Posts tagged with "abandoned":

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Cincinnati’s century-old abandoned rapid-transit rail project

Beginning as early as the 1880s, and continuing through the 1920s, a 16-mile rapid-transit rail project was conceived in Cincinnati, entering a construction phase that to this day remains incomplete. At the time, Cincinnati was one of the top 10 most populated cities and urban congestion was at an extreme capacity. An underground subway was proposed, replacing an aging canal system, connecting downtown with its surrounding urban neighborhoods. The proposed system facilitated an interurban transportation network incorporating nine suburban electric railroads that transferred passengers to streetcars servicing downtown. The project has been called the “The Cousin of Boston's Red Line” by transit experts and, if completed, would have been one of the few pre-WWII subways in the country, joining similar east coast systems still in operation to this day. Complex political, economic, and social forces caused the project to be ultimately cancelled in 1928. “Throughout the project, State and Federal law kept interfering with what Cincinnati wanted to do,” says researcher and documentary photographer Jake Mecklenborg in an interview with historian Dan Hurley. Local politics didn’t help the project either. As post-war inflation caused lingering project costs to double, political leadership was transformed from a notoriously corrupt regime to a new political party which sought to differentiate itself by symbolically rejecting the project through divisive rhetoric and policy. In total, six stations along 11 miles of the system were constructed, but no track was laid and no subway cars were ordered. About 75 percent of the original construction—nearly everything above ground—has deteriorated to the point of collapse, or was demolished for highway infrastructure in the 1950s, a quarter century after being constructed. A two-mile stretch under downtown Cincinnati remains, linking three stations. The downtown tunnels are continuously maintained due to continual overhead vehicular traffic, and their adopted use as underground utility tunnels. The final cost to the city, at just over $13 million, was more than double the initial bond issue voted for by the electorate in 1916, and was not paid off until 1966. Perhaps the most interesting aspect to living with abandoned subway tunnels is the variety of alternative uses they inspire. The Liberty Street station was converted to a nuclear fallout shelter in the 1960s. Mecklenborg reports the shelter had radio gear and a phone system installed: “up until around 1990 this phone actually worked, and apparently tunnel vandals could make free calls. I have received several e-mails regarding the phone—one claimed that a pizza was ordered, and another said a buddy called his girlfriend in Paris.” A few of the most noteworthy attempts at reuse (most of which never succeeded due to logistical and/or legal issues) include:
  • Underground utility tunnels
  • Religious catacombs
  • Underground freight train delivery to downtown businesses
  • Underground winery with locally produced wine cellar storage
  • Experimental wind tunnel
  • Music festival location
  • Movie set location (Batman Forever)
  • Various light rail schemes
 
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Honoring the forgotten: Melbourne-based artist Robbie Rowlands makes Detroit’s abandoned houses come to life

The deteriorating floorboards and walls of abandoned homes appear to defiantly reassert their existence in artist Robbie Rowlands’ exhibition, Intervention. While on residency in Detroit, Michigan, the Melbourne-based artist drew attention to abandoned houses by ripping out certain sections and creating track-like extensions of their fixtures—so that the otherwise nondescript wall seems to implore, “pay attention to me.” The idea is to take a rundown structure and bring it back to life, even if only in the metaphorical sense, saving inanimate objects from forgetfulness by giving them an unprecedented reincarnation. Rowlands thus navel-gazes on the nature of decay to convey the truism that we only pay attention to these ever-present objects when they begin to break down. Most of Rowlands’ pieces resemble rollercoaster tracks gone haywire as sections of the pockmarked wall curl outward and sweep the floor. Intervention consists of pieces sporting forlorn, personifying titles like Singled out, Sorry for the Intrusion, and Feeling exposed. To Die with No Fear features the boards of a gutted shed curled on a dusty floor, illuminated by a single shaft of light through a chink in the disintegrated woodwork. Rowlands’ previous work involved cut-up pianos, an overturned basketball hoop cut into sections, spiraling cartoonishly over the ground as if made from rubber. Rowlands also eviscerated a desk, cutting it, too, into sections to make it look vaguely like it was raising its wings in a “notice me” overture. “If the former object is largely unrecognizable in the new sculpture, the process is not one of violence. Rather, there is a sense of redemption, as if the object has been liberated from obsolescence, from forgetfulness,” writer Simon Cooper wrote in an essay accompanying Rowlands’ Disintegration exhibition in 2008.
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Last House Standing: Photographer Captures Haunting Images of Lone, Abandoned Row Houses

