Search results for "waterfront"

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West 8 and friends selected to give Toronto’s waterfront a “great green living room”
Hey Torontonians, your city’s waterfront might be getting a pretty exciting makeover dubbed a "great green living room for the city." The City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto have announced that a proposal from West 8, KPMB Architects, and Greenberg Consultants has won its competition to reimagine the dated Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and adjacent Harbour Square Park. In the winning design, named “Harbour Landing,” there is a new terminal with two pavilions set underneath an undulating wood canopy. The whole thing is topped with a rolling, green occupiable roof. The new structure, along with the adjacent park and revamped promenade, are intended to be used year-round and serve as an iconic gateway for the city. “The Jury was impressed by the design balance achieved between a new heavily landscaped Civic Park, an elegant, iconic Ferry Terminal whose naturalistic form echoes the landscape topography and an overarching plan which makes strong connections to the emerging public realm of the waterfront," said jury chair Donald Schmitt in a statement. Of course, the bold design is just the start of what will be a long process. According to the National Post, “Now that a design has been selected, both the board and the City of Toronto must approve it. Designers will then sit down and develop a master plan, which will sketch out the redevelopment in phases. Each one will come with its own price tag.” Currently, $800,000 has been secured for the first phase of the project which is slated to break ground next year. The project’s boosters in Toronto want to see the entire thing completed with 10 years.
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With this purchase of five acres of waterfront land, is the South Bronx New York’s newest development hot spot?
The Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners are betting big on the Bronx. The developers have recently purchased 5 acres of industrial land along the Harlem River. The Wall Street Journal reported that they plan to build up to six 25-story market-rate apartment towers on the land. According to the Journal, “overhauling the area would cost at least $500 million in private investment and at least $200 million in local, state, and federal funds, with a percentage from developers for roads, sewers, flood prevention measures, and work to integrate a freight rail line with the public areas.”
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Rethinking the Waterfront
The greenway would help make the Brooklyn waterfront more resilient.
Courtesy WE Design

Earlier this month Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams announced the release of Stormwater Infrastructure Design Guidelines, which have the potential to generate exemplary landscape design and benefit all of New York City. The Design Guidelines propose to integrate green infrastructure techniques with a 14-mile continuous corridor for bicycles and pedestrians along the Brooklyn waterfront. The new plan, titled The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway: An Agent for Green Infrastructure, Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency, illustrates how stormwater infrastructure would enhance the Greenway.

As a stand-alone project, the 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway offers an exciting opportunity for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy the waterfront. What is unique about the Borough President’s announcement is that the Greenway is being recognized as a project that also can offer context-sensitive design solutions to water-related problems facing the City, such as surges from powerful storms and stormwater runoff. “Here in Brooklyn, we don’t just ‘go with the flow’ when something isn’t working right. When it comes to our overflow problem with our sewers, which are leading to damaging coastal floods and the release of raw sewage into our marine ecosystem, major changes are needed to protect residents, business and wildlife alike,” said Borough president Adams in a statement.

The plan calls for the 14-mile Brooklyn Greenway to function as green infrastructure.

The plan for the Greenway contains a tool kit of green infrastructure, resiliency barrier typologies, and case studies on specific sites for design intervention, which are primed for implementation. The proposed green infrastructure techniques employ ecosystem services to help clean runoff and absorb storm surge. The forthcoming Greenway project is being used as an opportunity to make the waterfront function on many different levels. The Greenway is no longer seen as just a transportation infrastructure project, but it is also about environmental infrastructure.

“Because 14 miles of streets will be reconstructed as the Greenway is built, this is an opportune time to install stormwater infrastructure on the most economical basis for the City,” said Milton Puryear, Co-founder of Brooklyn Greenway Initiative.

The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) is the non-profit organization that is stewarding the development of the waterfront greenway. BGI developed the Design Guidelines in conjunction with a technical advisory committee comprised of city agencies, engineers, and landscape and urban designers.

The plan is abundant with diagrams, maps, and sections accented with flowing watercolor that show what stormwater infrastructure can look like along the greenway. All the designs and graphics were produced by WE Design, with eDesign Dynamics as the consulting environmental engineer. From a designers’ perspective, these green infrastructure guidelines will enable projects along the Greenway to develop sustainable savvy design.

