As of this fall, Oklahoma City can boast the beginnings of an impressive 70-acre public park designed by Hargreaves Associates right in the city’s downtown core. Scissortail Park, the 36-acre first phase of which opened in late September, is a feat of publicly-funded, public space projects in a conservative city that has struggled to give itself an international name and offer its residents a more dynamic, urban environment. “It’s an aspirational park, in that it’s the kind of amenity that people in Oklahoma City used to imagine only existing in other places,” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt told Citylab. The $132 million park includes a lake and boathouse, a five-acre lawn with a main stage and seating for 25,000 people, playgrounds, woodlands, gardens, promenades, dog parks, and event pavilions. In short, it's a major, long-awaited asset for the 1.25 million residents in the Oklahoma City metro region. The landscaping design features circular plots, dubbed lens gardens, with plants varying from cactuses to grass. “We like to strike formal moves [that] are clearly discernible as manmade. These perfect circles appeared within the field of ‘nature.’ [But] this is not nature. This is a made place. [It’s] form-giving to make a place memorable,” Mary Margaret Jones, senior principal at Hargreaves, told Citylab. Visitors are also met with a glowing 45-foot-tall tower designed by Butzer Architects and Urbanism, evoking a campfire in reference to the city’s place in the history of westward expansion and colonization. While the opening on September 27 marked the completion of the first section, construction on the second half is scheduled to begin in 2020. The completed park will be bisected by the I-40, with the already completed Scissortail Bridge connecting the upper and lower halves of the park. Extending from the downtown core to the shores of the Oklahoma River once completed, Scissortail Park will be a major achievement for the city’s “Core to Shore” agenda to urbanize the underutilized and disconnected downtown and riverfront area. The project was funded by a unique tax scheme called Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) that was first enacted in 1993 to fund urban revitalization and improvement projects. MAPS, a temporary voter-approved one-cent sales tax, raised a total of $777 million between 2010 and 2017, and the funds will be used to construct a convention center, streetcars, senior centers, and a host of urban space improvements, as well as completing Scissortail Park. In addition to being an achievement in itself, the park stands as a successful example of completing an ambitious public works project even in a conservative political climate.
Posts tagged with "urban revitalization":
The developers behind the much-anticipated "Nassau Hub" have laid out a time frame to begin the project's first phase of construction after nearly 20 years of political disputes, project delays, and a series of prolonged lawsuits. According to Newsday, Brett Yormark, CEO of BSE Global, and Scott Rechler, CEO of RXR Realty, announced plans to secure community support, legislative approval, and state funding for their grand residential and commercial district surrounding NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in Hempstead, Long Island in New York State. The $1.5 billion project aims to transform 72 acres of vacant land into one of Nassau’s busiest and trendiest neighborhoods. Yormack and Rechler hope to fast-track the project through this updated timeline and begin construction at the end of next year. The pair also revealed plans for two new hotels on the property adjacent to the recently renovated, 615-room Long Island Marriott and the existing arena. Once complete, the contemporary village, as the architects dubbed it, will be a place where people can live, work, and explore. Rechler was involved in two previous failed attempts to redevelop the massive site, but he still believes extensive community outreach will bring his goals to fruition. He and Yormark plan to hold meetings with prominent business owners, civic groups, local mayors, religious institutions, and school districts in order to secure the critical funds and support needed to propel the project in the right direction. “This process is designed to succeed,” Rechler said in an interview with Newsday. “We are accepting the [Town of Hempstead’s] low-density zoning and are flexible with the community. This is not a ‘take it or leave it’ strategy.” Like Rechler, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has urged lawmakers to move quickly to approve the amended proposal, believing that the Hub’s mix of retail, entertainment, and research centers will attract visitors from throughout the region and from all walks of life. “This is going to be an incredibly transformative project,” Curran told Newsday. “We drive by this property every day and see nothing but empty space. But this development will change this empty district into a place where people can shop, live, work, and go out to dinner.” The developers say the Nassau Hub will not only socially transform the derelict property surrounding the arena, but it will also have a substantial impact on the economic development of the region. With the addition of parking garages, new medical and research buildings, high-end hotels, and a variety of food and entertainment options, the Nassau Hub is meant to revitalize the county for decades to come. County lawmakers could potentially vote on these latest plans by December. Yormack and Rechler hope to break ground on construction late next year.
