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Suburb Strikes Back

One Connecticut town swaps a derelict mall for a 14.4-acre, community-centered green space

Malls, those slumbering gray boxes marching across the American suburban landscape, are steadily going extinct. Back in 2014, the New Yorker published “Are Malls Over?” in which Rick Caruso, CEO of Caruso Affiliated, was quoted as saying, “Within 10 to 15 years, the typical U.S. mall, unless it is completely reinvented, will be a historical anachronism—a 60-year aberration that no longer meets the public’s needs, the retailers’ needs, or the community’s needs.” The article continues, “Caruso flashed grim photos of their facades. He lingered on a picture of a deserted food court; you could practically smell the stale grease. ‘Does this look like the future to you?’ he asked.”

Even just three years later, it is difficult to imagine the “traditional” mall having a place, even in the most quintessential American suburb, 10 years from now. But while clearly the malls of the 1970s through the ’90s are not the future, the great irony here is that Caruso specializes in developing malls—luxury outdoor malls, such as the Grove in Los Angeles and the Americana at Brand in Glendale, California. And indeed, just as quickly as those once-ubiquitous beige shopping centers are being torn down across the U.S., shinier, flashier moneymaking entities are popping up in their place. The Mall 2.0, it seems, is an artificial landscape sans Sbarro and JCPenny’s, with a plethora of vaguely European structures and simulated boutique experiences in their place. Already, it feels like it’s time to reflect on whether or not these new “shopping experiences” will fare any better than their forebears.

However, in Meriden, Connecticut, a town located halfway between New Haven and Hartford, city leaders took an alternate route: transforming a former mall into a resilient 14.4-acre park replete with pedestrian bridges, a 2,150-square-foot amphitheater, a remediated landscape with a flood-control pond, and even drivable turf to accommodate food trucks and farmers markets. More radically, there are future plans to reduce the downtown infrastructure: “The downtown will go back to two-way traffic, like it was in the ’50s,” said Vincent Della Rocca, project manager at La Rosa Construction, a local family-owned business that helped create Meriden Green.

The $14 million project was no simple feat, involving an extensive overhaul of a formerly blighted area that locals called “The Hub.” In the 1950s and ’60s, the city began developing the space to bolster economic development, and in 1971 the Meriden Mall was built on the site. In the process, the Harbor Brook—technically three different brooks—was obstructed by a maze of underground pipes. The mall closed and in 1992 and 1996 flooding caused by the blocked water streams caused $30 million in damages to the downtown area. The city took possession of the property in 2005, and it was deemed a brownfield site. A Hub Site Reuse Committee was formed and began making plans to transform the area, creating the Site Reuse Plan in 2007.

Years of approval processes and funding grants later, the City of Meriden’s design team, engineering firm Milone and MacBroom, and LaRosa Construction broke ground in November 2013. Due to it being a former brownfield site, there were many unforeseen obstacles, such as underground oil tanks that had to be removed. The brook was exposed and diverted, “the site was cleaned, foundations were crushed, and six inches of topsoil were placed,” explained Della Rocca; additional landscaping included adding drainage channels, pedestrian bridges, and concrete pathways.

Meriden Green opened in September 2016, with future plans to build a new train station and a mixed-use commercial and residential building nearby. It is a soothing green space that brings families and community events to mind. Hanover Pond and the brook that feeds into it offer charm and respite in addition to their crucial flood-control functions.

It’s an optimistic project and one that simply makes good sense—the idea that green spaces offer the type of future-proofing no amount of luxurious shopping can ensure. “Today, ladies and gentlemen, is more than just the opening of a park, it’s more than just a grand flood-control measure,” Mayor Kevin Scarpati said at the opening. “This is the start of a new downtown; this is the start of a new Meriden.” And, if others take note, the state of the new suburban mall, as well.

This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your area and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.

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Airline Gradually Takes Off

SWA’s plan to integrate a mile-long informal market with nearby Houston

Airline Drive in Houston is (unsurprisingly) located a 20-minute drive from George Bush Intercontinental Airport and just short of that from Houston’s city center. Since 2005, the area has been known as the Airline Improvement District (AID), part of a scheme from Harris County to revitalize the four-square-mile area and improve “its desirability for residents, consumers and businesses.”

