Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCHS) plans to transform Houston’s Jones Plaza from a sterile concrete jungle into a verdant, multi-functional space for locals and visitors to enjoy. The 1.5-acre design concept called “Urban Choreography” aims to embody the charm and appeal of Houston’s celebrated Theater District. With the growing number of workers, residents, and visitors to the area, there has been an increasing demand for pedestrian and transit-friendly environments with an abundance of green and open space. “Within Downtown, the Theater District and its many venues create a ‘magnetic field’ of culture that generates buzz and catalyzes investment in the surrounding neighborhoods,” RCHS said in a statement. “Jones Plaza, at the epicenter of the Theater District, can provide an inviting green oasis that enhances downtown life and it can flexibly accommodate a wide range of outdoor performances and special events that serve the entire region.” Inspired by the fluid, dramatic, and theatrical movements of the performing arts, the Urban Choreography design concept will connect Jones Plaza to its surrounding environment while creating a unique and artistic space for gathering. The vast plaza is reminiscent of a theatrical stage, where various steps and levels culminate to a plateau of lush green space. The expansive Street Theater, tree-filled Gateway Gardens, and dynamic Spring Stage, characterized by water cascading toward the street, can be found in three corners of the plaza. Each distinct space is connected by a proscenium walk, with multi-functional media towers that allow for various performances, activities, and special events. Meanwhile, a grand staircase and elevator connect the park to an upscale restaurant on Capitol Street. Perhaps the most substantial impact Jones Plaza can have on its surrounding environment is its ability to attract people to the heart of Houston's Theater District. Its presence will only heighten the cultural growth of a region known for its art, creativity, and diversity. RCHS will collaborate with Houston First Corporation, the City of Houston, and Theater District stakeholders on the project.
Posts tagged with "public plazas":
A 1960s-era sunken courtyard at the former McGraw-Hill Building is set to rise following a “sweeping transformation,” according to the New York Post. While the current plaza is half-buried and disconnected from the sidewalk, the Rockefeller Group and Italy-based Citterio-Viel & Partners architects have announced plans to raise the public clearing to ground level and knit the streetscape back together. Opened in 1969 as part of the Rockefeller Center complex expansion, the space sits between West 48th and West 49th streets and pays homage to the popular recessed design of the original Rockefeller Plaza. Designed by Wallace Harrison, the plaza currently cuts off retail access from the street. The redevelopment, estimated to cost in the “mid-to-high eight digits,” the Post reports, will fill in the below-ground public space with 2 levels of retail across 35,000 square feet, while turning the topside into a pedestrian-friendly plaza. The architects have chosen to reference the original design by including a large aperture in the center of the space, flanked by a set of descending staircases on each side that looks down on the businesses below. Citterio-Viel & Partners have also proposed updating the pavement to “reflect” the vertical facade of 1221 6th Avenue by extending lighter stone stripes from the base of the building. What’s unclear at this time is what will happen to the public art pieces currently on display. The 50 foot tall stainless steel “Sun Triangle,” designed by futurist Athelstan Spilhaus, has been in the courtyard since the building’s opening but is nowhere to be found in this new rendering. The abstract sculpture references the Earth’s position relative to the sun, with each leg pointed to the sun’s position during solar noon at the summer and winter solstice. One of the few elements of the plaza viewable from the street, the triangle cuts a sharp contrast against the McGraw-Hill Building behind it. Rockefeller Group Senior Vice President Bill Edwards has stated that construction will only begin after an anchor tenant for the retail space has been locked down, with construction estimated to finish in 2019.
Fordham Plaza, one of New York’s busiest transit hubs, is now one of the city’s most pedestrian-friendly
The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) recently unveiled the redesigned, ultra pedestrian-friendly Fordham Plaza. Vision Zero's mandate to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities guided the $34 million renovation of the north Bronx transit hub. Bounded by Webster Avenue, East Fordham Road, and East 189th Street, the Grimshaw Architects–designed Fordham Plaza now boasts fresh plantings, as well as stationary and movable seating elements to provide a respite for the nearly 80,000 pedestrians per day that travel along Fordham Road. True to the plan released in 2014, the plaza features a new market canopy, kiosks, a cafe, and—rare for New York—a public toilet. The redesign was carried out in collaboration with the NYC Plaza Program, a NYC DOT program that has spearheaded the creation of 69 plazas, 16 of which are in development or currently under construction. A 40 percent reduction in asphalt created more space, and more safety, for pedestrians at Fordham Plaza. The plaza now sports shorter pedestrian crosswalks, "direct" crosswalks that discourage jaywalking, and a 25 percent increase in pedestrian-only space. These interventions should improve access to Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus, right across the street. Fordham Plaza primary program is transit: 12 local and express bus lines, as well as the fourth-busiest Metro-North station. Bus stops were redesigned to improve pick up, drop off, and the loop-around, especially around East 189th Street and Webster Avenue, that guides buses off towards Westchester County, Manhattan, and all over the Bronx. OneNYC Plaza Equity Program will provide the Fordham Road BID with funding to maintain the plaza. $10 million came from a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant, and $2 million from the state Department of Transportation.
