. The plan will potentially replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, which has reached capacity and is in need of improvements. The comprehensive plan for the bus terminal, which is utilized by approximately 8,000 buses and 225,000 travelers daily, includes a state-of-good-repair investment program and new bus staging and storage facilities on Manhattan’s west side. The scheme has been designed to improve bus operations and limit the amount of buses idling on city streets. By tackling specific infrastructure needs, the Port Authority will make certain the terminal remains a central part of the interstate transportation network. “The development of a Master Plan underscores the Port Authority’s commitment to make the Bus Terminal a world-class facility and bus transit the most reliable mode of access to midtown Manhattan,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson in a statement. “While the Port Authority has already begun the work of revitalizing the Bus Terminal… this comprehensive approach is the best way to ensure the Bus Terminal keeps pace with future passenger growth over the next fifty years.”
Placeholder Alt Text

The New Wave
Courtesy HNTB

Downtown Los Angeles is about to get a lot curvier.

The competition to redesign one of LA’s great landmarks—its Sixth Street Viaduct—finally ended today, with HNTB’s surprisingly challenging scheme, made up of ten sets of concrete arches wildly winding across the Los Angeles River, taking the commission.

The Sixth Street Bridge, an instantly recognizable Art Deco span designed in 1932, was one of a series of nine overpasses built atop the Los Angeles River between 1923 and 1933. Although imbedded in the city’s psyche and a mainstay of movies and television shows, it was recently proclaimed unsalvageable due to irreversible decay, and last spring the city’s Bureau of Engineering called for a competition to design a new, $400 million, cable stayed structure. The other teams competing for the job were heavyweights AECOM and Parsons Brinckerhoff.


"Los Angeles is where the world creates and innovates,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “The selection of HNTB as the winning team reaffirms our ability to cultivate and attract the best and brightest in architecture, design, and engineering right here in Los Angeles.”

HNTB’s team also includes Michael Maltzan Architecture, AC Martin, and Hargreaves Associates. Their design, inspired by the “cinematic” experience of crossing the Sixth Street Viaduct, echoes the existing bridge’s rounded shape.  The staccato rhythm of rough concrete arches will create a memorable experience by car or on foot. In fact some of the arches actually contain pedestrian pathways atop them, combining circulation and architecture, a rare feat that will create very unique perspectives of the city. The walkways will also make their way down to street level, maintaining an important connection to the ground and the river.


Below the bridge the scheme is full of life and will hopefully bring pedestrian activity and commercial viability to an area that, while bordering the Arts District and Boyle Heights, is currently car dominated and unremarkable. The plan contains a hard-scaped Arts Plaza under the bridge’s western span, containing a café, outdoor seating, a lookout, and terraced riverbank hardscape. Nearer to the bridge it contains a slightly softer Viaduct Park, containing a promenade, amphitheater, and skate park. Under and around the bridge’s eastern span the plan includes the Boyle Heights Gateway, which will consist of playgrounds, sports facilities, a pedestrian promenade, a transit plaza, a lookout point, and the adaptive re-use of existing industrial buildings, a vital extension of the city’s Clean Tech Corridor on the other side of the river.

All three competing schemes incorporated pedestrian-friendly designs and iconic profiles. While HNTB’s scheme struck a chord in the design community, many thought AECOM and Parsons Brinckerhoff might have the upper hand because of their experience and clout. HNTB’s design appeared to be the most ambitious of the three, and some worried that it would be too costly. HNTB team members have pointed out that the easily replicate-able forms and ultra thin deck, among other factors, will keep costs down.

The bridge will be paid for substantially by state and federal funds, with only about one percent coming from the city. The design is set to be ready by 2014, with construction completed by 2018.

Placeholder Alt Text

Build Your Own Future
Buzz Court in Los Angeles by Heyday Homes.
Courtesy Heyday

In my last editorial I lauded the creativity and research going into installation work in Los Angeles. But I also made clear that I don’t consider this architecture. The point was to encourage architects to not only focus their efforts on creating beautiful gallery work, but on infiltrating the built world, changing it for the better.

What I didn’t express clearly enough was just how difficult that can be.

The problem isn’t just that architects are less interested in sweating and hustling and toiling, often fruitlessly, to get built work, especially with the economy still sputtering. It’s that the built world isn’t interested enough in them.

As I’ve alluded to before, our development, banking, and construction industries, and our government bureaucracy—all of which determine what gets built more than architects—are all stacked against design.

