Joni Mitchell, Dallas has heard you. The City Council of Dallas has decided to un-pave a 3.2-acre parking lot—in place since 1921—and put up a paradise in the form of Pacific Plaza Park. Nonprofit Parks for Downtown Dallas has been trying to swap hard top for green space in Dallas for several years. The group originally proposed donating $35 million to the city to fund the construction of four new parks in Downtown, including Pacific Plaza, with the caveat that the city would match them with $35 million to get the job done. When for-profit 4P Partners proposed building an underground parking garage topped with a park on the site, located off Pacific Avenue, Parks for Downtown Dallas decided to shift around their funds and provide one hundred percent of the construction costs for the park. This move helped expedite the project. HKS Architects, whose offices are located in One Dallas Center adjacent to the site, also made a donation for the park’s construction. Landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm SWA Group was tapped to design the project in early 2016. They approached the park from the perspective of the neighborhood, holding two public “envisioning sessions” to gauge the needs of the community before they began their designs. The main desires were for social connectivity and, of course, access to nature. With this in mind, SWA allocated an acre of open green space as the central portion of the park, flanked by rows of shade trees intended to buffer the park from its bustling surroundings. Live oaks original to Aston Park, a small park already on the site, will be absorbed into the landscape to preserve existing foliage. Walking paths weave through the trees and encircle the green space. A 670-foot-long stone seating wall, deemed the “thread,” helps stitch the various spaces of the park together. Additionally, a halo-shaped structure anchors the southwest corner and provides an opportunity for seating, shade, and socializing. Construction on the park is scheduled to begin in early 2018 and is expected to last 12 to 18 months. Although it has been a long fight to get Pacific Plaza Park underway, Parks for Downtown Dallas is still pursuing its proposal for three other parks in the Downtown as well. “Quality ‘green space’ is an asset wherever it is found,” said Chuck McDaniel, SWA Dallas managing principal. “During the next few years, there will be a chain of parks throughout downtown Dallas that will work together to cool the air, enhance the aesthetics of our city, and make downtown an even more livable and walkable place.” To learn more about the Pacific Plaza Park and the Parks for Downtown Dallas organization, you can visit their website here.
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With major cities running short on affordable housing, local residents have adopted unique measures to air their grievances. In New York, the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) held a sign outside a real estate summit in Brooklyn last year, asking car-driving attendees to honk if the rent was "too high." Earlier this year, students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa erected an iron shack on campus to decry the lack of housing available to poor students around the city. For people living in Munich, the solution was simple but proactive. Leerstand089, a citizen group in the city, listed all vacant parking spaces to shame the authorities into building more affordable housing for residents. The plan worked, with a 120-unit apartment complex now slated to replace a parking lot once used at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The area is surrounded by large gardens with trees, a modest soccer field, and a swimming pool. To prevent the rent prices from rising, the apartments will be economically built to keep them within Germany's rent stabilization threshold. Leerstand089, which stands for vacancy and Munich's area code, has notched up several other successes with a number of buildings being earmarked as housing sites. The most recent is a 5,700-square-foot building now designated as a public housing cooperative that will contain 11 rental apartments. The group's basic action plan encourages everyday citizens to call out neglected buildings. If the building is being left unattended, they will report it to the city so it can be put to better use.
The redevelopment of Indianapolis' Market Square area continues with the announcement that Deborah Berke Partners of New York City will work with locally based RATIO Architects on a 10-story office tower and “significant public green space” to replace a surface parking lot. In renderings released Wednesday, a slim, glassy tower hefts the bulk of its block-wide breadth southward, collecting sunlight as it reaches a low-rise mass around lush green space bordered by Market, Alabama, Washington, and New Jersey streets. Green roofs blanket both buildings, which will each have about 15,000 square feet of first-floor retail fronting onto a pedestrian plaza. The programs include a parking garage and conference center, as well as office space and retail. Columbus, Indiana–based Cummins makes and services natural gas engines and other fuel systems, employing about 48,000 people worldwide. About 250 workers, including top executives, will move into the building immediately, reported the Indianapolis Star, assuming the plan passes a City-County Council vote that could come as early as December 17. Mayor Greg Ballard has already voiced support for the project, which he said in a statement “raises the bar for architecture in Indy and will stand as a bold and visually compelling gateway into the city.” The building's form, a kinked rectangular prism, is slightly stepped and shifted to maximize natural light inside the office tower. Black, rib-like mullions vary the facade's texture when viewed from an angle. Local architect Wil Marquez told the Star it represents "a new type of architecture for Indianapolis." “This is the new vocabulary in architecture, tying together buildings and green space,” Marquez said. Along with a 28-story residential tower planned across the street, a rebuilt plaza space nearby and a sleek, new $20 million transit center by the City-County Building, Cummins' plans represent somewhat of a rebirth for this long neglected corner of downtown Indianapolis. Deborah Berke Partners beat out New York colleagues SHoP Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for the job.
In its last scheduled meeting of the year, Minneapolis City Council could give the go-ahead on a $400 million mixed-use development near the new Vikings stadium. Surface parking lots currently occupy much of that land. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board called the Downtown East neighborhood “a part of the city’s commercial core in desperate need of new life.” The newspaper stands to benefit from the project, as the editorial announces—they plan to sell five blocks of nearby property, including their current headquarters, and move downtown. With 1.1 million square feet of office space, apartments, retail space, and a park, the Ryan Cos. project could attract tax revenue to the city, as Wells Fargo is reportedly looking to anchor the development as a corporate tenant. It also includes a 1,625-space parking ramp. Mayor R.T. Rybak said that over 30 years the project will generate $42 million in property taxes for the city, $50 million for Hennepin County and $35 million for the Minneapolis public schools. The public-private partnership does not call for tax-increment financing. Instead, it asks the City Council to approve $65 million in bonds, to be paid off by revenue from the project’s parking ramp over 30 years. The developer would cover shortfalls for the first 10 years. Minneapolis has embarked on several large-scale urban redevelopment projects, including a makeover of the city's "Main Street" by James Corner Field Operations.