City planners in Minneapolis have named a winner in the public competition to redevelop a downtown lot that had locals reevaluating the place of tall towers in the Twin Cities. After first rejecting an 80-story tower proposal that would have become the tallest building in Minnesota, the planners picked a 36-story tower and hotel complex proposed by United Properties, based in suburban Bloomington, Minn. United is owned by members of the family that also own the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise, who came under fire when the construction of the Twins stadium, Target Field, received substantial public financing. By contrast the new tower will be privately funded. The project, dubbed The Gateway, offers 300 units and a full-service Hilton hotel designed by Duluth-based LHB Corp. United is partnering with FRM Associates—the property owner of Marquette Plaza—to extend Cancer Survivors Park, a nearby green space, connecting it with a “year-round, street-level activity park” at The Gateway's base. That park is supposed to connect with a trolley car planned to open in 2018. Although the proposal awaits approval from city council, the city planners' recommendation virtually guarantees its success. Their selection of United's proposal reverses plans to present the remaining proposals to the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association on February 16—a move that has stirred some controversy among local skyline-watchers who favored the 80-story proposal in an online poll. The Gateway was the second tallest of the four proposals. Since 1991 the site at the northern end of downtown's Nicollet Mall has been a surface parking lot and bus stop. “This end of Nicollet Mall really starts to get very quiet as the day ends, and it needs a catalyst to bring new life and new vigor,” Bill Katter, executive vice president of investments for United Properties, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Posts tagged with "Parks":
In late January 2014, an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Services panel presented recommendations for the dilapidated Houston Astrodome. The report follows several ill-fated dome reuse attempts, including a plan and $200 million bond referendum to turn it into a convention center that was shot down by Harris County voters in 2013. The ULI panel was definitive in its assessment. The dome, it stated, must be saved. It also unveiled a plan, complete with design sketches and funding strategies, to transform the former stadium into a public park that could be completed in time for Super Bowl LI, which Houston is hosting in 2017. ULI's plan for the dome combines certain elements of some of the previous reuse schemes that have been floated, either formally or informally, and seems to attempt to forge a compromise among the most practical of them all. It proposes to raise the dome's sunken floor to grade level and to turn the interior into a flexible public park complete with lawns, climbing walls, and zip lines. Sheltered from the sky by the 600-foot clear span Lamella dome roof, the plan opens portals in the building at the four cardinal points. The four portals can be open or closed, and parts of the planted ground surface can be removed and replaced with hard surface for the purpose of hosting conventions, such as the annual Offshore Technology Conference. The interior is also reconfigurable for the other regular NRG events: game day for the Houston Texans NFL team, or the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The lower levels provide 100,000 square feet of parking (a similar, but far less bold proposal as the winner of AN's Reimagine The Astrodome competition). The ULI plan also made recommendations for the 360-acre NRG Park, which includes several other large facilities—namely NRG Stadium, the NRG Convention Center, and NRG Arena—not to mention more than 26,000 parking spaces. The most significant of these is a civic park with live oak–shaded promenades that creates an ordered progression from the METRORail light rail station at the east edge of the site to the dome. Shaded promenades also link the dome to the other large facilities, and a park, planted with native vegetation, surrounds the dome itself. To pay for it all, ULI recommended a public private partnership with money coming from TIRZ24, hotel and occupancy tax, philanthropy, project tax credits, federal and state energy funds, and a county bond if necessary. It estimated that the park's operating budget would be between $500,000 and just under $1 million per acre, which, to provide some perspective, would put it between the operating budgets of Brooklyn Bridge Park ($460,000 per acre) and the High Line ($1.3 million per acre). It's too soon to tell if the ULI plan will be fully fleshed out and implemented, but if it's going to happen in time for the Super Bowl, Houston and Harris County need to move fast. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told Urban Land, ULI's magazine, "I give this almost a 100 percent chance of succeeding." Almost, of course, won't do it, and given the nearly 20 years of dithering discussion about whether to save or raze the one-time "8th Wonder of the World" without any decisive action one way or the other, it's hard to get too excited about this plan.