In real estate, a few small developers (in Los Angeles those include REthink, Heyday, and Casey Lynch, who is working with Barbara Bestor on a creative solution for a series of small lots in Echo Park, which we’ve profiled this month) are putting an emphasis on design. Their models don’t require outsized profits to work. But they are far and away the exception to the rule. Bigger developers and Real Estate Investment Trusts (with some exceptions, of course, like Related Companies and CIM) simply don’t factor design into their budgets, a fact that I’ve heard from several who work in the industry. It’s too much upfront cost for not enough reward. Banks won’t loan money to projects like this, even if developers were interested. Instead firms hire safe corporate firms that will give them safe corporate results. Have you ever taken a look at the Orsini, developer GH Palmer’s Mediterranean monstrosity near Grand Avenue, on the northern edge of downtown? It’s the same corporate thinking that gets us horrible chain restaurants and other mediocrities that reap high profits through cutting corners on quality.

In construction we see an industry that is unmistakably behemoth and incredibly slow to change. Old systems are deeply entrenched. There are exceptions here, too, like Matt Construction, C.W. Driver, and Morley Builders. But for the most part such businesses want to keep jobs in place and lock in profits—why would a national company like PCL Construction want to experiment with digital fabrication and advanced new forms when it would mean ceding expertise and money? Contractors and project managers now control much of the show, and they don’t want that to change. In government, particularly in LA, the deck is still stacked in favor of huge firms that have the most entrenched government connections. The recent Sixth Street Bridge competition, juried by “design aesthetic advisory committee” of little design expertise, selected by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and area councilman Jose Huizar, chose firms that, while proposing exciting schemes, include only giants like HNTB, AECOM, and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Of course getting to know the best players and systems in all of these fields is helpful. Another solution is to sidestep bankers, developers, bureaucrats, and even contractors altogether by doing it alone as an architect developer or going into design build. This can indeed work, and has, but it’s costly, risky, and dependent on expertise that only a few architects have. Another solution is to seek out and partner with some of the emerging developers and progressive contractors who are interested in design. Another, which is being undertaken by tech-savvy firms like Gehry Technologies, is skewing control of digital project management in the hands of architects, who have the unique ability to orchestrate all the parts of a project. We can also continue to lobby government and business to improve their policies, but without the kind of money that talks in those circles, it’s a tough battle.

What I want to know is what else works, or what will work. Once the economy gets going again this issue will be of utmost importance.  I encourage you to send us suggestions and examples of how to make the case for good design and increase the influence of innovative architects. Send us ideas not just in written form, but even through visual representations. We want you to build, and we want your advice. It’s a tough sell in a field that is consumed with form and technology. But I’m betting we can be as creative with our implementation as we can with our architectural ideas.

Placeholder Alt Text

Videos> Three Proposals for LA's Sixth Street Viaduct Animated
In September, AN reported on the three proposals to replace Los Angeles' iconic but crumbling Sixth Street Viaduct by HNTB, AECOM, and Parsons Brinckerhoff. The three teams have notably added pedestrian amenities and adjacent lush landscaping to the 3,500-foot-long cable-stayed span. While the renderings were compelling for each design, these video renderings fly the viewer in and around each proposal for a more detail view of what might soon be built in LA. Take a look. Courtesy AECOM Courtesy Parsons Brinckerhoff Courtesy HNTB [Via Curbed LA.]
Placeholder Alt Text

Visions of Sixth Street
HNTB's proposal for the Sixth Street Viaduct replacement in Los Angeles.
Courtesy HNTB

Last night at the packed Puente Learning Center, a school in Los Angeles’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, three design and engineering teams attempted to predict the city’s future.

The groups—headed by HNTB, AECOM, and Parsons Brinckerhoff— have all been shortlisted to create the city’s new Sixth Street Viaduct. Their vivid public presentations were the first glimpse of what will likely be LA’s next major icon.

The original 3,500-foot-long structure, a famous rounded Art Deco span designed in 1932, has been deemed unsalvageable due to irreversible decay, and in April the city’s Bureau of Engineering called for a competition to design a new, $400 million, cable stayed structure.

Following the city’s lead, all three teams presented plans that not only showcased memorable forms, but embraced people-friendly designs, including pedestrian paths, parks, and connections to the river below. The push reveals Los Angeles’s focus on attracting people and talent through increased livability. Such moves are a welcome, if uphill battle considering that so much of the city has been designed for cars, not people.

