New renderings for one of the largest public space projects in the Midwest have been revealed, showing a new 2,500-square-foot “Café Pavilion” in Cleveland's Public Square. Brooklyn's nARCHITECTS designed the structure, which appears in renderings via project lead James Corner Field Operations. It will be the only structure on the 10-acre square, besides the existing Soldiers and Sailors' Civil War monument. Cleveland's Public Square is the subject of a major overhaul led by designers and engineers at at James Corner Field Operations, Cleveland's own LAND Studio and Westlake Reed Leskosky, as well as transportation consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard. The project aims to remake the splintered downtown park into a pedestrian-friendly destination that will catalyze development in the area. The cafe structure will serve as a billboard for that transformation. A curated “art wall” faces out, beckoning pedestrians passing by Terminal Tower and acting as the primary entrance to Public Square. Stainless steel panels and tall glass windows broadcast modernity on the building's other faces. “As a building with no back, each side of the Café Pavilion is meant to be a unique ‘front’ façade that offers a different experience,” reads the project description. The cafe, currently under construction, is expected to open in 2016.
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Plans for 30 miles of protected bike lanes in downtown Minneapolis put bike plans in your city to shame
A plan to add 30.7 miles of protected bike lanes to city streets by 2020 goes before Minneapolis City Council this month, potentially bringing the total of dedicated bikeways to 44 miles over the next five years. Bike infrastructure in the Twin Cities is nationally recognized, but not everyone in the region is convinced it's a wise investment, reports the Star-Tribune:
Protected bikeways represent a victory for cycling activists and are a gamble that at least $6 million in new taxpayer funding will increase ridership.Most of the new bike lanes are proposed for the downtown core. None of the protected lanes scheduled to be completed by 2017 lie north of 26th Avenue North or south of East 28th Street—a decision transportation officials said makes sense if the goal is to increase ridership and improve access to the greatest number of people. Government financing at the city, county, and federal levels has topped $6 million. All of the protected bikeways recommended through 2020 are estimated to cost somewhere between $6.4 million and $11.6 million, but the Star-Tribune pointed out that the city estimates the cost of reconstructing a single mile of major street for general traffic at more than $8 million. Another 12 miles are proposed for construction after 2020. PDF: [planned long-term bicycle network]
The future came into focus last week for the site of a defunct mall in downtown Columbus, Ohio. By the time City Center mall closed in 2009, only its parking structure remained a popular destination. Columbus Downtown Development Corporation replaced the dead mall with Columbus Commons, a nine-acre park slated for mixed-use development over the coming years. Renderings from NBBJ, published March 25 in Columbus Underground, show the latest phase of that project: a modern, 17-story mixed-use tower that developers The Daimler Group and Kaufman Development are calling Two25 Commons. Another NBBJ tower dubbed 250 High is already under construction on the south end of the Commons site, set to rise 12 stories. The new building will have 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail, 125,000 square feet of office space across five floors, and 11 stories containing 170 apartment and condo units. It will have underground parking and a connection to the existing parking structure via a new pedestrian bridge over Rich Street.
With the Midwest's winter thaw underway, Minneapolis residents have an eye to the outside. But for the 40 percent of the city's downtown workers that walk, bike, or ride transit to their jobs throughout the winter, public spaces play a year-round role. Downtown transit stops in particular see tens of thousands of Twin Cities denizens on any given weekday, yet their designs range from utilitarian to downright unwelcoming. Writing for journalminneapolis.com, Max Musicant mulled how his city could turn transit stops into places where people want to be. He envisions a network of local groups taking ownership of their area transit stops, requesting money from the Twin Cities' Metro Transit agency that would otherwise go to “off-the-shelf” bus shelters and their maintenance. They'd spend that money on place-based designs, their “own “branded” station, perfectly attuned to local custom, utility, and whimsy.” Muses Musicant, founder and principal of the Minneapolis-based placemaking and public space management firm The Musicant Group:
An ideal set up could have Metro Transit establish a handful of pilot project sites chosen based on the ability of capacities of local groups that came forward. For each site, Metro Transit would ensure quality control over the process: that riders, businesses and property owners drive the process, that each station meets minimum requirements (shelter, seating, structural integrity, etc.), and that there is an accredited entity with proper insurance and capacity (non-profit, adjacent small business, etc.) that commits to build and maintain the station up to an agreed upon standard.Minneapolis is a good place for public space designers to dream—the city's public review process and collaborative design culture make it especially attuned to public opinion. With the recent extension of the Metro Green Line, the Twin Cities reconnected their separate light rail systems after decades apart. One of the junctions, next to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, was specifically envisioned as a celebrated public space, as much park and plaza as multimodal transit hub. Over the next two years, Metro Transit said it will deliver $7.36 million in upgrades, including 22 new bus shelters. At $1.7 billion, however, the Green Line extension was not without its local critics—fairness and fiscal efficiency were at the heart of many complaints about the project. And in the sprawling midwest, many in the Twin Cities still depend on their cars. Much of the $6 billion Governor Mark Dayton is requesting to improve the state’s transportation system over the next 10 years will go to repair roads and highways.