Tricia Martin, owner and principal at WE Design, believes that greenways are an effective mechanism for building climate change adaptation strategies into our cities. “Greenways provide open space and recreation, but this study shows that greenways can be so much more,” Martin said. “Concerns about rising sea level, water quality and coastal habitat can and should be addressed when designing our greenways.”

Lest we forget that the water is one of the most important features of a waterfront greenway, this plan is a reminder that landscape design can be functional and beautiful. Support for improving water quality in the waterways around New York City and building resiliency against storm surges needs to happen at many different levels in order for action to move forward, and Borough President Adams has just boosted this effort in the right direction.

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Silicon On the Waterfront
Courtesy NBBJ

Despite its poor access to public transit, and location firmly within New York’s most threatened flood zone, Italian developer Est4te Four is betting big on Red Hook, Brooklyn. With strong sales at its AA Studio-designed, warehouse-to-condo conversion at 160 Imlay, the developer has unveiled plans for a 1.1 million square foot commercial development right at the water’s edge. The massive project is being designed by NBBJ.

While the design is still in its early stages, initial renderings show a robust mix of adaptive reuse, public space, and new, glassy construction. NBBJ preserves the exteriors of two existing warehouses, but retrofits their interiors. (As YIMBY noted, the area is not zoned for residential use, but could include a hotel.)


Included in this plan is the demolition of some older, industrial structures to make room for six boxy brick buildings with glazed, cantilevered upper floors. Behind masonry exteriors, and expansive steel-framed windows, are workspaces divided by large glass cubes.

Set throughout the entire complex is a new network of walkways, greenery, and seating. Up against the New York Harbor is a promenade outfitted with sleek tables, chairs, and planters. That space connects to a triangle-shaped public plaza that has additional landscaped elements, an art installation, and stepped seating that meets the water. These new public spaces join an existing park and pier.


As with so many waterfront projects in New York, this site’s proximity to the water exposes major vulnerabilities; during Hurricane Sandy, Red Hook was one of the worst hit parts of the city. The design team is obviously aware of this fact and says they are planning ways to making the complex resilient to future storms. “Central in creating a campus dedicated to innovation is an active and open streetscape which can sometimes be at odds with dry flood proofing techniques designed to resist Mother Nature,” said a spokesperson for NBBJ in an email. “The site’s low elevation creates design challenges that require real engineering solutions and prediction techniques to solve.” Alexandros Washburn, NBBJ’s Urban Strategies Director and New York’s former chief urban designer who lives in Red Hook, will oversee a sustainability study for the site.

There is currently no timetable for groundbreaking, but the project is more than a pipedream. In an email, a representative from NBBJ told AN that multiple investors have already put capital funding into the project, and that construction will start once a major tech tenant is secured.

In the meantime, the first phase of Est4te Four’s project is underway. With AA Studio, the developer is converting an old shipbuilding warehouse at 202 Coffey Street into an arts, educational, and events space.

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Affording the Waterfront
Pierhouse by Marvel Architects.
Courtesy Marvel Architects

As under-construction condominiums on the north side of Brooklyn Bridge Park shatter borough sales records, affordable units are slated to bookend the other end of the 85-acre site. The park has issued an RFP for two new towers at the south end of the park. Nearly a third of this new development is expected to include affordable apartments. The towers—one 16 stories and the other twice that size—would rise on currently vacant sites adjacent the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Given the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade, this news is not surprising in its own right. The inclusion of affordable housing at Brooklyn Bridge Park, though, marks a significant turn in the park’s history, and, possibly, its future.

The park was created as a public-private partnership with the city and state fronting money for construction, and property taxes from development at the park covering the upkeep—about $16 million a year. The 550,000-square-foot, Marvel Architects–designed condo and hotel project currently rising at the park is a key part of that plan.

Courtesy BBPC

Some local groups have opposed residential development at the park, claiming that it would block views of Manhattan and turn the public space into a backyard for the wealthy. But since the first phase of the park opened in 2010 it has been wildly popular with the public, and the planned towers at the site will likely do little to change that. In many ways, the fact that there is any green space at the site at all is a victory.  When the park was being planned, the Port Authority proposed using the piers for high-rise development and parking lots.