A tax reform bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday would eliminate a widely used measure for combatting urban decay, even as developers and preservationists argue that the program more than pays for itself. The Historic Tax Credit (HTC), introduced in 1981 by the Reagan administration, provides a 20% tax credit over five years for projects that revitalize historical buildings that would have otherwise fallen into disrepair. Paying out only after the project has finished, the program generates $1.20 in tax revenue for every dollar spent, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Shifting the cost burden entirely to the private sector, the tax credit has made it easier for developers to find funding for rehabilitation projects that lenders are typically wary of. A 2015 report by the National Park Service and Rutgers University has shown how the credit has ultimately generated over $131 billion in private investments and preserved over 42,000 buildings across the country. By offsetting the increased design and construction costs associated with saved these blighted buildings, HTC has also created over 2.4 million construction, administration and local business jobs. bi-partisan letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Congressman David B. McKinley, (R-WV), rallied for the credit even while acknowledging that he was expected to vote for the proposed tax reform bill. “Since its inception in 1978, this tax credit has spurred economic activity and has directly aided in the revitalization of Main Streets and rural communities nationwide. Over 40% of the projects using this credit have been in rural communities, breathing new life into their downtowns and attracting investment,” said McKinley. With the program funding everything from asbestos abatement to insulation replacement, the backlash to eliminating the HTC is only expected to grow as this latest attempt at tax reform makes its way through the House.
On its tenth anniversary, the local nonprofit development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has released a report that details just how well the development of downtown Brooklyn is going. Downtown Rising: How Brooklyn became a model for urban development demonstrates how, since its 2004 rezoning, private investors have put more than $10 billion into Downtown Brooklyn. The report was commissioned by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and produced by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy at NYU. “Downtown Brooklyn has harnessed its determined capacity for creative change to undergo a true rebirth over the past decade,” said Tucker Reed, president of the Partnership. “This report demonstrates just how far strong civic leadership can go when it’s bolstered by smart public investment, and provides the first definitive account of how we came so far, so fast—and where we need to go from here.” At a panel hosted at NYU and moderated by Professor of Urban Policy and Planning Mitchell L. Moss last week, Reed, Joe Chan (executive vice president, Empire State Development Corporation), Regina Myer (president, Brooklyn Bridge Park), and Hugh O'Neill (president of economic consulting firm Appleseed) discussed the report and next steps for downtown Brooklyn. Since the creation of a central business district in the Group of 35 report, Downtown Brooklyn has transformed itself into a tech hub, a center of arts and culture, a nexus of higher education. Between 2000 and 2013, the district's population grew by 17 percent. The number of residents with a bachelor's degree nearly doubled, and median household income grew by 22 percent. Reed mentioned that, as part of its community development goals, the Partnership "is working on workforce development" to close a skills and opportunity gap among residents without a college degree. The report has five recommendations for continued growth which center on clearing barriers for development through incentives and flexible zoning, as well as greater investment in transportation, the arts, and public space:
Downtown Brooklyn and the city should ensure that innovative new companies have room to grow through increased—and targeted—commercial office space investment.
The city should learn from the 2004 rezoning of the area, which allowed flexible permissive zoning and land use policies and resulted in a surge in development. The city should avoid trying to achieve narrowly defined policy objectives by enacting overly detailed zoning restrictions and prescriptions.
The city should continue to invest in innovative public space improvements, such as the Brooklyn Strand initiative and completion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, that make Downtown Brooklyn a more attractive place to live, work, invest, do business, and visit.
Developers and property owners, non-profit organizations, and the city need to work together to ensure that cultural institutions, arts organizations, and individual artists can continue to play a vital role in the ongoing transformation of Downtown Brooklyn.
The city needs to address long-standing gaps in the area’s transportation networks, including lack of transit access to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, difficulties in getting between the core of Downtown Brooklyn and the waterfront, and the scarcity of good options for travel between existing and new waterfront neighborhoods and growing concentrations of jobs along the East River.
