Search results for "New York City Economic Development Corporation"

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beats haven

Hip-hop museum and affordable housing complex to rise in the South Bronx
Last Friday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), along with the Departments of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Parks and Recreation (DPR), announced a massive new project in the South Bronx spearheaded by L+M Development Partners. Dubbed Bronx Point, the project is located on city-owned land on the waterfront of the Harlem River, and will include about 600 units of affordable housing in phase one (1,045 units total) as well as the nation's first brick-and-mortar hip-hop museum, officially called the Universal Hip Hop Museum. Among the founding members of the museum are recording legends Kurtis Blow and Rocky Bucano; its cultural ambassadors include Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, LL Cool J, and many other recognizable names. Law and Order: SVU's Ice T is on the board of directors. Executive Director Rocky Bucano said the museum's goal was to bring "hip-hop back to the Bronx where it originated from [...] it's gonna be a complete history of hip-hop." The site of Bronx Point is located adjacent to the 149th Street corridor, making it very transit-accessible. Additional plans for the property include a public multiplex theater, a waterfront esplanade extending to Mill Pond Park, an outdoor performance space, an incubator for small food vendors, and educational spaces in partnership with established organizations like Billion Oyster Project, City Science, and BronxWorks. The project is projected to produce over 100 new jobs (and 915 temporary jobs during its construction) during phase one alone. It also aims to incorporate sustainable building practices for LEED Gold certification. Once approved, phase one is slated for completion in 2022. The proposal for Bronx Point has entered the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) with the support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Community Board 4 District Manager Paul A. Philps, and the City Planning Commission ... not to mention Detective Tutuola.
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Soundview and LES

NYC Ferry seeks approval to build docks for two new routes

New York City’s ferry service, which has seen a surge of popularity amidst the city's current transportation crisis, is looking to add two new routes that will cater to the Lower East Side, the Bronx, and Queens, by next summer, as first reported by DNAinfo.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) filed an application with the Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month to expand the NYC Ferry service by building docks along the Soundview and Lower East Side route.

The Soundview route will stop at Clason Point, East 90th Street, East 62nd Street, and terminate at Wall Street’s Pier 11. The Lower East Side route will make stops at Long Island City, East 34th Street, Stuyvesant Town, Corlears Hook, and also end at Wall Street. The application also included a request to construct 22 floating docks for a “homeport” and boat barge at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a site that is going under extensive redevelopment.

The Army Corps is seeking comments and suggestions for the proposed new docks, one of which at the South Bronx landing is nearly 58 feet long. The responses will then be used to “issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit,” according to DNAinfo.

The ferry system is Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $55 million plan for a five-borough network that focuses on connecting residential areas to Manhattan’s business districts, as well as bringing increased transportation access to the city’s underserved communities. Rides are operated by Hornblower, a Californian company that has previously operated in New York before, and cost the same amount as a subway ride ($2.75). Current routes include an East River, Rockaway, and South Brooklyn. An Astoria ferry route is slated to begin on August 29.

This second phase of expanding NYC Ferry’s services, which only launched in May, comes after reports revealed the system had hit the one million rider mark in July. Both routes, if the application is approved, will begin next summer.

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Sunset Park

New renderings released of WXY's Brooklyn Army Terminal landscape redesign

New renderings of Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT) and its renovated landscape—part a multimillion dollar expansion project—have been released, as first reported by Untapped Cities.

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio dedicated $115 million of funds to renovate the three million-square-foot site into a campus that would bring in commercial and industrial tenants. A former World War I military supply base, the Cass Gilbert–designed site was designed to foster an intermodal system of transferring goods between ships, trains, and trucks. The confusing circulation has previously deterred tenants from moving to the facility, and in an effort to attract more tenants, New York–based WXY is redesigning the campus's outdoor space. 

WXY's new public space improvements, which span 12,000 square feet, include new seating, permeable pavement for improved stormwater runoff, and better wayfinding mechanisms for pedestrians to navigate between the ferry landing, parking, and the building. The existing landscape will be preserved where possible. 

The city acquired the complex in 1981 and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is the steward of the terminal. The city has been trying to attract new tenants in its ‘Core Four’ industries: traditional manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, food manufacturing, and Made in New York (production of film, TV, and fashion). The terminal's floors are made out of reinforced concrete and can support loads of 250 to 300 pounds a square foot, making it well suited for manufacturing industries. 

The renovation will bring an additional 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space by this fall. Rent hikes and small spaces have forced manufacturing companies out of the Garment District, and the city hopes the revival of Sunset Park’s many industrial spaces will aid the ailing industry, according to a New York Times report earlier this year.

“The Brooklyn Army Terminal has grown into a hotbed for modern manufacturing, diversified talent, and entrepreneurial zeal,” said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer in a statement last year.

The redevelopment of BAT joins neighboring Industry City and the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal along the Sunset Park waterfront.