AECOM's proposal for the sixth Street Viaduct.
Courtesy AECOM

The first presentation, by HNTB with Michael Maltzan Architecture, AC Martin, and Hargreaves Associates, among others, showcased the most exuberant design, a riotous collection of tall and short, slightly canted concrete and cable arches pulsing over the river and well beyond in both directions.

Because of their exact repetition, the concrete spans would be affordable, pointed out the team. They would also be rougher than their steel competition: “The last thing we need is something that looks like it’s meant for a pastoral setting,” explained team member David Martin, a principal at AC Martin.

The arch that spans the river, and a slightly depressed arch below it, would both contain pedestrian walkways which people would be able to enter by literally walking into the bridge.  Below the bridge the scheme would contain a hardscaped Arts Plaza to the west, with restaurants, paths, and graphical representations of the bridge’s boisterous arches on the ground; a slightly softer Viaduct Park, containing a promenade, amphitheater, and skate park; and a landscaped Boyle Heights Gateway to the east, bordering the Boyle Heights neighborhood.

Parsons Brinckerhoff's proposal for the Sixth Street Viaduct.
Courtesy Parsons Brinckerhoff

The AECOM plan was centered on a series of three sculptural steel and inverted cable masts, loosely abstracted from images of angels, with a ribbed concrete structure exposed on its underside. The central mast would be the largest, and hence the focal point. A pedestrian path would be suspended underneath while at bridge level lookouts would bulge outward.

The plan calls for several public spaces, including the Mateo Street Gateway Park, a ramping space bordering the Arts district to the west; the Viaduct Plaza, a hardscape under the bridge; the Open Space Paseo under the bridge to the east, and the East Gateway Park, at the entrance to the bridge in Boyle Heights. Steel elements from the original bridge would be used to form lighting for the plazas, existing monuments would be restored, and new pathways to the river would be built around the bridge.

The Parsons Brinckerhoff plan was centered on a smaller mast (the size of the original Sixth Street Viaduct’s collection of piers over the river) that firm principal Ricardo Rabines described as the “wings of LA.” Indeed the steel structure looks like a bird’s wings stretched to fly. Under the bridge a suspended lower walkway would lead to a circular lookout point called the “nest.” Above a colorful covered walkway would split the bridge’s two roadways and, at times, could become a congregation zone, with one roadway shut down for major events. Continuous stairs and elevators would maintain a steady connection to the areas below the bridge.

HNTB's proposal for the Sixth Street Viaduct.
Courtesy HNTB

The proposal included several landscape and planning proposals at the foot of the bridge’s V-shaped columns, some designed by Mia Lehrer, who headed the La River Masterplan, an ongoing effort to make the river a recreational resource. They include an Arts Park to the west containing areas to display art installations; stepping and landscaping of the river below, and a plaza containing a series of clean tech research modules under the bridge to the east.

“It’s important that the bridge engage the river in multiple ways,” pointed out Lehrer.

"You understood what we were looking for," said Mayor Antonion Villaraigosa, who described the city as “people rich and park poor.” “This begins a new era. We're going to reimagine the city as a place where people can work, play, and recreate.”

The bridge will be paid for substantially by state and federal funds, with just one percent of the money coming from the city, pointed out city councilman Jose Huizar. The winner, chosen by city engineers and the state’s highway building division, will be announced by the end of this year. The design is set to be ready by 2014, with construction completed by 2018. Three more public presentations will take place this week and the next, after which the plans will be presented at the city’s Public Works building on Broadway until October 5.

Placeholder Alt Text

Shortlist For Sixth Street Viaduct Competition
The Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering has announced three finalists in an international design competition for the $401 million Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project. The three finalists—AECOM, HNTB, and Parsons Brinckerhoff—will be asked to design an “iconic” cable-stayed bridge across the LA River between the LA Arts District and Boyle Heights. The project is complicated by overhead high voltage lines, a change of alignment that will remove a kink in the roadway, and numerous right of way and jurisdiction issues near the river. The bridge—one of the city’s most famous structures and a frequent subject of film crews for commercials and movies—is dying a slow death from “concrete cancer” (aka, Alkali-Silica Reaction), much to the chagrin of preservationists who fought for years to save the structure. The city culled ARUP, Parsons, and SOM from the competition before advancing to the final stage. The finalists will launch a citywide tour or sorts to present their proposals for the replacement project in September. The full schedule for the proposal presentation is available here. A final decision about the winning design team is expected in October.
Placeholder Alt Text

Cap-ital Improvements
The H Street Bridge will run at grade with Akridge's development creating a new thoroughfare to compliment the new north-south axis.
Courtesy Akridge, SBA

This week officials from Amtrak and developer Akridge unveiled plans for an ambitious development atop tracks leading into Union Station in Washington, D.C. The 3-million-square-foot project promises to unite the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and NoMa, a former industrial area transformed into a leafy residential neighborhood.