The two new towers proposed under the de Blasio administration are also receiving their fair share of backlash, but not just for their size. Opponents point out that affordable units would provide significantly less revenue for the park, if any revenue at all. This has noticeably put community groups on the awkward side of opposing affordable housing in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city.


Creating new affordable housing and continuing to provide funds for the park is not a zero-sum game for mayor de Blasio. A spokesperson for his administration told the Wall Street Journal, “We can secure the necessary funding to maintain this world-class park while simultaneously providing an affordable housing component to ensure the community actually represents Brooklyn.”

While this plan is in its early stages, the reception it has already received foreshadows the many development debates to come. As mayor de Blasio sets out to build 80,000 new affordable units over the next decade, he will certainly get pushback from local groups about the size, location, and design of new projects.

This is nothing new—development will always have its detractors, and that is not always a bad thing. But in de Blasio’s New York, opposing new development will increasingly mean opposing new affordable housing. It is a complicated and thorny debate and one that is about to play-out all across the city.

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Waterfront Revival
Courtesy Pier A Harbor House
Pier A, a landmarked, late 19th century structure in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park that has been vacant for decades and suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy, will be reborn in July as an elaborate restaurant and event space. Renovation of the interior of the 28,000-square-foot, three-story structure, to be called Pier A Harbor House, is nearing completion by New York restaurant group HPH and developer Dermot Company. Architecture and interior design are by Green Light Studio of Manhattan. The New York City Docks Department built Pier A between 1884 and 1886, with construction overseen by its chief engineer, George Sears Greene, Jr., whose father, George Sears Greene, Sr., was a founder of the American Society of Civil Engineers. For many years the pier was used to greet distinguished visitors arriving by sea, including King George VI, who came here for the 1939 World’s Fair. After World War I, a clock whose chimes ring the hours in ship’s time was installed in its tower, the first permanent memorial to the war in the United States. In the 1970s the building was awarded a local landmark designation by the National Register of Historic Places and also designated a landmark by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission, which called it “the last survivor of an impressive maritime complex on the site.”
Occupied at various points by the docks department, the police department, and the marine division of the fire department, it has been vacant since 1992. Although it is still owned by the city, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), a New York State public benefit corporation, has held a long-term ground lease for it since 2008. BPCA selected Poulakakos and the Dermot Company, said Gwen Dawson, its vice president of real property, because their concept “utilized the entire building and offered the building to the public for the first time in its history, which was one of our objectives.” In addition, she said their concept made “as few changes as possible to the second floor, the most historically significant part of the interior.” BPCA is spending $37 million—$30 million of which is from the New York City Economic Development Corporation—to renovate the building. Its core and shell have been restored and a new building envelope system and tin roof installed. Columns, beams, and arches have been replaced; interior basic finishes and fixtures have been repaired, restored, and replaced; and new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, as well as stairs and elevators have been installed. The BPCA is spending an additional $5 million to reinforce the promenade along the Hudson River and construct a new plaza adjacent to Pier A.
Hurricane Sandy caused some $4 million in damage when four feet of water flooded the building. According to Dawson, after the hurricane, electrical equipment was elevated, pine doors were replaced with more water-impervious mahogany, and a second fire-alarm box was created on the second floor to be used in the event of a future flood. The default on elevators was set to travel to the upper level, rather than the lower level, if there is a power outage, while polished concrete flooring, resistant to damage from water exposure, was installed on the first floor. Green Light’s design for the first floor of the new building includes a new, 128-foot “long bar”; an oyster bar, whose wooden ceiling is meant to resemble the hull of a ship; a glass-enclosed wine tower that will be three stories high and incorporate the clock tower’s spiral staircase; and a take-out coffee bar. The second floor contains close to 9,000 square feet of dining space, including an octagonal aperitif bar overlooking the Statue of Liberty that will occupy the former commissioner’s office, containing original teak wall paneling and glass; a fine dining restaurant that will feature four consecutive dining rooms and an open kitchen with two chef’s tables; and a bar offering views of the Freedom Tower and financial district skyline. The top floor of the building will have a separate VIP entrance and stairwell and will be rented for special events.
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Delays Plague New Waterfront Park in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park
As Brooklyn Bridge Park opens two new piers, a planned green space five miles south continues to sit empty. Work began on Bush Terminals Piers Park in Sunset Park in 2009—just months after Brooklyn Bridge Park got started—but has been behind construction fencing ever since. The park was slated to start opening last fall, but that did not happen. And it's still not clear when it will. The Brooklyn Bureau reported that community members are becoming increasingly frustrated with the delays and the lack of explanation they are getting from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). At a recent community board meeting, representative from the EDC reportedly said they are “close” on completing the first phase of the park. Ninety-five percent there, they said. The slow pace was blamed on problems with construction and permitting. When the park finally does open, the formerly brownfield site will offer tidal ponds, wetlands, recreational space, picnic areas, and sports fields designed by AECOM and Adrian Smith Landscape Architecture. There is also a sustainable comfort station by Turett Collaborative Architects. But all of that is less than what was originally planned. “There’s no children’s playground as planned, nor an environmental center that the original plan envisioned. Bases for lighting have been installed, but not the fixtures,” reported the Bureau. As for Phase  2 of the park, there is no word on that at all.