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Exposing the Garment District

How to save Manhattan's Garment District

The garment industry—and its district in west Midtown, New York—continues to be underappreciated within a city that has transitioned to one that consumes material goods rather than producing them. As recently as 2009, alternative zoning was proposed in an attempt to consolidate all the manufacturers into one building in the Garment District (see our 2009 article “Shrink to Fit”). This spring, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which supports manufacturers, proposed to eliminate the special zoning laws that promote the preservation of industrial space in the district. This current zoning overlay requires a one-to-one replacement of manufacturing space when (in general) a landlord converts space to commercial use, but it has been loosely enforced. While the proposal maintains the existing industrial zoning, it is not favored by the manufacturing community, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, community boards, or groups such as the Garment District Alliance, Design Trust for Public Space, and the Municipal Art Society, among others. Together, these parties, who have requested additional time to review the proposal, have formed a steering committee in advance of the formal land-use review process (ULURP), slated to commence in August 2017.

The new proposal would also place limits on construction of new hotels in the area, which are considered “industrial use,” but has pressured industrial owners to sell. The city promises $15 million in technical assistance and costs for relocation into city-owned spaces in the Brooklyn Army Terminal ($100 million capital investment) or a future city-operated garment center building in Sunset Park ($136 million capital investment) to be completed in 2020. However, the synergy of the interdependent ecosystem of designers, contract manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors still has an irreplaceable value, even as it erodes.

Two alternate propositions:

Instead of removing the preservation requirements of the District’s zoning, I am proposing two scenarios to sustain the Garment District’s dense cluster of what I call “Vertical Urban Factories.” One approach could be to embrace the District’s organic mix of garment industries and residential, office, and retail space in a unique hybrid building type. Industrial preservation requirements could instead be tightened through “mandatory inclusionary manufacturing,” similar to the mayor’s plan for requirements for housing in newly rezoned areas.

Most mixed-use industrial districts (or “MX” districts) are proven to tip toward residential and commercial development because of the higher rents they command, and building owners profit from the industrial conversion to more lucrative uses. The Garment District is no different; it is an industrial zone, with other nonindustrial uses allowed. But since fashion is a lighter industry, like other niche design-driven industries, it is actually clean and quiet and can be easily integrated with office and residential uses in the same buildings. What if the higher-value residential tenants could consciously support the lower-rent garment tenants (or other light manufacturing spaces) through cross-subsidies? The result would be a diverse mix of making, selling, playing, and living; creating a 24/7 work-live community. The ground floor could remain retail space relating to the supplies that comprise the products—buttons, zippers, sequins, fabrics—while the lower and middle floors, where the showrooms are often located, would be required to be maintained as factories. The upper floors could contain the higher-value showrooms, and commercial and residential units. In reverse, new hotels could be required to house garment manufacturing, and guests could have a unique experience of watching manufacturing from their hotel rooms!

Another approach is to make the garment workers visible, injecting energy into the area with new physical transparency, exposing the industrial mysteries of workers making patterns, cutting, sewing, and pleating fabrics, in what I call the “consumption of production.” The emergence of industry-as-spectacle combines retail with making, so that the consumer also can see into the process from beginning to end, in our experience economy. This would be part of a longtime tradition of urban merchants and their workshops, or even the phenomenon of open kitchens in restaurants, and follows new interests in authenticity. In this new context, it combines another hybrid of retail-factory spaces for urban chocolatiers, coffee roasters, and bakers bringing street life to cities. In doing so, we can redefine and bolster the dynamism and diversity of our innovative and productive city.

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Made in LIC

Long Island City’s latest mixed-use development will include factory space

Long Island City’s booming waterfront could be getting yet another high-rise, mixed-use project. However, this time the developers are proposing something new: the inclusion of factory space with the shiny new apartments.

After a year-long selection process, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) chose developers TF Cornerstone (TFC) to lead the $925 million mixed-use development on the 4.5-acre site at 5-40 44th Drive and 4-99 44th Drive, as first reported by the New York Times. ODA, Handel Architects, and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects are the architects.

TF Cornerstone’s proposal will see a 1.5-million-square-foot, two-building complex with 1,000 rental apartments as well as 100,00 square feet of light manufacturing space. There will also be 400,000 square feet of offices, 19,000 square feet of stores, an elementary school, and a one-acre waterfront park along the Anable Basin on the East River.

The two towers are planned to rise to around 65 stories and 50 stories but will taper towards the top. The apartments will range from studios to three-bedroom units and 25 percent of the units will be below market rate in accordance with the EDC's Request for Proposal (RFP).

“One of the primary goals of this project is to support the commercial, technology, artisan, and industrial businesses of Long Island City, while also balancing that work environment with [the] market and affordable housing,” Jake Elghanayan, principal at TFC, said in a press release. TFC will also be working with three other development partners: Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, Coalition for Queens, and BJH Advisors.

New York’s current zoning laws separate housing and manufacturing industries, creating clear boundaries in the city as to where factories can be. This project, which still has years to go before construction starts, will require rezoning approval to include manufacturing space in the development. If all goes according to plan, however, the project is expected to be completed by 2022.