While the AID has been running for more than a decade, issues such as a lack of centralized water service, poor road and pedestrian infrastructure, and bayou flooding still hamper the area’s development. In fact, 50 percent of the district’s land lies within a floodplain—a problem that impacts water and sewage services as well as housing.

“There is no money dedicated to flood relief coming for another 50 years,” said Kinder Baumgardner, managing principal at Dallas-based landscape architecture, planning, and urban design studio SWA. “As a result, all the major urban development that one would want to do is not going to happen until the flooding is dealt with.”

SWA is in the process of implementing a master plan that will maximize the pre-existing communal infrastructure at the AID with the long-term aim of using revenue generated by the resulting businesses to combat flooding in the future. A key part of this plan involves the five major flea markets that can be found on Airline Drive between Gulf Bank Road and Canino Road. Baumgardner said that on weekends, approximately 50,000 people travel to these markets—dubbed Market Mile—“doubling, if not tripling the vicinity’s population.” Though quiet during the week, he described it as a weekend “festival,” albeit blighted by “unresolved” pedestrian circulation.

To SWA, these flea markets are a potential source of infrastructure capital—if the tax base can be expanded that is. (The district currently generates revenue through a one percent retail sales tax). Baumgardner explained that the studio took two approaches to boost the area.

Rebranding Market Mile would advertise the flea markets to a wider audience. The Harris County-Airline Improvement District Livable Centers Study carried out by SWA in 2009 found that just over half of the visitors frequent the market weekly, 46 percent of visitors stay two to four hours each time, and 41 percent visit other businesses in the area while at the market. And of this demographic, which is 90 percent Hispanic, only two percent either cycle or walk in.

In 2009, Harris County pledged $2.9 million to be spent on pedestrian improvements, a scheme that involved two new, signalized crosswalks on Airline and sidewalks on much-used streets. Harris County, however, does not view sidewalks favorably. The county has a policy of only installing sidewalks on new roads if a city or another source finances it. “It’s an expense that doesn’t have to do with transportation,” Mark Seegers, a spokesman for Harris County commissioner Sylvia Garcia told the Houston Chronicle. “The county does not do sidewalks; it’s not what gets cars from point A to point B.” Subsequently, planned sidewalks from SWA will be financed by Airline Improvement District.

SWA’s logic is that, if more people can come to the popular flea markets, more revenue will be generated due to more businesses being set up as a result of greater demand. SWA’s plan works both ways. If the market can’t come to the people, then the market can come to them through what they call “mobile community infrastructure.”

A fleet of retail and food trucks would be able to extend the services of Market Mile to those who don’t have access to it. Taking advantage of regulations (or lack thereof) found outside the city of Houston, such trucks could set up chairs and canopies, becoming a permanent location if they find success in a particular area, Baumgardner explained.

In the future, these trucks could provide more than just goods. SWA’s survey found that just over 30 percent of the AID population had an education no higher than ninth grade. Baumgardner went on to say how the trucks could provide educational facilities too, thus attracting more than just shoppers to the mobile market.

Additionally, 57 percent of people said they would take part in health awareness programs if given the opportunity to do so. Meanwhile, 43 percent said they would participate in job training and finance and business development programs.

“There’s a food truck culture that’s sweeping the country, especially in Houston,” said Baumgardner who added he met someone who already has a bookmobile in the area– perhaps a sign that the project is slowly taking off. Baumgardner concluded: “We want this district to have all the things that a livable center should be planning toward, but we also wanted to look at how a project could get going, even at a limited scale.”

This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your area and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.