Curving brick and glass facade heralds Roxbury's resurgence.By locating their new administrative building in beleaguered Roxbury, Boston Public Schools [BPS] made a powerful statement of faith in the area's resurgence."Bringing the BPS right into the heart of Roxbury anchors the redevelopment of the neighborhood," explained Friso van der Steen, manager of international projects at Mecanoo. The Dutch architects collaborated with local firm Sasaki Associates on the project—their first built in the United States—which involved renovating the facades of three historic buildings and weaving them into a coherent whole with a new volume. Described by Mecanoo as "a Bostonian building with a Dutch touch," the structure's curving brick and glass envelope projects a hopeful future for Dudley Square. When Mecanoo and Sasaki won the competition to design the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in 2009, the largely vacant site in Dudley Square, Roxbury's commercial and transportation hub, "contained a number of derelict buildings," recalled van der Steen. These included the 1895 Ferdinand building, which was to be integrated into the project. The architects convinced Mayor Thomas Menino to add two other historic structures to their portfolio: the 1888 Curtis building, and the 1890 Waterman building. "This allowed a design inclusive of the three corners of the triangular plot," said van der Steen. In cooperation with preservation consultants Building Conservation Associates, Mecanoo and Sasaki completely restored the facades of the three existing buildings, each of which was built in a different style. The five-story Ferdinand was constructed of limestone, terra cotta, brick, and granite, and is characterized by large oval windows at the corners and ends of the building, plus a large copper ornamental cornice adorned with cast lions' heads. The red brick Curtis was built in the Queen Anne style, while the Boston Granite Waterman features copper bay windows brought up to snuff by the renovation team. For the new volume, the architects looked both to the surrounding urban fabric and to their own strengths. "Boston has a very rich tradition of using brick," said van der Steen. "Coming from 'the clay country,' The Netherlands, we have used brick in many projects, and we really wanted to use it here to show off the craftsmanship that goes into bricklaying." Working with Iron Spot brick in three different finishes—smooth, velour, and artisan—the design team deployed a variety of bonds—running, stack, and soldier—to create delicate reliefs and shadow effects. "Mecanoo and Sasaki spent a lot of time and effort to design an inviting, permeable public space," said van der Steen. Vertical punch windows render the curving brick facades of the new volume permeable, while the transparent entry invites residents to take advantage of the community resources (including a neighborhood gathering space and facilities for obtaining informal business guidance). A sixth-floor roof deck overlooking downtown Boston makes a visual connection to the city center, and the illuminated mechanical penthouse serves as an orientation point after dark. From the beginning, said van der Steen "we wanted to make one building that united the three old facades. While the historic buildings maintain the feel and scale of Dudley Square, the central volume injects a powerful, tacit modern aesthetic." The word "tacit" is key, he explained, as the discreet character of the undulating brick and glass envelope introduces the new while remaining deferential to the old. "Together, these elements create a rich texture both physically and conceptually, a stepped form which respects the historic volumes of the original buildings."
“It’s a fun time in Vegas right now, with the economy up,” said Beth Campbell, principal and managing director of Gensler’s Las Vegas office. Downtown is being reborn, thanks in no small part to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s multi-million dollar investment. The Strip, too, is booming—see the High Roller observation wheel, which opened on March 31. At the same time, the spendthrift breeziness of the pre-recession years is gone. “Everyone is coming back to life, but with a refined focus and purpose,” said Campbell. “I would say the clients and developers are cautiously aggressive...they still want to grow, still want to reach for the sky...But they’re really focused on how they’re applying [their money] to make these projects happen.” Campbell described the change as a “big shift to experiential design.” In most cases, property owners elect to pour most of their money into key client areas, keeping behind-the-scenes spaces simple. “It’s the peanut butter concept,” said Campbell. “You can spread it thin across the whole piece [of bread] or just put it all in one corner.” As an example, Campbell cited Gensler’s renovation of an existing office campus for budget airline Allegiant Air’s new headquarters. Construction on the five-building, 120,000 square-foot complex began last month. “It’s been a very measured approach to this new facility for them, keeping in line with their corporate values and their low-cost approach,” said Campbell. “But they put their people first, and they’re doing the same thing in their office space.” To accommodate multiple work modes, Gensler created a variety of spaces, including open office space, individual work stations, and collaboration zones. Flexibility was the keynote. “Although we’re doing drywall partitions, we’re doing it in such a manner that if they want to move these boxes they can,” said Campbell. Gensler also recently renovated The AXIS Theater inside Planet Hollywood, home to Britney Spears’s “A Piece of Me” show. The clients “had one mission in mind and that was to create a great experience for the people who are coming,” said Campbell. As with Allegiant Air, the theater’s owners “were very measured, they were very methodical about how they wanted to apply their money.” The theater’s lobby is outfitted in shades of grey and black, the sharp lines of the asymmetrical portal balanced by a massive LED sculpture spiraling from the ceiling. In keeping with the nightclub theme, the auditorium’s walls are also black, as is its domed ceiling. Rows of purple seats hug a half-ring of VIP tables and, against the stage, two standing areas. Campbell sees last month’s RFP for a Downtown Master Plan as further evidence of the new zeitgeist, which couples renewed optimism with careful planning. “It’s a mechanism for the city to evaluate what’s in place, what do we really have,” she said. “It’s going to take a look at, are they spending their money in the right places?” Timed to coincide with the completion of a new form-based code for downtown, the master plan will define an overall strategy for the city’s revitalization. “It’s really interesting to watch,” said Campbell. “It’s measured. It’s not just a shotgun approach.”