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Complicit

Urban planners are irresponsibly designing risky mega-developments across Africa
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’s “Shigeru Ban will design 20,000 shelters for a Kenyan refugee settlement.” The article below was authored by Christopher Marcinkoski, an assistant professor of landscape architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania.
Today, according to recent United Nations data, there are just under 1.2 billion people living on the African continent. By 2050, this number is projected to double to approximately 2.4 billion people. By 2100, there is presumed to be somewhere in the realm of 4.4 billion people living in Africa, accounting for roughly 40% of the total population of earth. [1]
While Africa is currently home to a hugely diverse range of urban formats vis-à-vis their degree of maturity, the politics that guide them, and the economies that support them, the overall urban condition is substandard—both in terms of the infrastructures upon which it relies, and the building stock of which it is composed. In this context, there should be little question regarding the need for substantial upgrades to Africa’s urban settlement and infrastructure. Not coincidentally, in the ten or so years since the peak of the global real estate bubble in 2004 these population projections, in combination with the extreme deficiency of urban services and settlement seen across the continent, have led to a growing wave of proposals for new large-scale urban development throughout Africa. Acknowledging the urgent need for upgrades mentioned above, what is of particular interest regarding these proposals is the radical incongruity of their scale, scope, format, and program relative to the actual demographic and market demands of the contexts they are being proposed within. For example, many of these proposals are reliant on models of urbanization-driven economic growth that unapologetically borrow from exogenous pursuits recently employed in places like China and the Middle East. This appropriation seemingly ignores the fundamentally different set of material and demographic resources characterizing the contexts from which they are drawn, as well as the radically different governance and land tenure systems on which they are based. In turn, beyond their clear misalignment with the near-term realities of the African milieu, what many of these proposals for new settlement and infrastructure imply is the threat of further exacerbating deficient urban conditions by shifting severely limited capital resources away from more basic urban services. [2] In this way, these “African New Towns” represent an increasingly critical topic of concern for those disciplines actively engaged in their planning, design, and construction.
What complicates this process—or, in fact, what motivates it—is the emergence over the last 30 years of a phenomenon I refer to as speculative urbanization.[3] These are pursuits that employ the construction of new infrastructure and settlement for primarily political and economic purposes, rather than to meet real (as opposed to artificially projected) demographic or market demand. If this definition is expanded slightly, it can also include activities related to the legislative re-designation and re-parcelization of land for the specific purposes of increasing its monetary value. The phenomenon refers primarily to activities occurring at the periphery of established urban areas, or in entirely exurban contexts where physical urbanization is operating autonomously at the scale of a district or territory, rather than at the scale of a single parcel or building. While examples of the speculative expansion of settlement and infrastructure can be found as far back as ancient Rome, the last 15 years in particular have seen the most dramatic and consequential instances of the phenomenon, as well as a clear intensification of its incidence. [4] Given the severe economic and social disruption caused by the failures of recent speculative pursuits—see for example Spain, Ireland, China, and Dubai during the first decade of the 21stcentury—it is worth taking a moment to consider design and planning’s role in these activities. Historically, physical urbanization has tended to follow on economic growth. On the occasions when building activities do outpace their corresponding economy, a surplus is created and some sort of market correction is required: price, volume, etc. However, this correlation between urbanization activities and economic growth is more and more frequently being inverted. Here, as was the case in many of the examples mentioned above, physical urbanization activities are expressly being undertaken in the hopes of generating economic growth regardless of real demographic or market demand. This often means the pursuit of projects that are wildly over-scaled, economically inaccessible or simply inappropriate to the current circumstance of a given context. In turn, these projects are increasingly characterized by a high incidence of failure—either through low occupancy, partial completion, or complete abandonment. The costs of these failures extend well beyond the built environment into substantial social, fiscal, and environmental repercussions. Given the expansive nature of these consequences, what is increasingly coming into question as new proposals for gleaming urban development rapidly emerge across the African continent is how necessary upgrades to settlement and infrastructure should be undertaken; what types of physical formats and urban strategies these upgrades should rely upon; and—most critically—for whom these new settlements and infrastructures are actually being produced. When it comes to rapid urbanization in developing economies, these are not new questions. In fact, similar queries were raised in the 1980s and 90s in Southeast Asia, and again in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the Middle East as urbanization activities were employed with the explicit intent of projecting the image of modernity and competitiveness for both economic and political purposes, often independent of the realities of demographic or social need. While proposals for massive new urban districts are increasingly becoming the norm and, in turn, less shocking, a fundamental question does remain: Will the particular urban growth models employed in these pursuits serve to produce long-term urbanistic benefits as in the past, or will these initiatives ultimately succumb to unanticipated near-term disruptions (social, environmental, economic and political) that preclude the realization of longer-term successes? [5] While it is impossible to foretell the answer to this question, the role real estate speculation played in the global financial crisis of 2008, as well as reflections on other prior speculative urbanization events does suggest that without some sort of fundamental change, these contemporary pursuits are likely to produce commensurately severe repercussions—both locally and globally. Ongoing research being conducted at the University of Pennsylvania has found no fewer than 60 cases of territorial-scale speculative urbanization undertaken over the last decade within the 20 largest state economies in Africa. That said, examples can be found in many of the continent’s smaller economies as well. Each of these cases is a minimum of 80 hectares (approx. 200 acres) in size; is positioned as peripheral expansions of settlement adjacent to existing cities or on exurban greenfield sites; and is intended to function as an autonomous urban district, ostensibly independent of existing urban centers. Ultimately, what distinguishes these speculative urbanization activities from more credible or more conventional urbanization pursuits is their scale, their location, and their degree of accessibility relative to an available population (market). While this is not the appropriate venue to discuss each of these various developments in a great deal of depth, we can begin to sort them based upon type, which proves useful in exploring the motivations behind these pursuits. For example, perhaps the most common speculative urbanization format being seen on the African continent today is what I refer to as the middle class new town. These are developments undertaken with the explicit intent of accommodating a particular country’s so-called “growing middle class” that is projected to appear as a result of rural to urban migration in combination with the economic expansion associated with modernization. Examples of this type include Morocco’s ongoing new towns program initiated in late 2004; Tatu City northeast of Nairobi, Kenya (1,200ha); the Centenary City (1,260ha) and Lekki New Township (1,560ha) projects in Nigeria; La Cite du Fleuve (375ha) at the eastern periphery of Kinshasa, D.R.C.; Appolonia–City of Light (941ha), north of Accra, Ghana; and, what has become the media poster-child for this type of development, the Chinese-built new town of Kilamba (5,400ha), southeast of Luanda, Angola to name just a few. What is at issue with this particular format is that much of the housing being produced is simply inaccessible to the general population from a financial point of view without substantial government subsidies that many of these countries simply cannot afford to provide. The result is that this particular type of development often remains empty and physically deteriorating years, even decades, after its construction. Another common speculative urbanization format is the increasingly ubiquitous tourist/luxury enclave. Following on the urban growth models established in places like Spain and the Emirates, these urbanization projects are predicated on the opening up of an exotic landscape to foreign investment and populations, in combination with the creation of secured areas of exception within the extents of existing metropolitan contexts. Examples include the 2,400-hectare Longonote Gate located 70 km northwest of Nairobi; the various developments undertaken as part of the New Cairo project including Barwa (830 ha), Madinaty (4,500 ha) and Mivida (1,490 ha); resort projects along the Atlantic Coast of Morocco south of Tangier such as Tinja (330 ha) or Al Houara (234 ha); and the ten-square-kilometer Eko Atlantic development being reclaimed from the sea south of Lagos, Nigeria. These developments, like the middle class new towns mentioned above, are inaccessible to the vast majority of the African population. However, unlike the prior set of examples that claim to be undertaken explicitly in service of the continent’s growing urban populations, these developments make no pretenses about their desired clientele—the global elite and their associated investment dollars. The third category of speculative urbanization most often being pursued on the African continent is also primarily oriented towards the desire to attract foreign investment. However, rather than investment from individuals, these technology- or industry-sector new towns are geared primarily toward attracting capital and/or partnerships from established foreign corporations and institutions. For example, the proposed 2,000-hectare Konza Techno City, to be located 70 km southeast of Nairobi, Kenya, aims to capture the momentum behind the massive telecom market (SMS) already present throughout Africa. The Green City of Mohammed IV, roughly mid-way between Marrakech and Casablanca, looks to build upon the resources of Morocco’s Office Chérifien des Phosphate (OCP)—the state agency tapped with managing the country’s vast phosphate reserves—in order to establish an international research and industry hub centered around a newly created “world class” university. A few hundred kilometers to the north is the proposed Zenata Eco City (1,830 ha), which is intended to elevate Casablanca, already Morocco’s financial center, “to the rank of world metropolis.” [6] Elsewhere, forty or so kilometers north of Johannesburg, South Africa lies the privately owned Lanseria Airport, envisioned to be transformed over the next 25 years into a so-called Airport City, with an “aerotropolis zone” radiating out as much as 20 km from the airport facility at its center. In the context of these various pursuits, it is worth considering why the potential economic engine implied by each of these proposals is so often seen as incompatible with existing urban centers and