Like a lone pea out of its pod, the desolation of a solo row house waxes stark in Baltimore-based photographer Ben Marcin’s new series: Last House Standing. Often painted in garish colors at variance with their boarded-up windows and battered brickwork, the row houses are an architectural quirk of certain cities along the eastern seaboard. Marcin’s fascination stems from the details that come to the fore only when one house is left standing—once indistinguishable in a cookie-cutter row of identical three-story walk-ups. “My interest in these solitary buildings is not only in their ghostly beauty but in their odd, almost defiant, placement in the urban landscape...They were clearly not designed to stand alone like this,” Marcin wrote on his website. Many row houses received the wrecking ball long before the housing bubble burst, when population decline caused entire streets of row houses to be vacated. Naked trees, subdued skies and surrounding vacant lots add to the spellbinding, ghost town–like ambiance of Marcin’s shots, each building's endurance a “defiance” of sorts. The first abandoned dwelling to catch his eye was a bright-blue three-story building with six front windows that had been boarded up and painted white, and a door which had been AWOL for years. The pretty 19th-century cornice on the roof, however, remained intact. Marcin scoped out more desolate domiciles by bike in East and West Baltimore, his fixation eventually luring him to Mid-Atlantic cities in New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The 55-year-old software developer at the Social Security Administration regularly consults Google Maps to discover more empty lots populated by a lone building. “They’re kind of like me. I was a bit of a loner in life by choice. And these subjects are standing out there by themselves,” Marcin told the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore authorities have plans to demolish the remaining row houses in favor of new housing developments, despite protests from residents at hearings. Marcin aims to archive every number of the dying breed before it's too late. Marcin's previous exhibition, A House Apart, connotes this same sense of abandonment, showing awkwardly perched ramshackle dwellings and tiny, speck-like cabins amidst barren desert. In The Camps, Marcin hunted for the makeshift dwellings of the homeless—one of which is merely a blanket draped over a thistle of branches.
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Beer, Shakespeare, and hip hop take over a vacant lot in Downtown Louisville

What can you do with a vacant lot? Urban activists in Louisville have set out to show just how much with an ongoing pop-up festival of sorts at 615-621 West Main Street, an empty plot of land in the heart of downtown where REX's Museum Plaza skyscraper was once set to rise. They're calling it ReSurfaced. The mission is to repurpose a downtown lot as “an urban laboratory for innovation, community gather, and as an entertainment venue, showcasing our local creativity, breweries, and talent” for five weeks. Open Thursday through Sunday each week through October 25, ReSurfaced events include hip hop concerts, Shakespeare performances, puppet shows, a Pecha Kucha conversation, and a beer garden. According to the event's Facebook page, ReSurfaced is about “Transforming and activating our underutilized surface lots and vacant spaces to bring back the walkable urbanism Louisville once enjoyed.” Louisville has thousands of vacant lots, a problem that earlier this year prompted the city to launch "Lots of Possibility," a design competition sponsored by the mayor's office. Read more at ReSurfaced's website, where you can find a full schedule of events, and a full list of sponsors. They're also updating events from a Twitter account, @CityCollab.
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10,000 sunflowers help rehab a vacant lot in St. Louis

On a long-abandoned lot in St. Louis’ near north side, 10,000 sunflowers are sucking up the heavy metals that have helped stall development there for “longer than neighbors care to remember,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The project is called Sunflower+. It's one of the winners of St. Louis' inaugural "Sustainable Land Lab" competition, which was organized by Washington University in St. Louis and city officials. Over the next two years, the design team will cultivate and harvest four rotations of summer sunflowers and winter wheat on the vacant lot, hopefully preparing it for redevelopment in the future. In a video produced for Washington University, members of the design team explained the environmental aim of this experiment in growing beauty from blight. “If we can clean up and/or enrich this soil to make its redevelopment at some point down the road easier to do, more cost efficient, more environmentally friendly,” said Richard Reilly, a project manager who works for the Missouri Botanical Garden, “then we’ll have some long-term results from our project.” Along with Don Koster of Washington University and a team of volunteers, Reilly successfully grew one crop rotation last year, and it's already bearing fruit: Alderman Lyda Krewson has already enlisted the team to replicate their project further down Delmar Boulevard.
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Louisville Names Winners in Competition to Creatively Reuse Abandoned Lots Across the City