“The gash in the urban fabric will be closed,” said Mark Gilliand, a principal at Shalom Baranes Associates, Akridge’s master planners for the project.

But with nearly $9 billion in investment needed, questions remain as to whether the public-private partnership, similar in scope, if not scale, to New York City’s Hudson Yards, would be able to muster the political will at the federal level. Union Station is owned and operated by the United States government. But despite high-speed trains and mass transit becoming a political football in states like Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin—and even New Jersey—most agree that the Northeast corridor is at capacity and needs expansion. “It serves as the only existing high-speed rail, and people on both sides of the aisle believe in that for the Northeast corridor, whether you’re from California or Florida,” said Akridge vice president of development David Tuchmann.

Clockwise from top left: The entire project backs up against Daniel Burnham’s 1908 station; side view of the undulating entranceway; Undulating green rooftops allow natural light to flood concourse; the railyards as they now stand.
Courtesy Amtrak, HOK, Akridge, SBA

As the southern anchor to the corridor, Union Station’s significance goes beyond its importance as a hub (D.C. train delays ripple as far north as Boston). The project is a key component of a $151 billion investment to region’s rail infrastucture to be completed over the next several decades. The proposed renovation was framed as a “pathway project” in an updated vision plan for the Northeast Corridor released earlier this month. And unlike the oft-delayed Moynihan Station in New York, Union sits literally within view of the legislators on Capitol Hill. “We like our prospects here,” said Bob LaCroix, Amtrak’s chief of corridor development. “Through this process, key stakeholders from the city, Maryland, Viriginia, and the federal government generated a consensus that this is the vision that we all need to pursue.”

Courtesy Amtrak

While the project holds regional as well as national significance, it breaks down into a very urban plan, integrating long-divided D.C. neighborhoods and incorporating the capital’s bicycle network. As Union Station was built on landfill, the terrain to the east and the west of the station slopes down beside the tracks, with the rail lines shored up with a giant stone wall, affectionately referred to as the Burnham Wall, for architect Daniel Burnham, the station’s original architect.

The station’s new masterplan, engineered by Parsons Brinckerhoff and designed with HOK, maintains the integrity of the terrain and track levels while burrowing east-west passageways beneath the tracks and creating a north-south corridor above them. Side-street entryways will be cut into the Burnham Wall to allow pedestrians to cross between neighborhoods. Escalators from the passageways will take visitors up onto the developer’s new deck, where Akridge hopes to build a multiuse neighborhood. The H Street Bridge will meet the platform above the tracks, transforming the now-desolate overpass into a Main Street, as well as home to the station’s new north entrance.

Entryways pierce the Burnham Wall allowing pedestrians to pass beneath tracks to access the neighborhood above or on the other side of the tracks (left). An elevated walkway atop the west Burnham Wall incorporates bike and pedestrian networks (right).
Courtesy Akridge, SBA

Undulating green rooftops of the entrance recall the individual tracks below and dispel the impression that the north entrance is a back door. “We wanted to design a train shed that supports movement and a vegetated roof that you can see from the street,” said Bill Hellmuth, president of HOK. Hellmuth noted that the overall design underscores the inherent sustainability of mass transit.

The developers, architects, and planners kept a keen eye on recent developments in New York. The project’s integration of open space recalls Hudson Yards, but without the developer’s massive floor-area payoff hovering some 60 stories above the site. The buildings maintain D.C.’s 130-foot height limit established in 1910, making the open space seem all the more generous. Instead of gobbling up the every square foot, the north-south promenade becomes a symbolic, if not literal, extension of the L’Enfant plan, reclaiming for Delaware Avenue a bit of what the railways took away over a century ago. But perhaps the most benevolent aspect of the plan occurs on the west side of the site, where the new buildings atop the development platform step back to make way for another promenade atop Burnham Wall. This High Line-esque gesture incorporates an existing city greenway, bike path, and pedestrian walkway. The gentle arc begins nearly a mile north of the project and culminates at Columbus Circle in front of Burnham’s 1908 masterpiece.