structures. Certainly urbanization activities tied to potential job centers other than construction has proven to be a valid strategy. The question becomes why these pursuits seem to rely so heavily on exogenous urban growth models, rather than leveraging the particular assets of specific territory or context in the service of establishing new paradigms. The final category associated with the intensifying pursuit of speculative urbanization on the African continent is perhaps the most telling. The appearance of a number of new national capitals makes clear the perceived correlation between global political and economic status and the production of novel or iconic urban form. This correlation is obviously not new as places like Rome, Paris, and Moscow can easily attest. What is unique, however, as was mentioned before, is the inversion of this relationship to the point where the physical construction of the constituent components of the “global city” is now understood as a means to an end, rather than a product of growing economic and political status. Examples of these new capitals include the 6,000 ha “low-carbon city” of Boughezoul 120 km south of Algiers, planned as the new capital of Algeria and funded primarily by the carbon-dependent oil wealth of the country. In Equatorial Guinea, an 8,150 ha administrative capital called Oyala (or Djibloho) is rising on the mainland, roughly 350 km across land and sea from the existing capital at Malabo. While not a true new town, the Kigali 2020 master plan imagines transforming the territory of one of history’s worst genocides into a decentralized conurbation comprising high-tech, finance, and retail districts alongside ecological preserves in what can only be characterized as a city conceived in the image of Singapore, home to the planners behind the project. [7] And, as recently as March 2015, a massive new capital district for Egypt was proposed for the outskirts of Cairo in order to “spark a renaissance in the [country’s] economy”. [8] This new city, planned for five million residents and to be built in five to seven years, is just the latest example of an increasingly prevalent belief in urbanization as the ultimate instrument of 21st-century economic production and global status, particularly for developing economies. In reflecting on these various cases, what is striking is that unlike the post-war period in Europe where urgent housing demands and the need for modernization motivated the pursuit of innovations in both architectural form and urban formats, similarly urgent population projections for the African continent are inducing an urbanization response that seems to do little more than recycle familiar recipes for what constitutes the contemporary “competitive global city”. [9] Here, the limited pursuit of urban design “innovation” has been reduced to the occasional quest for hyperbolic architectural form or stamping out vast new urban districts wrapped in over-scaled, ill-defined wreaths of green. Such a body of work suggests an inexcusable abdication of responsibility by the urban design disciplines. In this regard, the urgent challenge facing urbanization on the African continent relates less to the models being emulated than to the particularities and appropriateness of the urban formats being employed; the processes by which this urbanization is undertaken; and the capacity of planning and design to conceptualize models of urbanization that actively adjust the disposition of these pursuits in response to changing demographic, economic, political and environmental demands faced over the extended timescale of a project’s deployment. Contemporary popular media’s engagement with these speculative urbanization activities could be described as uneven at best. European and American news outlets in particular have tapped into the paranoia surrounding China’s growing global influence by focusing their narrative on urbanization projects on the African continent being promoted or constructed by Chinese state or state-related entities like CITIC or CGCOC. [10] While significant in both number and scale, these are by no means the only actors involved in speculative urbanization activities on the African continent. For example, a group of familiar international funding sources and government-linked companies, alongside recognizable engineering and planning multinationals from Europe and Southeast Asia, appear again and again in many of these projects. Institutions like the E.U., I.M.F., and World Bank underwrite many of these projects through the support of planning studies or infrastructure funding. [11] Elsewhere, corporate partnerships and investment funds with interests in resource extraction or agriculture are utilizing urbanization activities as an instrument for gaining political favor, and in turn, access to these assets. [12] While many proposals emerge from the hubristic ambitions of the leadership of a particular state, other proposals are being promoted by foreign parties looking to take advantage of what they see as latent markets or fiscally desperate governments. State-linked planning and development companies from places like China, Singapore, and the Middle East trade upon the demonstrated “successes” of their particular urban growth models in order to convince the leaders of cities and states to retain their services or allow them to undertake development on their behalf. [13] In this way, the similarity between proposals in terms of central actors and proposed outcomes, in even the most divergent of contexts should be unsurprising. Simply put, there is a universal recipe for urbanization-driven economic growth that is being peddled indiscriminately across the African continent as the essential solution to the most intractable of economic and, in turn, social challenges. As I have argued elsewhere, this pursuit of speculative building is an inevitable consequence of a capitalist economic system. [14] However, acknowledgment of this inevitability should not be interpreted as acquiescence—quite the opposite. While these speculative activities emerge from a variety of political and economic motivations, we cannot excuse the design and planning disciplines from complicity in the consequences of these pursuits. For example, we must acknowledge the sheer absurdity of trying to design and plan large-scale new urban settlement—speculative or otherwise—by focusing solely on the realization of a single, preferred outcome. The illogic of such an approach is manifold. Focus on a single outcome presumes an impossibly stable state in terms of economic activity, population, and market demand. It demonstrates a disturbing naiveté or willful negligence on the part of the planner and designer to not take into account the increasing likelihood of disruption to the urbanization process that characterizes speculative building activities. It relies on discredited ideas of phasing and predetermined stages of implementation. And ultimately, this focus on a singular outcome demonstrates a hubristic belief in being able to accurately prognosticate just how an economy will function years, if not decades, in the future. This critique is not offered to argue for some form of indeterminacy—we know the dead end such an approach offers. [15] Rather, what I am suggesting is the need for a retooling of urban design theory and practice in pursuit of modulatable formats of land use, infrastructure, and settlement that can be actively adjusted in real time. In this context, the Dutch urbanist Michele Provoost has argued that there is a fundamental disconnect between Western design education and the realities of contemporary urban design practice. [16] She notes: “While big architecture firms are designing entire cities and constructing architectural icons ex nihilo, ‘their’ schools theorize mostly about the inability to plan urbanization, and offer up instead tactics of architectural acupuncture and bottom-up urban politics.” In essence, since the “failures” of midcentury modernist planning, the act of designing a city from scratch has been excised as a core competency of urban design education. In turn, design and planning’s capacity to adequately (or appropriately) conceive of and implement new urban form has eroded. As a result, what is most often being peddled as “urban design” today is simply scaled-up reproductions of “proven” urban formats, or dystopic renderings of new settlement as implausible architectural icons. Obviously, there is a certain operational efficiency to relying on familiar formats and fixed outcomes when it comes to the design and planning of new settlement. In fact, one might argue that to operate otherwise would risk disciplinary credibility. It is admittedly difficult (perhaps akin to professional suicide) to tell a client, “I don’t know exactly what is going to happen in 10 years,” or “there is a possibility this might not work as we desire.” On the other hand, the capacity to devise systems of urbanization that can be adjusted or adapted to changing circumstances; that can be recalibrated or modulated during an ongoing process of urbanization; that can create net positive outcomes even in “failure” offers the urban design disciplines an opportunity to expand and extend their agency in the inevitable speculative urbanization process. Under such an approach, urban design engages in the ongoing management of urbanization activities, rather than continuing to simply be employed in the blind production of physical urban products that stand in as proxies for the processes of urbanization. Given the pressing demand for urbanistic and infrastructural upgrades implied by population and economic growth projections across the African continent, such a disciplinary shift is essential if we are to avoid once again reproducing the severe environmental, economic, and social consequences that have emerged from comparable prior speculative pursuits.
This article originally appeared as Africa’s Speculative Urban Future on urbanNext. [1] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015), World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables, Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.241. [2] Vanessa Watson. “African Urban Fantasies: Dreams or Nightmares?,” Environment and Urbanization 26, no. 215 (2014): 229. [3] Christopher Marcinkoski, The City That Never Was (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015). [4] For a more complete discussion of these and other historical examples of speculative urbanization, see “A Brief History of Speculative Urbanization” in Marcinkoski, The City That Never Was, 16–48. [5] “Booms and Busts: The Beauty of Bubbles,” Economist, December 18, 2008. [6] Zenata Eco City project website, (accessed October 25, 2015). [7] While the Denver-based firm Oz Architects did much of the initial planning for Kigali 2020, the current scheme is clearly driven by Surbana given its characteristic disconnect with reality as seen in other projects such as their work in Mumbai. [8] “Egypt unveils plans to build new capital east of Cairo,” BBC (March 13, 2015). [9] For a discussion of these post-war pursuits see Eric Mumford, The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960 (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000). [10] “China in Africa: One Among Many,” Economist, January 17, 2015. [11] See for example, The EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund. For a discussion of the motivations behind these investments see, The World Bank, “Harnessing Urbanization to End Poverty and Boost Prosperity in Africa,” October 23, 2013. [12] See Jessica Chu, “Investigation Into German Involvement In Land Grabbing In Zambia,” Zambia Land Alliance and Caritas Zambia (March 23, 2012), and Hawkwood Capital statement on corporate social responsibility. [13] Examples include the aforementioned Surbana and CITIC, as well as U.A.E.’s Emaar. [14] See “Urbanization Beyond Speculation” in Marcinkoski, The City That Never Was,220–235. [15] For example, a common critique of the utility of the contemporary Landscape Urbanism discourse is its perceived embrace of open-endedness and indeterminacy at the expense of well-defined physical or policy interventions. [16] Michelle Provoost, “Why Build a New Town?” in Volume no. 34—City in a Box. The French version of the article was published in issue 4/2016 of Swiss magazine TRACÉS.
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Shutdown Coming?