Major cities in the United Kingdom such as London and Newcastle have adopted a gentler approach to flood resilience—harnessing features of the existing landscape instead of erecting fortifications. This ethos is embodied on King’s Road, an artery of Newcastle University in the Northeast of England, where permeable paving absorbs, filters and stores rainwater, while rainwater planters re-emit this moisture into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Green roofs throughout the campus pull double duty, moonlighting as absorbent surfaces that reduce rainwater runoff and the carbon footprint while insulating the building against heat loss. Also a feature of the Herne Hill Highline Project in south London, where 22 green roofs run parallel to the River Effra, they have prevented flash floods that used to inundate the sewers and snarl local drainage systems. The New Derbyshire Pocket Park in Bethnal Green, London, is flood-proofed by virtue of a sustainable urban drainage system that slows surface water run-off through retention and storage, while bespoke planters dotted throughout the park also capture rainwater. In some cases, leaving nature to its own devices—with a few corrective prods from a landscape architect—is best. Built on the floodplain of the River Thames, the Barking Riverside development, which consists of 10,000 new homes, office spaces, schools and more, has relinquished part of the land to the river—better to be safe than sorry. Meanwhile, the flood-conscious landscaping provides areas for recreation, picnic zones, community gardens, and walking trails. All surface water run-off in the area is channeled towards the parkland to prevent river overflow, and is incrementally discharged into the creeks at low tide. Also in London, formerly flood-prone Church Street and Paddington Green have been primed to fend off rainfall greater than the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a 500 percent increase in trees and the installation of a rain garden, in which select plant species are configured for optimal soil infiltration to reduce run-off.
Preservationists watchful as New York’s American Museum of Natural History taps Jeanne Gang for addition
Last year, Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects opened a New York office, and now it is clear they made a smart decision in doing so: the firm has been selected to design a six story addition to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The current museum complex is an eclectic jumble of architecture styles, and it's most recent addition is the Rose Center for Earth and Space by the Polshek Partnership (now Ennead). The project is likely to be controversial, as it will encroach on Theodore Roosevelt Park, a small neighborhood park immediately adjacent to Central Park. Preservationists and neighborhood advocates are watching the project closely. "Because the 'plans' announced by the American Museum of Natural History are long on laudatory sounding goals but short on details, Landmark West! (LW) is in a wait and see mode regarding the expansion plan. Once the full details of the plans are known, LW will carefully review them and formulate a response. However, the AMNH's publicly stated intention of encroaching on the surrounding park land is of serious concern to LW. We would prefer that the AMNH use the park land to further the study of natural history and redouble its commitment to conserve it," wrote Arlene Simon, the president of the board of Landmark West!, in an email to AN.
The QueensWay has had a bumpy rollout. In October, when the Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay unveiled their plan to transform an abandoned railway in Queens into something like the High Line, they were immediately faced with skepticism and criticism from around the city. That pro-QueensWay plan came with plenty of eye candy courtesy of splashy conceptual renderings from dlandstudio and WXY. This all got people asking why millions of dollars should be spent turning the rails into a fancy park when the rails could be refurbished to provide a useful commuter rail line. But the park plan has had its champions, and the New York Times can now be counted among them. “Of the two tantalizing possibilities—rail or trail—trail now has the upper hand,” wrote the Times’ editorial board in a recent piece praising the plan. It claimed that building the QueensWay would transform “a humdrum stretch of residential-commercial-industrial-whatever with the sylvan graciousness that the High Line brought to the West Side of Manhattan, but on a far bigger scale.” The board explained that the "rail" plan could actually be the more complicated of the two options largely because the project would have to be added onto the MTA's “overflowing, underfunded to-do list.” Instead, wrote the board, build the QueensWay and address commuter needs with dedicated bus lanes.