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Michael Kimmelman Proposes A Queens-Brooklyn Waterfront Streetcar
As development along the Brooklyn and Queens’ waterfront has increased dramatically over the years, transportation options—for residents old and new—has not. The number of glass towers, startups, and parks along the East River has only been matched by style pieces on new “it” neighborhoods from Astoria to Red Hook. But, now, the New York Times' Michael Kimmelman has used his platform to launch a plan to change that equation, and give these neighborhoods the transportation system they deserve. Kimmelman is proposing a modern streetcar to better connect these waterfront neighborhoods. He explained that a streetcar system takes less time to build than a new subway line, needs less space on the road than light-rail, and is more romantic than a city bus. “By providing an alternative to cars, streetcars also dovetail with Mayor De Blasio’s vow to improve pedestrian safety,” Kimmelman said, adding that the mayor wouldn’t need Albany’s blessing for this plan. The streetcar would, of course, not run cheap, but Kimmelman said the upfront costs are more than worth it. “The city’s urban fabric can’t be an afterthought,” says Kimmelman. “The keys to improved city life—better health care, housing, schools, culture, business, tourism and recreation—all have spatial implications.” Read Kimmelman's full proposal at the NY Times.
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Construction Starts on Massive Mixed-Use Development On the D.C. Waterfront
After  nearly a decade of planning, a $2 billion, three-million-square-foot mixed-use development is underway on Washington D.C.’s Southwest waterfront. In March, construction started on Phase 1 of The Wharf, a project that is being developed by Hoffman-Madison Waterfront and designed by Perkins-Eastman. The new neighborhood will have marinas, green space, entertainment venues, and plenty of retail, residential, and hotel space. Specifically, Phase 1  covers 24 acres of land, 50 acres of waterfront, and will include 648 apartments, 240 condos, 680 hotel rooms, 200,000-square-feet of retail space, and 435,000-square-feet for offices. The development is situated along the Washington Channel and is part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative—a 30-year, $10 billion plan to transform the waterfront. Construction on this project is slated to wrap up in 2017. Aerial renderings of the project depict a fairly standard mixed-use development with an urban layout and massing. At street-level, the project differentiates itself into a more detailed design treatment of steel, brick, and glass. Industrial light stanchions line a cobblestone promenade, and new seating and piers bring people out to the water. The facades of the ground-floor retail and restaurants are varied, adding variation and interest to the project. Or, as Perkins Eastman put it, "the architectural character relies on a diversity of scales and materials, utilizing stepped-back facades, a variety of complementary materials, and careful attention to the pedestrian scale.”
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Boulevard of Broken Bourbon Bottles: Louisville Ponders Its Waterfront Again
It's beginning to sound a bit like a broken record, but for the umpteenth time, the conclusion has been drawn that the riverfront interstate, I-64, in Louisville, Kentucky, is a problem. That along with a lot of other advice—some insightful, some, like, “duh!”—was included in a new $300,000 master plan for the city developed by the firms MKSK, Development Strategies, City Visions, and Urban 1. The more insightful bits include ways of reconnecting Portland and west side neighborhoods with the urban core. The obvious, but still necessary, include the 42 million (that figure is a bit of hyperbole) surface parking spaces. Have you ever flown into Louisville? The downtown looks like a mall parking lot. Mayor Greg Fischer, don’t let this advice fall on deaf ears… again.
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Mo Beach Mo Benches: Norwegian Firm Crafts Waterfront Plan Along Fjord Coastline
Norwegian firm Arkitektgruppen Cubus AS has conjured up a subtle design intervention for a small stretch of Norway's fjord coastline. Located in Mo i Rana, a town North of the studio's Bergen headquarters, the plan reshapes portions of the waterfront through the placement of modular seating, shelters, and walkways. The components of the scheme are to be realized in steel and concrete that has long been-manufactured in the area. The stark, industrial aspects of the competition-winning proposal evoke the character of the region where the project will be built. These structures are to be installed directly on the coast and will require minimal interference to the natural landscape and native flora. The inland section of the plot is to be more heavily manicured in terms of vegetation, acting as a green buffer between sand and nearby gardens. A larger park space with paths, lawns, and lighting is planned for the southernmost tip of the waterfront. The choice of concrete and steel as materials suggests that the question of comfort might have played a secondary role to aesthetics in the design process. Yet the steel and concrete found in the plan are more than just a figurative nod to the manufacturing legacy of Mo i Rana as they also ensure that the entirety of the design will be crafted in nearby seafront factories. Beyond creating a new waterfront landscape, many of the structures also help combat erosion plaguing the town's sandy beaches. There is the thought that enterprising skiers and snowboarders might make creative use of the plan's metal rails and walkways come wintertime.
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Not on My Waterfront
Opponents objected to a
Courtesy Pacific Waterfront Partners