House Republicans: Fund border wall and new tunnel under the Hudson River
Congressional House Republicans released two separate spending bills detailing proposals that would impact the Gateway Project and the US-Mexico border wall, on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The House Appropriations Committee unveiled its $56.5 billion Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill that budgets $900 million to the Gateway Program, a project many consider critical to the nation's transportation infrastructure. The Committee's $44.3 billion Homeland Security bill allocates $1.6 billion to construct the border wall. In a win for the $24 billion Gateway Program, the spending bill includes $328 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks, grants for rail repairs, and direct funding for new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge. (More details on the multifaceted program can be found here.) President Donald Trump’s administration had pulled out of the Gateway Program Development Corporation a week ago, casting doubt on the administration's support. According to Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston provides $3 billion to the U.S. economy, making the Gateway Program a priority. "Safe and reliable passenger rail travel through New Jersey and New York City is essential to that economic productivity," he said in a statement reported by NJ.com. But one of Trump’s key promises during his presidential campaign—building the much debated and controversial border wall separating the U.S and Mexico—is also one step closer to fruition. The $1.6 billion earmarked for the wall fully meets the White House request for construction funds, according to the committee. “Globalization, cyber-security, and terrorism are changing our way of life and we need to change with it," Frelinghuysen said in a press release. “The bill also provides the necessary funding for critical technology and physical barriers to secure our borders.” The $1.6 billion earmark is also likely to set up a government shutdown when the bill makes it way to the Senate, where Democrats are sure to object to any kind of wall funding. Funding for both projects is not yet guaranteed. Both bills will have to pass the full House and get approval from the Senate, before getting signed into law by President Trump.
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Bedford-Union Armory