"The Hub," in the Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven, couldn't be better named: it's the center of commercial activity in the South Bronx, and one of the busiest intersections in the city. As its dense avenues are packed with shoppers and commuters, the city moved to expand and improve Roberto Clemente Plaza, a public space that's a respite from the hectic nearby streets. In 2008, the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) upgraded streets and public space in the area, improving walkability with 15,000 additional square feet of sidewalks, pedestrian islands, and streets partially reclaimed for pedestrians. As part of these improvements, the NYCDOT remade Roberto Clemente Plaza, at Third Avenue and 149th Street. Extra street space was repurposed into a temporary pedestrian plaza with the addition of paint, planters, and gravel. In 2010, NYCDOT passed the torch to the NYC Department of Design & Construction (DDC) Design Excellence Program to create a permanent Roberto Clemente Plaza. The DDC partnered with Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects to design the plaza. Renderings show a curved green strip, lined with benches, that lets plaza visitors take in the streetscape. It's been over two years, however, since the project with an 18 month timeline began, and there's no firm end date in sight. The DDC estimates that construction will last through 2017 (though its website says construction will be complete by August 2016). Neighbors are furious. The constant construction has caused declining revenues for businesses bordering the plaza, and the ever-present construction equipment is an eyesore, residents and business owners claim. In conversation with Streetsblog, Third Avenue BID Director Steven Fish summed up the community's attitude towards the project. “General consensus is that this is a hellhole and there’s no end in sight.” The DDC claims to be "working diligently" with the contractor to minimize further delays.
Philadelphia’s Bergmann Associates reveal plans for Grays Ferry Triangle pedestrian plaza on South Street
Philadelphia's South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) Grays Ferry Avenue Triangles Committee is making moves on a new plaza at 23rd Street at South Street. This plaza follows the well-trod path of its predecessors, touting amenities like seating and trees, as well as building South Philly's neighborhood identity and civic pride. The Grays Ferry Triangle Project, presented at DesignPhiladelphia this month, will convert the area into a pedestrian plaza with cafe seating, a bike docking station, and benches made of local Wissahickon schist. Concentric cobblestone circles will help manage stormwater runoff. Philadelphia's Bergman Associates drafted the plaza design. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPWJRNk1SRA A major feature of this plaza is a seven-foot-wide drinking fountain. Erected by the Women’s Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1901, the fountain provided free drinking water for horses on the top tier and dogs on the lower level. Grays Ferry Avenue Triangles Committee stipulated that in the design there be enough room to sit "campfire style" around the fountain. SOSNA will use the design to solicit funding to implement the project. Consequently, there is no construction timeline in place at this time.