Non-profit ArtPlace America has awarded creative placemaking grants to 54 recipients who were selected from more than 1,200 applicants. Totaling $15.2 million, the grants will support art projects in 44 neighborhoods across the United States, as well as a statewide project in Connecticut. Grant amounts range from $33,000 to $750,000, with the average grant at approximately $280,000. The idea behind the grants is to assist in turning urban communities into more welcoming and prosperous places for present and future residents through art and design projects. ArtPlace America is a partnership of national and regional foundations, as well as banks and federal agencies dedicated to encouraging creative placemaking. The partnership believes that art can be an essential part of revitalizing neighborhoods. Integrating art and design in public spaces, the theory goes, can help communities imagine new futures, hopefully ones that lead to redevelopment and the strengthening of businesses and the economy. Peruse the complete list and images of ArtPlace America 2013/2014 grants online. Office of Neighborhood Development: $250,000 Performing Arts Center Trust Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, FL From ArtPlace America: Building on momentum from its publicly-embraced master plan and the burst of public and private investment in its once-dormant neighborhood, the Adrienne Arsht Center will become one of the first major performing arts centers in the country to create its own Office of Neighborhood Development dedicated to accelerating and sustaining the creative evolution of its rapidly-changing, downtown Miami surroundings. Broad Avenue Water Tower Depot: $350,000 Binghampton Development Corp/Historic Broad Business Association, Memphis, TN From ArtPlace America: Binghampton Development Corporation and Historic Broad Business Association will transform an active warehouse loading dock on Historic Broad Avenue into an outdoor arts venue, convert a 140 foot tall water tower into an iconic public art beacon and activate The Water Tower Depot with eight weekends of community dance, followed by eight months of community-based programming. Old Town Artists Residency: $150,000 Bunnell Street Arts Center, Homer, AK From ArtPlace America: Old Town Artists Residency program will galvanize the community around Homer’s Old Town neighborhood through the creation and presentation of new work by artists in residence that activates the arts center’s space and surrounding outdoor sites including the Old Town People’s Garden Greenway. 12th Avenue Arts: $150,000 Capitol Hill Housing Foundation, Seattle, WA From ArtPlace America: Capitol Hill Housing will develop the new 12th Avenue Arts building, transforming a 29,000 sq ft surface parking lot on Seattle’s Capitol Hill into a vibrant mixed-use development combining arts, housing, retail and public safety uses. The Great Chicago Fire Festival: $250,000 Redmoon Theater, Chicago, IL From ArtPlace America: Redmoon will conceptulize, plan, implement, and produce the inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival, a city-wide ephemeral placemaking event developed in partnership with the City of Chicago. Pittsburgh Central Northside Artway Connector: $300,000 City of Asylum Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA From ArtPlace America: Through permanent and temporary public artworks, community-based residencies for international artists, and free multi-lingual literary and jazz performances, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh will bring vacant properties and public spaces to life in a joyful walkway that celebrates the liberating power of creative expression and draws residents and tourists to the community’s soon-to-be redeveloped Federal-North business district. CoSign: $200,000 American Sign Museum, Cincinnati, OH and Covington, KY From ArtPlace America: The American Sign Museum will expand its innovative CoSign initiative that pairs artists, small businesses, and sign fabricators to design and install a critical mass of unique handcrafted signage in neighborhood business districts by refining its process and materials and testing implementation in two additional neighborhoods. It will also create a toolkit to help communities replicate CoSign locally and nationally. The Idea Foundry in Franklinton: $350,000 Franklinton Development Association, Columbus, OH From ArtPlace America: The dynamic and acclaimed “makerspace,” the Columbus Idea Foundry will become a partner and anchor tenant in a completely renovated neighborhood warehouse. With neighbors consisting of the Center of Science and Industry museum and a burgeoning arts collective, The Idea Foundry will complete an innovation triangle in Franklinton that blends the arts, the sciences and enterprise. OhHeckYeah: $200,000 Brian Corrigan, Denver, CO From ArtPlace America: OhHeckYeah transforms public space into a temporary street arcade that leverages the power of play to promote Denver’s cultural offerings while amplifying the community’s creative talent. Silent Lights: $33,000 Artist Build Collaborative, Brooklyn, NY From ArtPlace America: Working in partnership with NYCDOT, Artist Build Collaborative will install Silent Lights, a series of six gates that light up sequentially based on the intensity of sound and vibrations from oncoming traffic, to a safer, inviting experience for pedestrian commuters as they traverse a loud, poorly lit and busy underpass linking Red Hook, Brooklyn to its closest subway stop. The Walter Soboleff Center: $475,000 Sealaska Heritage Institute, Juneau, AK From ArtPlace America: The Walter Soboleff Center, a 29,000 square foot cultural arts center, will stand in the center of downtown Juneau, adjacent to the historic district, one block from the waterfront, and in close proximity to the State Capitol and the shops and restaurants frequented by residents, the legislature, and hundreds of thousands of tourists whose cruise ships dock at the wharf each summer. Through its design and programming the Center will establish Juneau as the primary destination for authentic Alaskan Native art experiences.