Community, elected officials still not pleased with Brooklyn armory redevelopment scheme
Approvals aren't looking so hot for the redevelopment of a massive city-owned armory in Brooklyn. Developer BFC Partners has plans to transform the Bedford-Union Armory, a hulking block-long former military compound in Crown Heights, into luxury condos, affordable, and market-rate rental housing, and a public recreation center. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in collaboration with BFC Partners, introduced the current redevelopment project almost two years ago. Last night, kicking off the Bedford-Union Armory's public review process, Brooklyn Community Board 9's land use committee said it can't support the redevelopment, DNAinfo reported. This is after the area's city councilperson, Laurie Cumbo, backed off her support of the 542,000-square-foot project. “This committee has made it clear that we weren’t interested in approving this project in its current form. That includes having condos on public land… given that that’s the case, when are we going to see a presentation that reacts to that?” Michael Liburd, chair of the CB 9 committee, said. “Because this is the same information we’ve had all along.” To complete its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a months-long process, the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment must earn the support from the community board, Borough President Eric Adams (who conditionally revoked his blessing last month), the City Council, and the Mayor before ground breaks. Right now, the development includes 330 rentals, half of which would be affordable, but the affordability thresholds do not necessarily reflect the neighborhood's socioeconomic composition. In light of this mismatch, officials are pushing for a 100 percent affordable development through the ULURP process, while activists want the city to #KillTheDeal entirely: So what's next? The full community board will vote on the project this Monday, June 19. Although the board's vote is only advisory, its input is considered as the ULURP process moves forward.
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Excellence in Design Awards