Urbanists rejoice! Montreal will tear down a major piece of one of its expressways and replace it with a multi-modal urban boulevard complete with parks, dozens of new trees, bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, a dog park, and art installations. The Montreal Gazette reported that crews will start dismantling the city’s Bonaventure Expressway this spring, and that the entire $141.6 million project should wrap up as soon as 2017. “At the centre of the massive project, which was subject to public consultation in 2009, are 42-metre wide public-park spaces, totalling more than 20,000 square metres, that will separate the north and southbound roadways,” reported the Gazette. An original plan would have placed new buildings on the sites now slated for parks. Montreal’s mayor said that the city’s independent inspector will monitor the project for possible corruption. [h/t Planetizen]
Just a few months after Philadelphia’s hugely popular, but temporary, Spruce Street Harbor Park closed up shop, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest has opened in its place. The new space, which is open until March 1st, was commissioned by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and designed by the New Jersey–based Groundswell Design Group, the same team behind the Winterfest's summertime predecessor. The Winterfest is so overflowing with wintertime amenities that it appears less like a pop-up park and more like an idyllic backdrop for some Christmas-time romantic comedy. There is a regulation-size ice skating rink, a bar with craft beers and spiked drinks, fire pits, a restaurant, a holiday market, and heated tents known as “The Lodge.” Shipping containers from the Harbor Park have been repurposed into Winterfest stores, and lights strung up over the summer were programmed into a brand new light show that plays every half hour. Set within the Winterfest is also a winter garden that Groundswell’s David Fierabend created “with hundreds of holiday trees and shrubs, woodchips, rustic furniture, market lights and fire pits,” according to the DRWC.
Bjarke Ingels is slated to join elder architectural statesmen Norman Foster and Frank Gehry at the Battersea Power Station in London. The multi-billion dollar, mixed-use redevelopment was originally master planned by, yes, another starchitect, Rafael Viñoly. Ingels' firm, BIG, joins the bunch after winning a competition to design a public space for the project called Malaysia Square. Why is it called Malaysia Square? Because, lest the Brits forget, the project is backed by a Malaysian development consortium. BIG's plan for Malaysia Square goes beyond the name; it takes its form and design from the caves of the country's Gunung Mulu National Park. The Battersea developers describe the space as a “two-level urban canyon.” To that end, Malaysia Square is clad in limestone, granite, marble, sandstone, gravel, and has dolomite striation. The square's natural materials are sculpted into a dramatic design, but don't necessarily make for the most comfortable place to stretch out. Before unveiling Malaysia Square, London Mayor Boris Johnson addressed criticism that the Battersea Power Station development has too few affordable units and will just be another investment opportunity for wealthy foreigners. (15 percent of the plan is currently "affordable.) “I think 600 affordable homes are better than no affordable homes," Johnson told the Guardian. "If you didn’t do a deal of this kind you couldn’t get either the transport or the affordable homes so that’s the reality." The mayor also said that the development comes with two new Tube stations and the first extension of the system in a quarter century [h/t Dezeen]
Finally. After years and year of delays, Bush Terminal Piers Park in Sunset Park, Brooklyn is open. DNAinfo reported that the opening comes more than 10 years after people started talking about turning the brownfield site into a public space. The long-anticipated park includes a waterfront esplanade, wetlands, tidal ponds, lawns, and athletic fields designed by AECOM and Adrian Smith Landscape Architecture. There is also a comfort station by Turett Collaborative Architects. But after all this time waiting for a park, Sunset Park residents won't actually have that many hours to use it. Until March, the park is only open every day until 4:00p.m. In the Spring, it's open until 5:00p.m., and over the summer, closing time is pushed back to 8:00p.m., which is still five hours earlier than New York City parks typically close. In response to AN's question about the park's early curfew, a spokesperson for the New York City Parks Department said hours are subject to change, but are currently set according to "daylight and security." So for the foreseeable future, Sunset Park's new park closes just before Sunset. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place on Wednesday.