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Do the Shuffle

Four NFL teams swap stadiums on the West Coast
San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas National Football League (NFL) teams are playing a game of musical chairs, as a new generation of stadium-centered mega-developments attempt to lure established franchises to and from the West’s largest cities. NFL teams are notorious for holding their host cities hostage when it comes to demands over new stadium construction, and the current team swap going on across the region is no exception. Reuters reported earlier this year that when the Rams, formerly of Saint Louis, left the Gateway City for Los Angeles at the start of the 2016–2017 season, they also left behind a staggering $144 million debt resulting from the 1995 construction of the HOK Sport (now Populous)–designed Edward Jones Dome that the municipality must pay off on its own. All this for a structure used to host eight games during the normal football season. The Rams were lured back to Los Angeles in the same way they were lured away from it: with promises of a brand-new, state-of-the-art sports temple. In the most recent case, however, the altar in question will be entirely privately funded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke who is a billionaire. It will also be smack dab in the middle of the new City of Champions mega-development, a 238-acre neighborhood being built atop the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood. Overall, the City of Champions project is due to cost $2.5 billion and will include 3,000 housing units, 620,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as a new casino and hotel. The stadium component, designed by global architecture firm HKS, features a sail-like, triangular ETFE super-roof supported by thick columns that caps the stadium and also shelters a large, outdoor “champions plaza” to be used as a communal gathering spot for spectators. The 80,000-seat stadium will be able to hold up to 100,000 fans for concerts and is being designed to accommodate two football teams. Simultaneously, Kansas City–based MANICA Architecture had proposed a competing stadium for the nearby city of Carson, California, in an attempt to lure the Rams and, potentially, the San Diego Chargers to a new stadium there. After the HKS proposal for the Rams became a reality, MANICA’s proposal resurfaced in Las Vegas as a potential new home for the Oakland Raiders, a team that itself went from Oakland to Los Angeles and then back again during the late 1980s and early 1990s over unmet stadium-upgrade demands. MANICA recycled its nearly $2 billion Carson proposal for Sin City, trading in an open-air proposal for an air-conditioned scheme featuring a retractable roof. The project was approved in November of this year after much political wrangling that included raising special taxes to fund the stadium’s construction and a $650 million cash infusion from billionaire Sheldon Adelson. While the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas has not been finalized, the team’s current bout with wanderlust began after a deal to share the recently completed, $1.2 billion HNTB-designed Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, fell through. That stadium was designed to accommodate two teams, hold between 68,500 and 70,000 spectators during sporting events, and be the first ground-up LEED Gold–certified NFL stadium in the country. In December, officials in the Bay Area announced yet another plan to try and keep the Raiders in Oakland by putting forth the plans for a new $1.25 billion, 55,000-seat football stadium to replace the existing OaklandAlameda Coliseum. The last time the Oakland Coliseum received major upgrades was back in 1995 when a $25.5 million renovation brought luxury suites to the stadium. The new plans include space for a new Oakland A’s baseball team ballpark, while also including a sizeable commercial component, and even a “Grand Central Station-like” transit connection to the regional Bay Area Rapid Transit system to connect the new sports complex with the metropolitan region. Although the Raiders are working toward moving to Las Vegas, and the Rams are settling into their new home in Los Angeles awaiting the 2019 completion of the City of Champions complex, the future of the San Diego Chargers remains in doubt, as well. A ballot initiative in support of their newly proposed stadium was a casualty of this year’s November elections, paving the way for the Chargers to potentially take up residence in Los Angeles if they can’t figure out a new approach. That ballot initiative would have raised area hotel tax rates to help fund a new stadium. Both teams have until January 15th to vet bids from their respective cities before they can begin to formally consider other offers. Either way, things don’t look great for the prospects of either team to stay in their respective cities. The Los Angeles Times recently quoted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as saying,“We have not made great progress in Oakland and San Diego. There is not a stadium proposal on the table that we think addresses the long-term issues of the clubs and the communities. So we need to continue to work at it.”
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The Stitch