Bomb squad building, verdant library, and others score NYC design awards
Today officials revealed winners of New York's annual Awards for Excellence in Design, a recognition of the city's best civic projects. Timed to NYCxDESIGN, the city's annual celebration of all things design and architecture, the projects being recognized contribute to the city's public life, preserve its history, and exemplify sustainable approaches to buildings and landscapes. The awards, now in their 35th year, are presented by the Public Design Commission, an 11-member group of designers and representatives from New York's cultural institutions that reviews art, architecture, and landscape architecture on city property. "The best public projects are purposeful and use design to build a sense of community and civic pride," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a prepared statement. "We commend the teams behind these critical and creative projects that will help build a stronger, more equitable city and improve services and recreational activities for every New Yorker." Tonight, the mayor, along with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen and Executive Director Justin Moore, will present awards to this year's and last year's honorees at a City Hall ceremony. Get a sneak peek at the eight winners below (unless otherwise noted, all images and project descriptions in quotes are from the Mayor's Office): AWARD WINNERS Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center Marble Fairbanks; SCAPE Landscape Architecture Greenpoint, Brooklyn Brooklyn Public Library "Exceeding LEED Silver goals, the center will become a demonstration project for innovative approaches to sustainable design, and an environmental learning tool for the community." Double Sun Mary Temple Williamsburg, Brooklyn Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program and Department of Parks & Recreation "Gracing the interior of McCarren Park Pool’s dramatic archway entrance, Mary Temple’s paintings create a subtle and elegant visual disturbance." Downtown Far Rockaway Streetscape  W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Far Rockaway, Queens Department of Design and Construction, Department of Transportation, and Department of Parks & Recreation "Incorporating Vision Zero strategies, this comprehensive streetscape design will foster a safer, more inviting, pedestrian experience in this central business district and transportation hub." Bomb Squad Building Rice + Lipka Architects; Liz Farrell Landscape Architecture Pelham Bay Park, Bronx Department of Design and Construction and New York Police Department "The simple and smart design of this resilient office and training facility elevates critical program elements above the floodplain and allows flood waters to flow through without damaging the building." Treetop Adventure Zipline and Nature Trek  Tree-Mendous The Bronx Zoo Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Wildlife Conservation Society "Two new adventures provide unique perspectives at the zoo—visitors can zip across the Bronx River and navigate a series of bridges with narrow beams, obstacles, and climbing wiggling surfaces." FIT New Academic Building SHoP Architects; Mathews Nielsen Fashion Institute of Technology Agency: Department of Education and the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York "The first newly-constructed building on the FIT campus in nearly 50 years has an NEA award-winning design that reflects FIT’s commitment to openness, community engagement, and the robust exchange of ideas across many platforms." Woodside Office, Garage, and Inspection Facility TEN Arquitectos; W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Woodside, Queens Agency: Department of Design and Construction and Taxi and Limousine Commission "Serving as the central inspection location for over 13,500 taxis, this facility will provide a welcoming and dignified experience for drivers, reduce queuing times, and increase inspection capacity by more than 200 cars per day." The Cubes Administration and Education Building LOT-EK Astoria, Queens Agency: Department of Parks & Recreation and Socrates Sculpture Park "Constructed of 18 shipping containers, the Cubes will be Socrates Sculpture Park’s first permanent structure in its thirty-year history and a manifestation of the organization’s emphasis on reclamation and adaptive re-use, as well as a reference to the neighborhood’s industrial roots." SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS: The Department of Environmental Protection, for the agency’s thoughtful design of green infrastructure in the watershed to help protect the city’s water supply. "DEP’s use of green infrastructure in its upstate properties not only results in resilient and innovative designs, but is a critical component of the agency’s ability to maintain the high quality of New York City’s drinking water supply." Conservation and Relocation of three WPA-era murals EverGreene Architectural Arts; Fine Art Conservation Group; Morphosis; Weiss/Manfredi Roosevelt Island, New York Economic Development Corporation and Cornell Tech "Commissioned in the 1940s by the Work Projects Administration (WPA), these murals were painted over and forgotten for decades. As part of the new Cornell Tech campus, the murals were uncovered and conserved and will be integrated into new campus buildings for public enjoyment." Tottenville Shoreline Protection Stantec; RACE Coastal Engineering Staten Island Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York "In tandem with ReBuild by Design’s Living Breakwaters Project, this shoreline initiative will increase public access by creating an interconnected and seamless waterfront trail, incorporating wetland enhancement, eco-revetments, hardened dune systems, shoreline plantings, maritime forest restorations, and earthen berms."
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NYCEDC

$1.6 billion in investments fuels development in Staten Island's North Shore
As construction continues along the North Shore of Staten Island, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) released a report this week detailing “never-before-seen” levels of investment in the area, totaling $1.6 billion. The figure includes $1 billion of private capital alone and an additional infusion of $600 million in public funds. The North Shore redevelopment project, particularly along the St. George waterfront, is anchored with several notable projects like BFC Partners’ Empire Outlets designed by SHoP Architects and the New York Wheel, a Ferris wheel that will stand 625 feet over the harbor. The report also touts updated numbers on the economic impact of the proposed North Shore transportation and tourism hubs, with the NYCEDC estimating that those projects will attract 2 million tourists annually, increase housing by 4,000 units, and add over 2,000 jobs to the local economy. Lighthouse Point, a mixed-use development with a museum, is a large contributor to these statistics as well as the borough's investment in a startup incubator and marker space further south in the Stapleton neighborhood. Most elements of the North Shore plan will open in early 2018.
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Made in NY

WXY to plan Brooklyn campus for film and fashion industries
This post has been updated to reflect WXY's planning role in the project. This week New York City unveiled plans for a $136 million garment factory and film lot complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. New York's WXY is planning the "Made in New York" campus, a waterside project that includes new space for film and television production, upgrades to existing facilities, and streetscape improvements at Bush Terminal. “We have used our ‘Made in NY’ brand to grow fashion and film companies, and today, we're committing some of our most important real estate assets to support them as well," said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, in a statement. "These industries support hundreds of thousands of families with good wages, and they need affordable and modern space to grow. The ‘Made in NY’ Campus represents the collision of our creative economy and advanced manufacturing. This is going to be a 21st-century working waterfront that keeps our city the capital of film and fashion.” Other, as-yet unnamed firms will design a 100,000-square-foot film and T.V. facility with sound stages, space for shoots, plus augmented reality and virtual reality facilities. Renovations to two existing buildings will yield almost 200,000 square feet of fashion manufacturing space for marking and grading, cutting and sewing, patternmaking, and sample-making. The city says the layout is meant to encourage collaboration and resource-sharing between tenants in different sectors of the industry. Outside, WXY-led improvements will add a new plaza, as well as energize a 43rd Street campus corridor that allows public access to Bush Terminal Piers Park. Potential food and retail tenants will have a chance to lease 7,500 square feet for their operations at the onsite SF Café Building.  The 36-acre Bush Terminal, neighboring Brooklyn Army Terminal, and the Brooklyn Wholesale Meat Market together comprise the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) Sunset Park District, an industrial park that's home to more than 165 enterprises. The Made in NY campus is expected to open in 2020. The announcement recognizes the struggle core industries face in an increasingly expensive city. Five percent (182,000) of the city's jobs are in fashion, while the film industry employs 130,000. Though both industries sustain New York's glamorous image, many enterprises have trouble finding affordable space for local manufacturing and production. The city hopes the Bush Terminal campus will support existing companies while attracting new businesses. For some designers, it may be cheaper to work with factories abroad, but for many, a local facility allows for greater oversight and faster communication if, say, a client wants a new sample that day or a small run of a style that responds to new trends.
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Sunnyside

NYC could create a whole new neighborhood over a Queens rail yard
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s feasibility study for a possible Sunnyside Yard “overbuild” project is complete and suggests that the project could cost anywhere from $16 to $19 billion, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). “In Western Queens, there remains one of New York City’s last great opportunities to solve many of these challenges in one place,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, calling the development a “new and innovative solution” to meet New York City’s growing housing and transportation needs. The 180-acre rail yard, which sits in the center of Western Queens, is a major transportation center owned by Amtrak and Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) that services the New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. Some entities are already proposing updates to the site—Amtrack, in particular, is planning a new High-Speed Rail facility that will open by 2030. The feasibility study took many of these developments into account, focusing on the engineering, economic, and urban design implications of the project, and after almost two years of study, the report concludes that the project is feasible, albeit costly. In the study, the NYCEDC establishes three case study plans with different program focuses. The first proposes almost entirely residential development, adding up to 24,000 units of housing. Of those residences, 30% would be allocated for affordable housing, part of de Blasio’s affordable housing goals outlined for New York City. The proposal would also add up to 19 schools and almost 50 acres of open space. The second study, dubbed the “live/work/play” proposal, was designed to offer a well-rounded program with residential, cultural centers, and office space. This proposal is the only proposal to include office space and would still incorporate up to 19,000 units of mixed-income housing and up to 14 schools. The third and final study is the “destination” proposal, which focuses on residential and cultural spaces. The proposal features almost 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use space and up to 22,000 units of housing, still allowing for retail spaces and up to 14 schools. Each of the three proposals focuses on developing the 80 to 85 percent of the site the NYCEDC has deemed viable and connecting it to the surrounding neighborhoods using existing bridges and roads and adding significant green space to the area. During their study, the NYCEDC selected a 70-acre portion of the site, called the “Core Yard,” as an optimal place to begin the development, with a price tag of approximately $10 billion. The area features enough space to create a complete neighborhood and is well-located to incorporate the Amtrak master plan. In the second phase of the master plan, the NYCEDC plans to look in greater detail at how to avoid significant impact on transportation infrastructure. They also hope to create a detailed urban plan and consider sustainable initiatives and architectural standards for future buildings. Before that phase, however, de Blasio and the NYCEDC will collect feedback from the community and work with Amtrak, who plans to begin construction on a High-Speedeed Rail facility at Sunnyside Yard in early 2018, according to QNS. You can read the full report about the feasibility of Sunnyside Yards here.