One of the highlights of this author's recent exhibition, Never Built Los Angeles, was a comprehensive, and interconnected, parks plan for Los Angeles assembled by the landscape firm Olmsted and Bartholomew in 1930. That old plan is seeing some new life in the Los Angeles community. If the proposed Emerald Necklace Expanded Vision Plan is realized, that idea would come to life almost a century after it was proposed. The plan (PDF), led by the Amigos de los Rios, a nonprofit working to create and preserve open spaces in poorer areas of Southern California, and The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving open space nationwide, is intended to connect the city with a new network of parks and open spaces connected by trails, greenways, and bike paths. The idea started in 2005, when the Amigos de Los Rios laid out a 17-mile loop of parks and greenways (often underutilized spaces owned by public agencies) along the Río Hondo and San Gabriel Rivers on the east side of Los Angeles. With a grant from the California Strategic Growth Council they then partnered with the Conservation Fund to expand the scope. "They had focused on landscape architecture scale but didn’t have the experience looking at the bigger picture," explained Will Allen, Director of Strategic Conservation Planning for The Conservation Fund. The plan has grown to encompass the entire LA Basin, from the San Gabriel Forest to the Pacific. New green infrastructure would be proposed throughout the area through land acquisition, but would center along public sites like existing parks, rivers, creeks, under utility lines, near freeways, and along public transit lines. Besides the obvious recreational and public health benefits, the plan could provide relief to the area's beleaguered water supply, provide much-needed shade with new tree canopies, and revitalize struggling communities. Fundraising has already begun. Allen said the plan, whose cost could range from $200 million to over $1 billion, may take 20 to 30 years and involve coordination and funding from the region's 88 cities, private foundations, public bond issues, and public agencies like Caltrans, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Southern California Edison, and the LA Department of Water and Power. "There’s a full awareness that this would be a slog to get a lot of this done," Allen noted. "There's a lot of money out there. A lot is convincing people to invest in things that are multiple benefit." The scheme couldn't come too soon. Right now, according to The Conservation Fund, only 36 percent of children in Los Angeles live within one-quarter mile of a park, compared to 91 percent in New York and 85 percent in San Francisco. Meanwhile 85 percent of Americans live in cities now, so plans like these are only becoming more important. Allen calls the addition of parks in the area a civil rights issue. "We are in the middle of a quiet crisis," said Claire Robinson, president of the Amigos de los Rios. "We're not addressing public health, quality of life, and our relationship to nature." Olmsted and Bartholomew's 178-page plan, which would have created almost 200,000 acres of small and large parks connected by almost 100 park-lined roadways, was derailed by LA's Chamber of Commerce, the same body that commissioned them in the first place. Hopefully this plan will have greater staying power.
Indianapolis has been busy remaking its downtown, embarking on several developments and planning projects that city officials hope bode well for the city's future growth. The editors at Indianapolis Monthly rounded them up this week, picking out “five projects improving Indy right now.” Two are long-term plans: Mayor Greg Ballard's LiveIndy Plan, which focuses on public safety through education and new police hires, and Plan 2020, a $2 million roadmap of “promises we're making to residents” on the occasion of the city's bicentennial in 2021. They've also got their eye on the redevelopment of Tarkington Park, a 10.5-acre green space at 39th and Illinois streets currently on the fringe between the low-income Crown Hill and “genteel” Meridian-Kessler neighborhoods. Full funding for the development, which goes toward park improvements and a new grocery store, is still pending. Local design firm Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA) is leading the process. Indianapolis is also in the middle of a transit overhaul, which may include building a new $20 million downtown transit hub. The project's breaking ground soon. Indianapolis Monthly also calls out an in-progress luxury apartment tower at the former site of Market Square Arena. Since the demolition of Market Square Arena, surface parking lots have deadened the downtown area.
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] We've been following Los Angeles' several proposed Freeway Cap Parks (in Downtown LA, Hollywood, and Santa Monica among other places) for years now, with a healthy amount of skepticism. But the first of these is (really? really!) moving toward reality. Friends of the Hollywood Central Park, a non-profit organizing a cap park over the 101 Freeway near the center of Hollywood, along with LA's Department of Recreation and Parks have begun the environmental review process for the transformative 38-acre space. The city of LA is now preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) (PDF) for the project, and the first public scoping meeting for the project will take place on September 6. The park, located about four miles northwest of Downtown LA and about 500 feet north of the 101's Hollywood Boulevard overpass, would be built on an engineered deck over the freeway. According to the Department of Recreation and Parks' Initial Study Analysis (PDF) the new highway cap park's uses would include: "landscaped open space, multi-purpose fields, active and passive pedestrian meadows, small retail facilities and kiosks (bike shops, seasonal markets, art galleries, etc.), restaurants, an amphitheater, a community center, plazas and terraces, water features, playgrounds, dog parks, and interactive community areas." The Friends of the Hollywood Central Park has said the draft EIR should be ready for public review by next spring. The bulk of funding for the EIR has included $1.2 million from the Aileen Getty Foundation and $825,000 from the City of Los Angeles. Of course funding for the park itself is still far off, but this is a major first step. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter]