Posts tagged with "Parks":

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Dallas approves construction of a new 3-acre park in former downtown parking lot

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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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.

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Parks Without Borders discussion series in NYC will explore innovative ideas for parks and public space

Today, NYC Parks announced the launch of a new Parks Without Borders Discussion Series that aims to explore new ideas for parks and public space. Continuing through 2017, the conversation will expand on topics from NYC Parks’ Parks Without Borders Summit of last spring. Hosted by commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, the discussion series features park and public space leaders throughout the United States, with topics such as new park design, peacemaking and engagement, building greener parks, healthier communities, and more resilient neighborhoods. The series will be held on the third floor of the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. “The Parks Without Borders Discussion Series is the first of its kind, and we are excited to welcome so many esteemed guests. Conversations about improving our cities and public spaces are crucial to progress and change,” said Silver in a statement. The debut events will take place January 18, February 9, and March 9. January 18, “The Seamless Public Realm,” will host Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Jayne Miller, superintendent of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Jane Rudolph, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for Arlington, Virginia, Silver, and Lynn B. Kelly, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks as the moderator. Thursday, February 9, “Rethinking Public Space,” will bring Justin Moore, AICP, executive director of NYC Public Design Commission, Signe Nielsen, commissioner of NYC Public Design Commission and principal at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, and Rudolph as the moderator. Thursday, March 9, “For the Love of Cities,” introduces Peter Kageyama, author “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places,” and Silver as the moderator. NYC Parks is working to find innovative ways to develop public spaces, using the discussion series to inspire creative conversations about how to strengthen and improve the parks system. “Great parks make a great city, and at this series we will have the chance to hear from some of the greatest parks leaders in the country,” said Kelly in a statement.
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This master plan calls for a brand new city to alleviate China’s water issues

Chicago-based UrbanLab has a knack for combining water infrastructure with architecture and landscape to find new urban forms. In the 2014 Venice Biennale, the studio presented the Free Water District (FWD), an urban-scale multiuse, multi-environment development that would encourage industry through a controlled, but free, use of Great Lakes water. In its latest commission, UrbanLab has been asked to address an even more complex urban situation in China.

The Yangming Archipelago in Changde, Hunan, China, will be a new district that will accommodate 600,000 people in five square miles. Changde is part of a larger program in China to implement large water-infrastructure projects in order to improve urban water quality. At the heart of the project is an island-filled lake, which will act as an ecological, as well as a social and cultural space. The Yangming Archipelago also includes a dense system of public transportation and housing, integrated into eco-boulevards.

Eco-boulevards, a concept that can be found in many of the studio’s proposals, put water at the center of urban improvement. The idea is based on case-by-base performance-based infrastructural landscapes. These rich boulevards would come in many forms and sizes, but they would all function as more than a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies,a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies, a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies, both passive and active. The stitching of nature to the larger urban environment would connect formerly disparate parts of the city with a common civic space.

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City of Toronto to build 21-acre park over downtown railroad tracks

Toronto Mayor John Tory has announced plans to protect 21 acres of downtown real estate for the future Rail Deck Park. The park will be placed on top of an existing rail corridor. According to the city, this may be the last opportunity to create a public park for the city's expanding downtown population. According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, greater Toronto's population is projected to increase by over 2.8 million, or 42.9 percent, in the next 25 years. The population of downtown Toronto is expected to double. Public improvements like this proposed park take an important step toward preparing the city for a long-term population boom. This announcement comes as part of Toronto's TOCore initiative, which is set up to ease downtown into this more populated future. TOCore is a long-range plan to create infrastructure and amenities to accommodate a significantly higher population density. Among the planned improvements are more options for bike commuting, new community facilities, and, of course, new parks. "Great cities have great parks. As Toronto grows, we need to take bold action to create public space and make sure we build a city that makes future generations proud,” said Mayor Tory in a press release. “This is our last chance to secure a piece of land that could transform the way we experience our city.” The park will be built on what is now Toronto's western rail corridor, on a site that spans from Blue Jays Way to Bathurst Street. No other details are available yet. Toronto will follow in the footsteps of Chicago's Millennium Park, Philadelphia's University City, and Hudson Yards in Manhattan by capping a rail yard to make room for new development.
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New York City and NYCEDC announce conditional approval of world’s first subterranean park