Missouri's football fans are savoring plans for a new NFL stadium in downtown St. Louis, but it remains unclear if the HOK-led designs will be enough to keep the Rams from leaving. In January fans of the St. Louis Rams got new reason to fear their football team might depart when owner Stan Kroenke announced plans to build an HKS-designed 80,000-seat stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood. Twenty years after the NFL team left L.A. in the first place, they may well move back—but not if St. Louis officials and fans have their way. New renderings released in March give more substance to plans that could woo the Rams into staying: a football and soccer stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River designed by St. Louis–based HOK. The National Football League has said no team relocations will happen this year, but either stadium plan could be ready for construction in 2016.
Chicago's tallest building may be on the market, and it might even have a buyer. Crain's Chicago Business reporter Ryan Ori said Tuesday that the owners of the Willis Tower have hired Eastdil Secured to seek a sale of the 110-story tower. Real estate mogul Joseph Chetrit, developer Joseph Moinian and Skokie-based American Landmark Properties could fetch as much as $1.5 billion—a sum that would dwarf some of the eye-popping price tags from 2014. The current owners also broke records when they bought the tower in 2004 for $840 million. It's another sign of the real estate resurgence for downtown properties. Consider the $850 million deal to nab 300 North LaSalle Street, or the record-breaking sale of OneEleven. Completed in 1973 as the Sears Tower, the building was the world’s tallest for 23 years until Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers outreached Sears by a hair. Willis got its current name in 2009 as part of an agreement with London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings, though many Chicagoans steadfastly refer to it by its original name. Designed by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Rahman Khan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the building's powerful silhouette and distinctive expression of its bundled-tube structural system have made it a defining feature of the Chicago skyline. Willis is currently 84 percent leased. Its two largest tenants are United Airlines and law firm Schiff Hardin, who both have their corporate headquarters there. If the deal goes down, future owners would likely explore ways to lease new space—occupancy has risen in recent years as downtown neighborhoods have begun to attract more jobs and residents.