New engineering study would explore capping and developing a swath of Atlanta’s downtown highway
The private nonprofit Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) is raising $1 million for a detailed engineering study for "The Stitch," a 3/4-mile-long platform and park that would be installed over the congested Downtown Connector highway that runs through Atlanta. According to Atlanta Magazine, CAP already paid $100,000 to the Pasadena, California-based engineering firm Jacobs for an 114-page-long concept plan (whose images are seen here). The Downtown Connector, also known as Interstate 75/85, split Atlanta's downtown and midtown apart when it opened in 1952. The stretch was named among the country's worst traffic choke points by Forbes. The capped area would extend from the Civic Center MARTA station to Piedmont Avenue. The Stitch would reclaim that area; the current proposal includes three mixed use "character zones" with a variety of programs. The first, "Emory Square," would be an urban plaza atop a reimagined MARTA station. The Civic Center bus and train terminal would become the Emory Square station, the centerpiece of a public park. "Peachtree Green," at Peachtree Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard, would become a three-acre park with water features, a restaurant, a pavilion, and a memorial. Finally "Energy Park" would be a mixed-use residential development located next to Georgia Power's headquarters. Energy Park would include lawns, a dog park, a playground, water features, and a pavilion. Other cities, including New YorkToronto, and Philadelphia, also have plans for development on capped rail yards. Additionally, the city of Atlanta is working on the BeltLine, a project to convert the city's old rail corridor into 33 miles of multi-use trails. Four trail segments and six parks are already open, as is affordable housing along the corridor. The Stitch is still in the conceptual phase; a construction schedule and concrete budget have not yet been determined. CAP estimates a $300 million price tag for the project based on recent similar capping projects.
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Nomads No More

Burning Man Festival buys 3,800-acre swath of Nevada

For those feeling the Bern with nowhere to go, have you ever considered the Nevada desert?

Well, you should, because Burning Man Festival recently purchased the 3,800-acre Fly Ranch, a not-too-shabby swath of desert in Nevada’s far western Washoe County. The nonprofit art group announced the news via blog post: “As a year-round site, Fly Ranch has the potential to expand Burning Man Project’s activities and existing programs, as well as amplify Burning Man’s cultural impact into the wider world beyond Black Rock City.”

Pack your bags and bring your face paint because the desert is about to get pretty cool, man.

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Step It Up

Johnson Fain and SWA Group break ground on 355-unit mixed-income complex in L.A.’s historic center
Architects Johnson Fain, landscape architects SWA Group, developers High Street Residential, Principal Real Estate Investors, Benchmark Contractors, and the non-profit Cesar Chavez Foundation (CCF) have broken ground on a $140-million mixed-use, mixed-income development in Los Angeles’s historic center. The long-in-the-making multifamily complex, “La Plaza de Cultura,” will bring 355 units to an area that is currently made up of a patchy network of parking lots, freeway off-ramps, and homeless encampments, and surrounds the more pedestrian-friendly areas directly adjacent to Union Station and Olvera Street. The project aims to feed into the tourist zone by stitching together several major streets with a large, stepped paseo filled with 46,000 square feet of retail space overlooked by housing. Johnson Fain’s proposed 717,000-square-foot complex will include 71 affordable units set aside for residents making up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income. The complex is designed as a terraced structure spanning between Hill, Broadway, and Spring Streets, encompassing a grade change of roughly 40 feet between Hill Street and Broadway alone. Renderings for the development depict a structure that gradually steps up to Hill Street, with the stepped paseo connecting the two thoroughfares. The various volumes of the complex—apartment blocks, terraces, and balconies—are clad in a range of materials and feature punched openings. SWA’s landscape design calls for a network of generous public open spaces connecting the paseo to the circular, historic plaza at Olvera Street. By designing these interstitial open spaces as landscaped walkways punctuated with wayfinding and informational signage, an attempt is being made to guide pedestrians from Union Station, the central node in L.A.’s mass transit system, with Olvera Street and the new complex itself. In doing so, the complex will begin to bridge the urban gaps between Union Station and the adjacent Chinatown neighborhood, an active commercial, arts, and entertainment district nearby. The project is being co-developed by CCF, a Latino-focused nonprofit that provides affordable housing services to area residents. Under a special development deal, the organization will lease the site from the City of Los Angeles for one dollar per year while subletting the property to the developers for $250,000 per year during construction and for almost twice that after the development is completed. The arrangement will provide operational funding for the nonprofit while also housing the group’s headquarters. Aside from providing a $30,000 contribution to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the project also features a favorable deal for local labor, requiring 30 percent of the workers to be hired from the area, with ten percent of those workers taken from so-called “disadvantaged groups.” La Plaza de Cultura is anticipated to finish construction in mid-2018.
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Plaza Saga