Last week New York City deputy mayor Alicia Glen and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer announced that the city has selected the Lowline to officially occupy vacant trolley tracks under the Lower East Side as the world's first underground park. Conceived by James Ramsey of raad studio and Dan Barasch, the Lowline will use a custom solar array to channel natural light into the windowless space, which sits adjacent to the J/M/Z lines at Essex Street. (The Architect's Newspaper toured the Lowline Lab, the park's freakily lush demo and educational space, last fall.) At the Lab, an above-ground solar array refracted onto a paneled canopy provides different light intensities to grow everything from pineapples to moss. Since its opening, the lab has hosted 2,000 schoolchildren and 70,000 visitors, an early indication of its potential popularity (it is slated to operate through March of next year). Last fall, NYCEDC, in conjunction with the MTA, put out a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) to develop the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, a 60,000-square-foot space below Delancey Street between Clinton and Norfolk streets, under a long-term lease. The RFEI stipulated that the developers must implement a community engagement plan that includes quarterly Community Engagement Committee meetings as well as five to ten design charettes; complete a schematic design to submit for approval in the next 12 months; and raise $10 million over the next 12 months. "Every designer dreams of doing civic work that contributes to society and to the profession. Over the last 8 years, we just stuck to what we thought was a great idea that could make our city and our community better. We're thrilled to move ahead on designing and building a space that people will enjoy for generations to come," Ramsey said in a press release. Principal Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects is landscape designer for the project, working with John Mini Distinctive Landscapes. The Lowline's creators and backers hope that the park will showcase adaptive reuse possibilities for vestigial spaces, as well as provide the densely-populated neighborhood with additional green space. “We couldn't be more thrilled for this opportunity to turn a magical dream into reality," said Barasch, the project's executive director. “The transformation of an old, forgotten trolley terminal into a dynamic cultural space designed for a 21st century city is truly a New York story. We know with input from the community and the city, we can make the Lowline a unique, inspiring space that everyone can enjoy." (Courtesy raad studio)
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City of Baltimore to open design competition for McKeldin Plaza

The City of Baltimore is hosting a citywide design competition to seek proposals for the redevelopment of McKeldin Plaza in downtown Baltimore. The call follows plans to demolish the existing McKeldin Fountain later this year and the Department of Planning will supervise the open competition.

This follows years of talk about redesigning the plaza, which is currently dominated by the 1982 Brutalist concrete McKeldin Fountain. The fountain stands adjacent to the Inner Harbor area and memorializes former Baltimore mayor Theodore McKeldin, who was instrumental in  revitalizing the harbor area in the 1960s.

The Waterfront Partnership recently released plans for “Inner Harbor 2.0,” which will improve the area with new green spaces and pedestrian connections using Brooklyn Bridge Park and Waterfront Seattle as precedents.

 

McKeldin Plaza is an important fixture of Downtown Baltimore, and a designated free speech zone that was the focal point for the city’s Occupy and Black Lives Matter protests. In addition, the fountain is a historically significant holdout from the Brutalist movement, and its design attracts tourists and office workers from the surrounding area.

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore supports redevelopment of the plaza into an open space, while many local artists, designers, and architects support its preservation as a public art piece.

The fountain itself has fallen into disrepair, and according to the Downtown Partnership its mechanics are prone to expensive breakdowns that leave it non-functional for months at a time. However, maintenance and enhancements could also go a long way toward revitalizing the plaza while preserving the fountain.

Up until recently the Brutalist design of the fountain matched the nearby Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, which was demolished in 2015. The theater was designed by John M. Johansen and opened in 1967, remaining in use until 2004. After its owners chose not to renew the lease on the building in favor of the newly reopened Hippodrome Theatre, the building fell into disrepair. A new high-rise residential and commercial space is now under construction on the site. Since the demolition of the Mechanic, McKeldin fountain is the only example of Brutalist architecture in Baltimore.

The fountain has its share of defenders, including Baltimore’s City Council president, who introduced a bill to block the demolition last year.

A Change.org petition calls for the postponement of demolition until a new design is approved. Others—including the fountain’s designer—are against the demolition entirely and want to preserve the site.

The Downtown Partnership plans to move forward with the demolition in Summer 2016 pending approval of permits. The fountain and the skywalk across Light Street were recently closed to pedestrians.

The architecture firms Ayers Saint Gross, Mahan Rykiel, and Ziger/Snead will oversee the project and finalize designs. Details about the public competition are still taking shape. 