Minneapolis architects CityDeskStudio are sitting on an iconic piece of Twin Cities infrastructure. Almost a decade ago they acquired a defunct chunk of the city's elevated pedestrian network, the Minneapolis Skyway. Years later they're still wondering what to do with it, which could be to your benefit if you're in the market for a 140-ton steel box designed by Ed Baker. You don't need deep pockets, either. In fact, they'll pay you $5,000 to haul it away. Built between 1962 and 1972, the skyway system comprises more than eight miles of enclosed footbridges criss-crossing downtown Minneapolis. Though urbanists sometimes blame it for sucking the air out of street life, the skyway system serves a vital function during long Minnesota winters. But this particular segment, which used to connect the J.C. Penney and Powers stores across South 5th Street, became defunct with the demolition of Powers more than a decade ago. Bob Ganser and Ben Awes of CityDeskStudio bought the 83-foot skyway segment in 2006, winning a blind auction from its previous owner, the University of Minnesota. As Jim Buchta writes for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, CityDeskStudio's attempt to unload the 1,380-square-foot structure has attracted some interesting proposals:
In 2009, CityDeskStudio posted an ad for the skyway on Craigslist, offering the 1,380-square-foot structure for $79,500. The ad went viral, but still no takers, so they dropped the price to $49,500. “We’ve had more proposals, inquiries and exciting conversations than we could count,” said Ganser. There were four or five serious possibilities, including converting the skyway into a rental retreat near Brainerd, a nonprofit career-training program in north Minneapolis and a rooftop studio space/artist loft in south Minneapolis. Some of the ideas weren’t so serious. Someone suggested a nightclub on wheels, and just last week the duo received a proposal to turn it into a “sweet-ass mobile deer stand, complete with repurposed tank track wheels and a gun turret,” Ganser said. “This idea included the use of our finder’s fee to pay for gas and ‘a bunch of coolers of Bud.’ ”The structure now it sits on land leased by CityDeskStudio, instead of looming over 5th Street. Given its heft and sturdy engineering, it could be repurposed as a bridge. Previous plans to turn it into a Philip Johnsonesque modernist house received a lot of attention, but so far no takers. With a $5,000 incentive, perhaps the “skyway to nowhere” will finally go somewhere again.
Video> Shanghai Talks: Toronto city planner James Parakh talks skyscraper design, sustainable urbanism
Last September the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat invited me to serve as the special media correspondent for its Shanghai symposium, entitled "Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism." I conducted video interviews with dozens of architects, developers, building managers, and others on topics relevant to tall building design and sustainable urbanism. Among the many designers, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Toronto City Planner James Parakh. Parakh talked about enhancing public space through Toronto's POPS program for privately-owned public spaces. Downtown Toronto has added over one million square feet of these developments over the last 10 years—think plazas, parks, pedestrian connections. “I often say it's a win-win,” he said. “The developer gets extra height through the process.” As one of the newest hotbeds for tall building development, Canada's largest city is trying to walk a line between runaway “Manhattanization” and suburban sprawl. At the same time Parakh said Toronto is grappling with questions about its urban character—from the top of its skyline down to its pedestrian spaces. “I don't think every building is a landmark building and I don't think every building should be a gateway building,” he said. “How do we intersperse tall buildings—whether it's in Toronto or Chicago or Mumbai or São Paolo—how do we do that the best that we can so that we can improve the quality of life for people around the world?”
Nashville, long known more as a mecca for Country Music than a development hotspot, is enjoying a downtown resurgence. Projects like Music City Center and the redevelopment of the Tennessee capital's convention center are forging a new urban character for Nashville. The latest example is a new office tower that will stand among the city's tallest buildings. Work began last week on the $232.6 million, Perkins + Will–designed headquarters for Bridgestone Americas. The tire company is one of the largest private employers in downtown Nashville. Their move from existing offices near the airport brings 1,700 employees—600 of whom currently work out of state at facilities in Bloomingdale, Illinois, and Carmel, Indiana—into downtown Nashville's SoBro district. Named for its location south of Broadway, SoBro has seen rapid development in recent years, including tvsdesign's Music City Center—a 2.1-million-square-foot convention center with a wavy roof meant to evoke the rolling hills of Tennessee. The move also comes with a public sector price tag. Bridgestone's move qualifies for tens of millions of dollars in city and state tax incentives, as reported in the Tennesseean:
The transaction is contingent on $50 million in Metro incentives and an undisclosed package from the state that, according to sources familiar with the deal, is comparable to the city's commitment.At 30 stories the new tower would be among the city's tallest buildings. The last office tower built in Nashville was the Pinnacle at Symphony Center—a 29-story, LEED Gold building designed by Pickard Chilton and Everton Oglesby Architects that opened in 2010. Due in mid-to-late 2017, the new 514,000 square foot building will feature four parallel planes reaching up from a sleek, glassy facade.