Architect and writer Brian Newman recently took a walk through St. Louis' newest urban park and sent this dispatch. Before setting foot in St. Louis’ downtown City Garden, which officially opened to the public last week, before you come across the bright red Keith Herring totem or Tom Otterness’ bulbous bronze Gepetto, even before you see its verdant paths and shaded lawns, you see the packs of happily damp children, wrapped in beach towels. There are children everywhere in City Garden, swimming in fountains and splashing under limestone framed waterfalls, playing in front of a huge interactive LED video wall and climbing on any one of the almost two dozen sculptures installed throughout the park. The City Garden brings to downtown not only an entirely new, and enthusiastic, demographic, but a new formal and aesthetic framework. This isn’t to suggest that before the ribbon was cut and the crowds began exploring the grounds that downtown St. Louis didn’t have green space and sculpture. But the sum of these existing parts seldom congealed into much. City Garden changes that. Its 2.9 acres offer meandering gravel paths, hills, outlooks, multi-tiered water features, and enough trees to shade a visitor’s stroll virtually from edge to edge. Designed by Charlottesville, VA landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, and financed locally by the Gateway Foundation, the $25 million park is divided into three distinct latitudinal bands, each taking cues from regional geographic and geological precedents. The Northern River Bluffs band features a chain of terraces topped by an airy grove of willow oak, honey locust, and serviceberry trees, a shallow wading pool and an adjacent glass pavilion which houses the Terrace View restaurant. An arching limestone wall defines the Middle Flood Plain band, and runs nearly the two-block length of the park. A narrow water basin framed by black granite tile is punctuated by a cascading waterfall at the eastern its end waterfall. Across the park’s central axis, a plaza features 102 in-ground water jets, each of which plays a role in multicolor- and time-coordinated choreography, and is the real epicenter of children’s play. The Southern River Terrace band separates the City Garden from Market Street and offers an unbroken stretch of Ginkgo trees and an 1,100 foot long granite seat wall that gracefully wends its way across the length of the park. Where the wall bends, small gardens of wildflowers and native grasses appear, providing some relatively secluded seating for visitors who may not be so inclined to explore the park’s many water features. Sculpture by renowned artists, including Mark di Suvero, Tony Smith, Aristide Maillol and Jim Dine, is liberally installed throughout each of the bands and operate like a series of magnetic poles, pulling the visitor deeper into the park. Downtown St. Louis has no version of New York’s Broadway to bisect its city blocks at oblique and irregular intervals, producing much needed relief from a relentless street grid. With the opening of City Garden, downtown has found a respite from the strictly orthogonal, an opportunity to take a step away from the rigorous logic of the existing city layout. Its shapes and gestures seem to relate less to the monolithic steel structures directly across the street than to the robust organic forms of Sullivan’s nearby Wainwright Building and the lavishly ornamented City Hall from the late 19th century. While its forms may be suggestive of a particular era of the past, the attention paid to sustainable planting strategies and responsible material use speaks clearly to our contemporary concerns. City Garden undoubtedly has the capacity to spur economic growth in its immediate vicinity and, perhaps more importantly, it also has the potential to change perceptions about its urban home.