 
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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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Seattle Park Proposal to Cap I-5 Unveiled

Take note. The Seattle waterfront plan is getting a lot of competition. Last month, we saw an opposing proposal to the James Corner Field Operations plan rejected by city council and put on the ballot for next summer. The project—Initiative 123—calls for reinforcing a portion of the Alaska Way Viaduct that runs north-south along the western edge of Seattle as well as building a new section. These two pieces would create a mile-long, High Line–style park. Now a Seattle- and Idaho-based firm, Patano Studio Architecture, is proposing an $800 million project to the east as part of a larger conceptual plan to expand the Washington State Convention Center. The project would cap Interstate 5—a highway that runs through multiple neighborhoods such as downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill—and build a park on top. The architects describe the highway built in 1962 as a "savage scar of roadway" that forever divided the city. Their project would cap a 2 mile long section of the the highway running from Lakeview in the north, south to downtown. The resulting 45 acre park would feature plants, trails, and community spaces, and be adjacent to affordable housing. Toward the downtown end, the park would run over a proposed 20,000 seat NBA / NHL arena that would also double as additional customizable convention space for the Convention Center. The arena would be an alternative to Chris Hansen's proposed NBA / NHL arena in SoDo. The concept, if accepted, could take about 5 years to build. "In our mind, the old guard way of thinking and planning the city is one project at a time," Christopher Patano told the Seattle P-I. "I think what we're finding is this one-piece-at-a-time approach is not producing a cohesive result. It's not producing a city that functions the way the people of Seattle want it to function."
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Aim High, Get Low: New “Lowline” linear park eyed in the Bronx

Call it High Line fever: since the first leg of James Corner and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's High Line debuted in 2009, High Line–like projects have popped up all over the city and across the country. Now, not ten miles from the original, the Bronx may be slated for its very own rail-to-park conversion. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to transform an unused slice of below grade train track in Mott Haven into a "lowline." The block-long site, bounded by Brook Avenue, East 156th Street, St. Ann's Avenue, and East 150th Street, is owned by CSX. In order to reclaim the space for parkland, the city would need to buy or seize the land from the railroad company. On a visit to the site in September, Mayor de Blasio deplored the condition of the trash strewn corridor, which doubles as a homeless encampment. Soon after the mayor's visit, city workers cleared out the belongings of the residents and removed debris from the site. Sandwiched between schools and their athletic fields, the lowline would be adjacent to mixed income housing projects Melrose Commons and Via Verde.
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Van Alen Institute announces winner of National Parks Now competition

After a ten-month competition in which four teams proposed schemes in Northeastern national parks: Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (Paterson, NJ); Sagamore Hill (Oyster Bay, NY); Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, PA); and Weir Farm (Wilton, CT), the Van Alen Institute has finally announced the winner. Each submission, as outlined by the competition, had to focus on attracting new audiences and engaging younger generations with natural landscapes and historical contexts. With funding from the National Parks Service, the teams were able to realize their ideas. The victors, "Team Paterson" who submitted their proposal for Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, presented a plan that connected immigrant communities and their restaurants to Great Falls. The project, called "Great Falls, Great Food, Great Stories," used food as a vehicle to bridge the history and environment of Great Falls with modern day life in Paterson. The project finishes with a tour from park staff, eventually leaving the park and entering local restaurants for a communal meal. Such was the success of the competition that the Van Alen Institute was able to draw "Six Great Ideas for Connecting Parks to New Audiences" using each project. The institute claims that "these ideas can be used by NPS for similar sites across the country as well as municipalities, advocates, and others who are invested in the future of parks, historic sites, managed landscapes, and many other types of landscapes." "We're thrilled with the wide range of proposals for visitor experience strategies that the four teams developed," said Shaun Eyring, Northeast Region Chief of Cultural Resources, National Park Service. "This competition has helped the National Park Service assemble a toolkit of design and programming solutions that can highlight the rich resources all of our parks have to offer in a way that attracts a much broader, more varied audience." "Van Alen Institute competitions explore unconventional ways that people can engage with their environments," said David van der Leer, executive director of Van Alen Institute. "National Parks Now pushed both designers and park staff to break from their traditional understanding of parks and reimagine what types of experiences a park could provide for the visitor of the future."
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Obama foundation gears up to issue open call for architects for Chicago’s presidential library

In May Barack and Michelle Obama ended months—perhaps years—of speculation over where the 44th President would site his presidential library, choosing the University of Chicago as the host of the hotly anticipated legacy project. Dozens of proposals were winnowed down to one, prepared by U of C with the help of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The Barack Obama Presidential Library—that is, the actual project—does not yet have an architect, however, and the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that a call for submissions is nigh. They quote anonymous sources saying “a very general” request will go out “very soon," suggesting the first couple and their nonprofit team of advisors on the subject do not yet have a specific designer in mind. The library, which many hope will be an economic boon for the South Side, will be based in either Washington or Jackson Parks. That decision remains controversial, and may factor into the winning design—from whomever might propose it.