[Update: While Snøhetta is drawing up the master plan for the area around Penn Station, Brooklyn-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, working with Production Glue, designed the new Plaza33.] Turning the truly miserable blocks around New York City’s Penn Station into a pleasant and calming retreat would appear to be an impossible undertaking. But Vornado Realty Trust—the primary property owner around the station—believes it can do it with the help of some experienced, Norwegian architects. Enter: Snøhetta. In June, it was reported that Vornado tapped the Oslo- and New York–based firm, which is also sprucing up the pedestrian environment around Times Square, to revamp its building stock in the area and generally improve the street-level experience around the station. This undertaking would kick off with a temporary public plaza on a stretch of West 33rd Street, designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture. That plaza, called Plaza33, is now open, and to the designers' credit, people seem to be really enjoying it. (Again, remember that it is right next to Penn Station, a notoriously overcrowded and people-unfriendly part of New York City). "Long talked about as a vital yet underutilized and underdeveloped part of Manhattan, Plaza 33 reinvorgates the area around Penn Station and Madison Square Garden with public activities and a new food hall," said W Architecture in a statement. "The architectural and landscape interventions in the plaza are temporary, so the design and construction of the plaza employed very innovative techniques to both accommodate thousands of people per day and provide a respite in one of the busiest ares of Manhattan." The plaza features a stepped, wooden amphitheater with overflowing planters. These materials are repeated with benches that also function as flower boxes. The roadway has been painted blue with diagonal stripes cutting across it. The plaza also features sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring. The move is part of the popular Tactical Urbanism movement that encourages experimenting with public space—in this case temporarily shutting down a street—to figure out new ways to interact with cities. The concept holds up short-term actions as a generator of long-term change. Times Square, years ago, underwent similar temporary transformations leading up to its ongoing permanent redesign. Plaza33 will be used to host concerts, fitness workshops, movie screenings, and games. (A full lineup of events is here.) But all good things apparently must come to an end. The plaza will be disassembled on October 11th. But could we see a more permanent solution in coming years? New Yorkers will likely vote with their feet. [h/t StreetsBlog]
The frustratingly congested, obnoxiously loud, and aggressively dirty area around Penn Station is easily the worst part of Manhattan. It is the reason why tourists qualify their vacation stories about New York with "but I could never live there." Turning the dreadful area around the station (let's leave the hated station out of it for now) into a pleasant place where people want to spend time and not just push and shove their way through is a Herculean task, but one that Snøhetta has agreed to take on. Crain’s reported that Vornado Realty Trust, which owns most of the property around Penn Station, has tapped the high-profile firm to come up with a master plan to spruce up its adjacent buildings and street-level areas. Once that plan is finalized, Vornado may bring in other architecture firms to take on specific projects. But bottom line is that Vornado understands how miserable the area is right now. Mark Ricks, the company's senior vice president of development, called it the "collision of humanity." He gets it. To see how a more pedestrian-friendly transformation would shakeout, Vornado will be turning a one-block stretch of West 33rd Street into a public plaza from mid-July to mid-October. The new space could include tables and chairs, performances, and even yoga classes. StreetsBlog reported that other changes could be coming to 32nd Street as well including a sidewalk extension, planters, and eliminating one lane of traffic. Vornado will pay for all of the improvements, which should make the area a little less terrible and its property a little more marketable.
This roadway in New York City’s Washington Heights is being replaced by a pedestrian plaza with playfully meandering paving
New York City recently broke ground on a 14,000-square-foot public plaza in Washington Heights with a very wavy paving design. The Plaza de Las Americas is intended to reference town squares found in the Caribbean, Central and South America. It was designed for the city by the RBA Group, a landscape architecture and engineering consulting firm. The plaza's design does feel reminiscent of the monochromatic wavy designs of the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx like the 1970 Copacabana Promenade, itself influenced by the Portuguese paving patterns of the 1930s. In more modern times, the design also reminds us of Bjarke Ingels' Superkilen park in Copenhagen. Plaza de Las Americas will replace a block of roadway between a grocery store and an old theatre. The city says the plaza is designed to enhance the local markets that currently operate on the site by offering water and electrical system to vendors' booths. The plaza will also include new trees, benches, "pedestrian scale lighting," cafe seating, an information kiosk, and an artsy fountain by Ester Partegás. When completed early next year, the space will host public events including concerts, dance shows, art and craft fairs, performances, and poetry readings. [Correction: An earlier version of this story did not give proper credit to the RBA Group which designed the plaza. We regret the error.]
The New York City Department of Transportation recently broke ground on the second phase of Fordham Plaza's reconstruction in the Bronx. The revamped space will have all the standard-issue pieces of a New York City pedestrian plaza—the planters, benches, seating, trees, lights, and kiosks—but, ultimately, the plaza represents a significant investment in existing transportation infrastructure. Along with the new seating and the new café, the renovation of Fordham Plaza also includes a new canopy and ticketing machines for the adjacent Metro North station, as well as a new bus loop, seating, and shelters for commuters. The project also incorporates elements of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda through shortened pedestrian crossings, new direct crossings, and an overall increase of pedestrian space by 25 percent. “This project will significantly improve transit riders’ access to the area’s 12 bus lines and rail transportation while also taking advantage of the more than 80,000 pedestrians and potential customers that walk through the area daily,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement. Streetsblog reported that WXY completed a conceptual design for the plaza in 2010, but documents from the Department of Design and Construction show that Grimshaw, with Mathews Nielsen, is behind the updated site plan. The $10 million project is funded through a TIGER Grant from the federal Department of Transportation and is expected to open next fall. According to the NYC DOT, there are currently 46 pedestrian plazas in the city with 18 more in the works. Four of those already-open plazas are in the Bronx and there are three more on the way.