SWA remakes a historic plaza in downtown El Paso to appeal to Millennials

From the 1880s to the late 1960s, El Paso’s San Jacinto Plaza was the place to see alligators at alarmingly close proximity. Crowds would sit around the fountain in the middle of the park to watch the sad spectacle of captive reptiles circling their enclosure. When the city asked landscape architecture firm SWA to redo the plaza seven years ago, the firm’s Los Angeles office had the tall task of designing a park that would preserve the turn-of-the-century Arcadian layout beloved by residents and draw crowds, just as the alligators once did.

SWA found harmony between programming and design, despite the trend toward “shoehorning” as much programming as possible into outdoor spaces. “The community wanted a concept that respected the formal axes [of the Arcadian layout], so the axes are still there, but now you come to a destination,” explained Gerdo Aquino, CEO of SWA. SWA collaborated with San Antonio, Texas–based Lake|Flato, which designed a cafe and shade canopy that activate the heart of the roughly two-acre park.

The canopy shelters “Los Lagartos,” Luis Jiménez’s fiberglass alligator statue, an homage to San Jacinto’s one-time residents. SWA encircled the statue with a balustrade and decorative mosaics that radiate out toward a botanical garden, custom chess and ping-pong tables, an outdoor reading room with a lending library, a produce market, and an area for washoes (a game similar to horseshoes but played with washers).

Aquino noted a recent shift in emphasis in park design from beauty and ecology toward beauty, ecology, and programming. According to him, the reason can be distilled to: “One word: Millennials. They ask, ‘Is the landscape a place where I can play? Is it a place where I can meet my friends? Can I FaceTime here?’ It’s all about me. You can’t design a park like you did five years ago.”

Second- and third-tier cities are luring all demographics, not just Millennials, back to the city center with open space projects, Aquino explained. San Jacinto’s landscape plan preserved existing older trees, while pairing native species of oak, agave, and grasses with non-native, but adaptive, plants for pops of color. “If mayors want to make their downtowns more livable,” Aquino said, “they need open space that’s ecological, financially feasible, programmed to the hilt, and also beautiful. You don’t have to live in New York, L.A., San Francisco, or Boston to have access to great design. Great design can be created right where you live.”