The momentum continues in San Francisco for the Norwegian firm Snøhetta with a recently-unveiled tower at the corner of the city's Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. And the project has been garnering some fairly untraditional responses from citizens. As proposed, the curving, 37-story One Van Ness tower would be divided by three large cuts, designed to lessen wind load and provide new common spaces. Paired with SCB, Snøhetta will work to replace a tower originally proposed on the site by Richard Meier and Partners. The building's carved-out center has also provided inspiration for illustrators to poke fun. Illustrator Susie Cagle, who told CityLab that the design reminded her of the last SF boom's "bubble mentality," drew the distressed building on the left, while Twitter user The Tens seems to think the building doesn't much care for its neighborhood, as demonstrated in the image below right. San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King took note of the parodies and dubbed theSnøhetta's creation the "Talking Tower." He was quick to add in another tweet that the impromptu naming was "not a critique"—he says he quite likes the tower. AN recently talked to Snøhetta principal Craig Dykers about his firm's continuing success in San Francisco, including an extension to SFMOMA, a consulting role on the (recently revised, and moved) Golden State Warriors Arena and a (ultimately unsuccessful) shortlisting for the Presidio Parklands.
The members of Chicago's Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) control nearly 80 percent of downtown Chicago's rentable building area. That makes them critical to local energy efficiency initiatives that aim to reduce the nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy that is consumed by buildings. At a trade show Wednesday entitled "Building Chicago: Greening the Heartland," BOMA officials reported on progress from their smart grid initiative first announced in 2012. The plan, now wrapping up its test phase, would share energy data among BOMA members for the purpose of cutting energy use in many large buildings. BOMA initially fought—and still opposes—the city's energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinance that requires non-industrial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to report their energy usage publicly. A BOMA spokeswoman said after the event that the group only opposes mandatory public disclosure of energy data, not its collection. Using smart meters from Chicago-based Automated Logic, BOMA has completed pilot testing on several downtown buildings. The “smart grid” refers to a responsive system for distributing and using electricity (and eventually other resources like gas and water) wherein utilities and consumers automatically share data that can be used to reduce the overall demand for power. Meters designed for BOMA measure energy data second-by-second and can be reviewed in real time, said Mike Munson of smart grid technology firm Metropolitan Energy, as opposed to typical meters from ComEd that usually measure at 30 minute intervals and whose reports can only be viewed monthly. For the owners and managers of buildings over one million square feet, utility bills can top $800,000 per year—often among the owner's highest expenses along with labor costs and property taxes. Still, said BOMA's T.J. Brookover, they are accepted as a fixed cost. "Very few times are we dissecting those bills, looking at them, and understanding how we're using energy,” said Brookover. BOMA is trying to encourage more of its members to sign up for the program, but officials admitted it “has been slow” to bring skeptical building owners and managers on board. Under the terms of the plan, they said, individual buildings only see their own data, but only BOMA sees all of it. "The city hopes to shame owners into investing in energy efficiency,” Brookover said of Chicago's benchmarking ordinance. On the contrary, he said, BOMA's plan emphasizes cost savings. Whether you pursue energy efficiency because you hope to slash hefty bills or limit the rising tide of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, said BOMA Executive Vice President Michael Cornicelli, smart grid technology has a role to play. "We can all get what we want from a well-designed smart grid infrastructure and strategy,” he said.
After years of planning, Detroit's M-1 Rail Line took an important step into physical reality this week, as piles of 80-foot-long, 3,000-pound rails arrived on construction sites that will build the 3.3 mile streetcar line by the end of 2016. Streetcars in Detroit made their final run in 1956, but the new $140 million public-private infrastructure project could renew public transit in the Motor City. It's a small stretch of rail in the context of Detroit's massive urban footprint and widespread depopulation, but despite the system's shortcomings, some see M-1 as a reason to be optimistic about the city's future. Others say it's a boondoggle. At 3.3 miles long, the line will include 12 stops along Woodward Avenue, connecting pockets of development in Downtown and Midtown. It was originally intended to be almost 10 miles long. If the M-1 catalyzes development in the area, as its supporters predict, it's possible there would be an extension of the rail line. Rides are expected to begin by late 2016, around the same time as portions of an ambitious plan to attract development with cultural destinations and a new Red Wings arena. Meanwhile Detroit-based construction firm Farrow Group is already at work laying the rails, which arrived earlier this week from an Indiana factory of L.B. Foster Co.