A new public plaza in Sunnyside, Queens proves that creating inviting public space doesn’t require lots of money and a lengthy design process – especially in a crowded city like New York. That’s certainly the case with Bliss Plaza, a recently-opened plaza tucked underneath the tracks of the 7 train. Frankly, there’s not all that much to it – save for a new sidewalk, some planters, and a handful of bright bistro tables and chairs. But here’s what Bliss Plaza does have: People. And that’s the key. According to Streetsblog, the space was already closed-off to cars, but recently revamped by Sunnyside's Business Improvement District (BID) and the city’s public plaza program. The same approach is being taken for nearby Lowery Plaza, which is expected to open this fall. If both plazas are successful, then there are are plenty of opportunities for the city to keep going. The vacant spaces and parking lots under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, for example, could be similarly activated with some planters, chairs, and, of course, people.
At a recent transportation forum hosted by the New York Building Congress, New York City Transportation Commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, laid-out her agenda for the city’s streets. She said implementing Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic fatalities remains the department’s first priority, but made clear that, under her leadership, the NYCDOT will be doing more than safety upgrades. Trottenberg praised her predecessor, Janette Sadik-Khan, for “cracking some eggs” and fighting for bike lanes, bikeshare, Select Bus Service, and pedestrian plazas when it was not politically popular to do so. She explained that Sadik-Khan’s commitment to these types of programs—and the Bloomberg administration’s ability to realize them—makes her job that much easier. The challenge now is keeping up with the demand for new public space. According to Trottenberg, the NYCDOT is actively pursuing ways to expand these initiatives around the city—especially farther out into the boroughs. The department's wildly popular pedestrian plazas, though, could be more difficult to implement outside of Manhattan and hotspots in Brooklyn. In places like Times Square and Herald Square, explained Trottenberg, the plazas' construction and maintenance can be supported by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and deep-pocketed interests. This type of financial backing may be harder to secure in more middle-class and working-class neighborhoods. But while the most high-profile plazas are in Manhattan, this program has already been successfully implemented in parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The commissioner also expressed support for congestion pricing, but did not explicitly endorse any plan. When asked about recent polling on the issue—which found modest support for the idea—she dismissed the numbers outright, saying poll respondents will always say "no" when asked about paying more for something. For congestion pricing to happen, she said, it will take politicians who can see past the politics. “If you’re waiting for a magical poll where people say, ‘yes, I’ll pay,’ it’s not going to happen,” she said. While Sadik-Khan broke significant ground on New York’s public space—physically and metaphorically—continuing to change the streetscape will not be easy. “We make things in New York very complicated,” said Trottenberg. A big reason for that is what she called the “Byzantine nature” of how the city’s infrastructure is divvied up between agencies and jurisdictions. It can be difficult, even for her, to know who oversees what road or bridge, and why exactly that is. Still, the city is in a much better place to make the case for public space than it was just a few years ago, back during the infamous bike lane wars of 2011. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Khan blazed the path, and now their successors seem intent to pave it forward.
The jostle of potholes notwithstanding, motorists might find nothing unbalanced about Chicago’s public streets. But the Active Transportation Alliance points out while nearly a quarter of the city is in the public right-of-way, cars dominate practically all of it. Citing the city’s Make Way for People initiative, which turns over underused street space to pedestrians, the group released 20 proposals Wednesday, calling on City Hall to create car-free spaces from Wrigley Field to Hyde Park. Their full list is available here. It includes a protected bike lane and landscaped seating area on Dearborn and/or Clark Streets, from River North to the South Loop; a pedestrian plaza on 18th Street in Pilsen, created by a dead-end at Carpenter, Miller and/or Morgan Streets; closing Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan Square; and closing portions of the vibrant retail corridor on 26th Street in Little Village to vehicle traffic. “Our hope is to jump-start conversations that lead to further study and the creation of car-free spaces,” writes the Active Transportation Alliance. The civic group said the list is inspired partly by places like Navy Pier, Times Square in New York City, and existing pedestrian plazas like Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square. A spokesman for Chicago’s Department of Transportation told the Tribune that the agency “agrees with the concept,” but wouldn’t weigh in on any of the Active Transportation Alliance’s specific suggestions just yet. The Make Way for People initiative's so-called “complete streets” have gained traction among urban planners for their inclusion of pedestrians, bicyclists, and green space within the standard two- and four-lane roads that cater almost exclusively to cars. New York has overhauled dozens of public streets and plazas in recent years. Chicago designers, including North Center-based Altamanu, have worked with the city in recent years to draft plans for pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets from Mayfair to the lakefront.