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Way to QueensWay

DLANDstudio launches Phase 1 design for rails-to-trails QueensWay
Last Thursday, elected officials, Friends of the QueensWay, and the Trust for Public Land announced the commencement of the design process for Phase 1 of the QueensWay park project. After years of debate over what to do with the 60-year old abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR), the coalition has been moving toward the goal of converting 3.5 miles of the railroad—which extends from Rego Park to Ozone Park—into a park similar to the High Line. DLANDstudio Architecture & Landscape Architecture will be leading the design. This announcement, made in a press release, follows a great deal of progress made over the last year, including the raising of over $1 million in funding from public and private sources. Included in that funding is "a $444,000 grant from the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council; $250,000 from Assembly Member Andrew Heves; $250,000 from Council Member Karen Koslowitz; and other private donations." The estimated cost of the project is $122 million ($2.6 million per acre), according to the project's website. Robert Hammond, Executive Director of Friends of the High Line, expressed his enthusiasm for this milestone in the project in the press release: "Projects like the High Line take a long time to plan, and the first major funding step is always critical because it shows that the dream can be fully realized. We know that rails-to-trails projects unlock tremendous opportunities for their areas and cities, and we hope this funding will help pave the way for the QueensWay to become a reality." The first phase of the design process will focus on the central half-mile stretch from Metropolitan Avenue to Union Turnpike, known as the Metropolitan Hub. The development of this area will enhance pedestrian and bike access to Forest Park. Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio Architecture & Landscape Architecture will lead the design of the proposed park. The firm has found success in previous projects dealing with sustainable design and community engagement. These include the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park™ and Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Public Space Below Transit Infrastructure. In an interview with AN, Drake discussed numerous studies, conducted with the non-profit organization Hester Street Collaborative and WXY architecture + urban design, that helped them gauge the community’s needs and wants. Those efforts included web platforms, community outreach meetings, and smaller scale meetings with community leaders, school principals, and other stakeholders. Drake also noted that this project presents a unique opportunity to provide outdoor classrooms for school-aged children, particularly those of the adjacent Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School. The QueensWay, when completed, will provide a 3.5-mile, 47-acre park that is both family- and age-friendly, and will include: “a bike, jogging and walking path, upgrades for the facilities of local little leagues, schools, community and cultural amenities, and a significant improvement to the environment and quality of life of those living in Central and Southern Queens,” according to the press release. Additionally, the park will offer opportunities for economic growth and attract new visitors to Central Queens. In the press release, Marc Matsil, New York Director of The Trust for Public Land, the organization overseeing the plans, stated, “This announcement adds to the growing support for this project, which will be a major benefit for people in Queens. Almost 100,000 people live within a 10-minute walk of the QueensWay and every one of them will benefit when it is built. It will also help to reduce automobile-pedestrian fatalities by getting kids out of traffic, while contributing to the local economy.” Additionally, the QueensWay is being awarded a Merit Award for the QueensWay Plan at a joint-design awards gala hosted by AIA Queens and AIA Brooklyn this evening.
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Toronto’s ambitious plan for a linear garden under the Gardiner Expressway is made of 55 “outdoor rooms”
Toronto’s waterfront is separated from the city by the elevated Gardiner Expressway. While access underneath is relatively easy, it isn’t a pleasant transition. Torontonians, however, can expect some changes to their waterfront corridor as 10-acres of new public space and a mile of multi-use trail are being built under the highway. Project: Under Gardiner was designed by city planner and urban designer Ken Greenberg with Marc Ryan and Adam Nicklin of PUBLIC WORK, an urban design and landscape architecture studio in Toronto. The new park is slated to open in 2017. The scheme is strategically placed along a portion of the expressway that connects numerous destinations—including the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Fort York (an historic military site and museum), BMO fields, and the CNE fairgrounds—as well as a string of high-rise neighborhoods. The project is conceived as a series of 55 "outdoor rooms” formed by the structural bays of the Gardiner. While it is a continuous park, each section or “room” will have a distinct atmosphere and will lend itself to particular activities and programs, including gardens, art fairs, playgrounds, and public markets.  In addition to multi-use park space, the project boasts a 1,640 foot connection to a prominent GO train station, a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists over Fort York Boulevard, and an urban theater at Strachan Avenue to accommodate public programming and year-round performances. Like the High line in New York and The 606 in Chicago, Project: Under Gardiner uses existing conditions as a catalyst for new urban engagements, while also adding significant public space to an underused portion of the city. “The re-imagination of this stretch of vacant land under the Gardiner has the potential to connect 70,000 residents to a linear spine of diverse active and passive spaces and place,” explained Paul Bedford, Former Toronto Chief Planner. “It links our past with our future and establishes a totally new way for city hall to embrace transformative city building.”