In January Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer implored local designers and developers to propose ideas for 250 of the city’s several thousand vacant lots. Last week they announced four winners, which included gardens of dye plants for local textile production; a Habitat for Humanity–style homeownership program; environmental remediation via lavender fields; and meditation gardens made of recycled materials. The Lots of Possibility competition announced its intention to award two winners $15,000 for long-term residential or commercial development, while up to two more could receive a one-year land lease and $4,000 to implement temporary ideas. “The Lots of Possibility applicants brought us bold and creative ideas on how to transform these vacant lots into assets that advance sustainability and improve neighborhoods,” Fischer said in a statement. “The hope is that their ideas will have a ripple effect and inspire other creative and innovative uses.” Read more about the winners below in their own language, and read their full proposals by clicking through: 1.dye Scape (Pictured at top) 609 N. 17th St., 1655 Portland Ave. and 1657 Portland Ave. (Permanent Use) Submitted by Colleen Clines and Maggie Clines with the Anchal Project and Louis Johnson. The urban textile landscape is a network of small-scale gardens that cultivate plant fibers, animal fibers, and dye plants for the purpose of natural textile production. This site is intended to demonstrate the potential of plants to provide natural color to materials, teach residents environmental sustainability and entrepreneurship, and support local textile production. 2. Graduating to Homeownership 2926/8 Dumesnil Ave. (Permanent Use) Submitted by Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville and the Family Scholar House (Rob Locke, Jackie Isaacs, and Harvetta Ray). Using Habitat for Humanity’s volunteer construction model, a new energy efficient home will be constructed near the Parkland Family Scholar House (FSH) for a new graduate of the program. The FSH seeks to end the generational cycle of poverty through education, and by staying in the neighborhood, the graduate can continue to benefit from and provide benefit to the FSH community. A new program will also be created to provide financial counseling and application assistance to enable more families to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home. 3. Lots of Lavender 816 S 7th St., 526 N 17th St., and 1811 Lytle St. (Interim Use) Submitted by Christopher Head and oSha Shireman. Redirected rainwater, vegetated bioswales and French drains will be used to support lavender herb beds for decoration, potpourri, and oil of lavender production. This pilot project also seeks to demonstrate the potential of low maintenance/low mow plantings for vacant lots across the city. This project will be conducted in partnership with the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association and I.D.E.A.S. 40203. 4. Meditation Labyrinth 3831 Hale Ave. (Interim Use) Submitted by West Louisville Women’s Coalition (Ramona Lindsey, Elmer Lucille Allen, Chenoweth Allen, Wilma Bethel, Robin Bray, Ellyn Crutcher, Beth Henson, Gwendolyn Kelly, Pam Newman, Tyra Oldham and Harvetta Ray). This project will create an intergenerational open space for art and creativity. Community arts outreach will be paired with a walking path made out of personalized clay pavers and chalkboard walls made from recycled wood pallets and natural seating.
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Michigan Looks to Raze Derelict Homes in Detroit

Detroit Mayor David Bing is making good on his pledge to demolish 10,000 derelict buildings in the city by the end of his first term in 2013—his administration has already taken down 4,500 abandoned structures, with another 1,500 demolitions planned by the end of September. (Five more came down this morning, and Curbed Detroit was on the scene to document the demolition.) Now the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is expected to announce state support to help raze more buildings in the name of public safety. With an initial focus on Detroit’s east, southwest, and northwest sides, the governor’s administration is currently identifying neighborhoods for a pilot program. The Michigan Land Bank, Detroit Public Schools, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority are among the many agencies and private sector actors involved in the effort to reclaim Detroit's wealth of abandoned and unused land. Neighborhood stabilization and economic development have been at the core of many of Bing’s proposals as mayor. But with Wayne County facing a $155 million budget deficit, efforts to transform Detroit's well-documented decline will have to do more with less.