In early November, San Francisco voters rejected two measures to allow the construction of 8 Washington, a complex of 134 luxury condominiums along the Embarcadero developed by Pacific Waterfront Partners and designed by SOM. The project had been seeking city approval for the past seven years. It needed an exemption from the city’s 84-foot waterfront height limit (Proposition C) and a referendum in favor of the development (Proposition B).

The complex was to be sited on a 3.2-acre triangular plot on the city’s central waterfront on land cleared by the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway. Consisting of housing, retail, restaurants, and recreation, it included 552,000 general square feet in a massing that stepped up to a maximum height of 136 feet. With large windows deeply recessed into light colored walls, the project took its cues from the area’s historic buildings. Most of the buildings featured green roofs.

The plan incorporated 30,000 square feet of public open space designed with PWP Landscape Architecture, including the new Pacific Park, the redesigned Jackson Commons, and a series of new pedestrian corridors. The scheme also involved 40,000 square feet of private recreation functions, including an enlarged and renovated new exercise and aquatics facility.

Eight years of public outreach wasn't enough to win over San Francisco voters.

The San Francisco Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, and the mayor all gave their approval to the complex. But a large group of opponents voted down the referendum, calling the project a “Wall on the Waterfront” that would limit access to the area. “The developer only wants to ‘open up’ the waterfront to one thing: massive development and tall towers from the ferry building to Fisherman’s Wharf,” said the group on its web site,

“This is a plan that’s been in the works for almost eight years and undergone many revisions to reflect a very extensive public planning process. To have that all upended because a group of wealthy opponents didn’t like the result does not bode well for the public process of San Francisco,” commented Pacific Waterfront Partners spokesman PJ Johnston.

According to Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), the project’s rejection is ironically a sign of the city’s emergence from the recession.

“In addition to the business cycle, San Francisco has a political cycle in which voters become more open to projects during recessions and against them in economic booms,” said Metcalf. “To me this is a return to the status quo of San Francisco. It’s not surprising at all. What’s surprising is during the recession a bunch of projects got approved that are now under construction.”

According to Metcalf, the rejection of the project is also an example of individuals’ ability to stop projects they don’t like through legal means.

SOM declined to comment on the project and Johnston said that he could not comment on specific plans for the site. “We’ll see what we’re going to do,” said Johnston. “The project sponsor still has the exclusive negotiating rights to the property.”