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Aspen, Colorado swaps coal for wind to become 3rd city to run solely on renewable energy
Fossil fuel dependency is now a thing of the past for this municipality on Colorado's Western Slope. Aspen has just announced that it's only the third city to kick the habit and is fully reliant on renewable energy sources. Earlier this month, the Aspen Times reported that the city had reached the landmark after it signed a contract with electrical energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. As part of this process Aspen swapped coal for wind power to make up for the non-renewable energy deficit with its energy also coming from hydroelectric, solar, and geothermal. Prior to this, Aspen had been running on an estimated 75 to 80 percent renewables. The feat was also able to be realized due to the recent drop in solar energy prices. In fact, the cost of solar energy is predicted to fall further still, dropping below $0.50 per watt in the next few years. Solar energy is not alone in this trend. In what's a good economic indicator of renewable energy's growing popularity, wind power is also much cheaper than it was just a decade ago. This trend toward renewables was likely aided by Obama's carbon regulations which made renewable energy alternatives increasingly competitive against fossil fuel sources such as coal. According to ThinkProgress, "already, more than one-third of American coal plants have been shuttered in the past six years, and the new carbon rules make it quite possible that no new coal plants will ever be built in the United States." “It was a very forward-thinking goal and truly remarkable achievement,” Aspen's Utilities & Environmental Initiatives Director David Hornbacher said. “This means we are powered by the forces of nature, predominately water and wind with a touch of solar and landfill gas. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible. Realistically, we hope we can inspire others to achieve these higher goals” Renewable energy has long since been on Aspen's agenda going back to the 1980s with the Reudi and Maroon Creek hydroelectric projects. Highlighting the accomplishment, former Project Coordinator Will Dolan said Aspen only began working toward its goal of 100 percent renewable energy about a decade ago. Beating Aspen to the 100 percent renewable landmark were Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas.
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How landscape architects at SWA created the country’s largest Zero-Net Energy community at UC Davis
In 2011 SWA built the nation's largest planned Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) community. Working in collaboration with the University of California Davis and developer West Village Community Partnership (WVCP), the project houses over 2,000 students and 500 staff and faculty families. When UC Davis started the West Village Energy Initiative (WVEI) in cooperation with WVCP in 2003, the university initially only aimed for a 50percent reduction in energy consumption (compared to the California Energy Efficiency Building Code). However, in 2008 the initiative proposed that without losing quality and at no extra cost to the developer, West Village could become a ZNE community. A public-private partnership with the developer and UC Davis has been able make WVEI's 2008 proposal a reality. SWA master planned the 225-acre neighborhood and prepared landscape strategies for its development. Included in the housing scheme is a network of parks, storm water ponds and corridors, bicycle and pedestrian trails, a community college, and retail and recreational services. These areas incorporate on-site energy generation which are aesthetically designed and in harmony with local environmental conditions. In preparation, SWA conducted analyses at regional, site, and building/garden scales in order to maximize opportunities for passive cooling. Designers arranged buildings in loose clusters that allow breezes from the Bay Delta to filter through the site. SWA also proposed the planting of deciduous shade trees, reducing the need for air conditioning. In a bid to promote zero-energy methods of transportation, SWA integrated an extensive cycling network into the scheme making it the primary way of getting around the neighborhood. Davis is, after all, home to the first bike lane in the United States. SWA integrated drainage into the site's system of parks, sports fields, trails, and gardens. Storm water drains to the site's large northern ponds, where it is purified by native wetland planting in a series of basins. The slopes of the site's ponds incorporate native shrubs and trees, selected in cooperation with UC Davis' horticulturists, botanical garden curators, and ground and maintenance personnel, to provide a sustainable habitat for migratory birds, while also providing a visually appealing natural landscape for residents year-round. UC Davis' internal monitoring shows that the West Village ZNE community achieved an exceptional 87 percent of initial ZNE goals in its first year. In 2013, West Village received the ULI Global Award of Excellence, which honors outstanding development in both the private and public sectors, with an emphasis on responsible land use.
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Eavesdrop> Downtown LA, You’re Nuts: Soho House, swanky international development remaking the urban core
The swanky meter is getting dialed to 11 in Downtown Los Angeles. Rumor has it that the rarified Soho House club will be opening its second LA location in a six-story warehouse in the area’s Arts District. The facility will include the usual boojie facilities as well as a rooftop pool and artist studio rooms where guests can stay for weeks and months, as if they were staying at the Chateau Marmont. Meanwhile it’s a great time to be a Chinese developer in nearby South Park. Beijing-based Oceanwide and Shanghai-based Greenland Group are already building two of the largest projects in the city. Now Shenzhen-Hazens Real Estate Group has announced plans to build a $700 million project including three towers across from LA Live. Eavesdrop better start practicing its Mandarin.