In a downtown neighborhood with sparse green space, residents are fighting to save a cherished garden on city-owned land from development. Elizabeth Street Garden, a green pocket between Elizabeth and Mott Streets in Little Italy, is a block-through plot that residents have developed into a tranquil space for relaxation and community programming. The garden was started in 1991 by real estate developer and resident Allan Reiver, who leased the debris-strewn lot from the city to plant flowers and install the first of many sculptures that populate the garden's lawns (Reiver now owns the Elizabeth Street Gallery next door to the garden.) Three years ago, nonprofit group Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden worked with Reiver to open the garden to the public year-round. Now, the city is calling for a total overhaul of the space: This month, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) issued a Request for Proposals to develop the garden into affordable senior housing. Although the RFP contains a provision for a 5,000-square-foot garden that would emulate the design of the original, neighbors are not happy about the possibility of a scaled-down space. Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden has enlisted the support of the local community board, Manhattan CB2, and a host of advocacy groups and state representatives. At a midday rally and press conference today, supporters gathered in the garden to address the development threat. Noticeably absent was council member Margaret Chin, a supporter of the garden's redevelopment. In 2012, the deal for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) set aside this plot for affordable senior housing. One senior, Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden board member Renee Green, lives across the street and is a garden regular, especially when her arthritis makes it too painful to walk to the Chinatown YMCA for her exercise classes. "How lucky we are to have this oasis in the midst of Little Italy and Soho," she told the crowd. "I would be devastated if the garden is destroyed." The area has lost nine community gardens in the last year, and has some of the least green space per capita in all of New York. "We want a livable city, and a livable city needs opens space," said Deborah Glick, the New York State Assembly member whose district includes the garden. So far, residents have submitted around 4,500 letters of support to keep the garden from being developed. CB2 has identified a city-owned site at Hudson and Clarkson Streets in the West Village that it claims could provide five times more housing—350 units—than the Elizabeth Street Garden site. This site is, however, out of Chin's City Council district and is not being considered for housing development by the city at this time. At press time, HPD could not be reached for comment on the alternative site. Chin's office says that there "are many seniors in the district in deep need of safe, appropriate, affordable housing," adding that the area has some of the nation's oldest housing stock, including many walk-ups that are hard for seniors to navigate. At the event, Allan Reiver himself brought archival photographs from 1991 that depict the space, which he calls a garden, just after completion. Though for many years primarily accessible from his private property next door, the garden's strong axia that connect Mott and Elizabeth Streets invite passerbys when the gates are open. The controversy over the Elizabeth Street Garden comes at the same time the City Council is holding hearings on The Housing Not Warehousing Act, a set of bills that would require, among other provisions, a more comprehensive index of vacant, government-controlled property suitable for affordable housing development.
Posts tagged with "vacant lots":
What can you do with a vacant lot? Urban activists in Louisville have set out to show just how much with an ongoing pop-up festival of sorts at 615-621 West Main Street, an empty plot of land in the heart of downtown where REX's Museum Plaza skyscraper was once set to rise. They're calling it ReSurfaced. The mission is to repurpose a downtown lot as “an urban laboratory for innovation, community gather, and as an entertainment venue, showcasing our local creativity, breweries, and talent” for five weeks. Open Thursday through Sunday each week through October 25, ReSurfaced events include hip hop concerts, Shakespeare performances, puppet shows, a Pecha Kucha conversation, and a beer garden. According to the event's Facebook page, ReSurfaced is about “Transforming and activating our underutilized surface lots and vacant spaces to bring back the walkable urbanism Louisville once enjoyed.” Louisville has thousands of vacant lots, a problem that earlier this year prompted the city to launch "Lots of Possibility," a design competition sponsored by the mayor's office. Read more at ReSurfaced's website, where you can find a full schedule of events, and a full list of sponsors. They're also updating events from a Twitter account, @CityCollab.
Earlier this month, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, an international design competition that is hoping to attract fresh strategies for reusing the many vacant lots that dot New Orleans. The competition is seeking submissions from landscape designers, architects, planners, public policy wonks, and pretty much anybody in the business of shaping urban environments and is supported by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), which owns more than 2,000 vacant lots. There are somewhere around 30,000 empty lots and abandoned structures throughout New Orleans today, most of them left by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city in 2005. As the 10-year anniversary of the storm approaches, Future Ground is looking to create design and policy strategies capable of adapting to changes in density, demand, climate, and landscape in New Orleans over the next half-century in an effort to turn these abandoned landscapes into lasting resources. NORA is currently working with New Orleans–based landscape architecture firm Spackman Mossop Michaels to develop land use strategies to reduce maintenance on many of its vacant lots. The firm's principals, Elizabeth Mossop and Wes Michaels—along with Richard Campanella of Tulane University, Renia Ehrenfeucht and Marla Nelson of the University of New Orleans, and Allison Plyer of The Data Center—are serving on the competition's Futures Team. "Some of this land might not be developed for a long time. It's important that the teams we select are not just looking at solutions for now, but for 10, 20, 50 years from now," said Jerome Chou, director of competitions, Van Alen Institute. "They need to be flexible, accommodate future needs, changes in the climate, and shifting development pressures. That's what the Futures Team is going to help us do. They will be working on potential scenarios of how the city might change over the next half century. It's obviously not set in stone, but thinking through those scenarios can help us tell residents, government officials, and philanthropists 'here's what's possible.'" Winning teams will be selected from an international open RFQ process. Applications are due by September 29, 2014, and will be evaluated by a jury of local design and policy leaders, as well as representatives of other cities with land reuse problems of their own, including Dan Kinkead of Detroit Future City, and Terry Schwartz of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. Each winning team will be given a $15,000 stipend and will be asked to work closely in a six-month collaborative process with local stakeholders and national leaders. The goal is to bring small, incremental improvements to individual neighborhoods as well as the city as a whole; to develop policy that bolsters beneficial design strategies; and to make these strategies good enough to be sustained into the next generation. The Van Alen Institute will help out the selected teams to make up for the modest figure of the stipend by promoting their work nationally and internationally and developing networks.
On a long-abandoned lot in St. Louis’ near north side, 10,000 sunflowers are sucking up the heavy metals that have helped stall development there for “longer than neighbors care to remember,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The project is called Sunflower+. It's one of the winners of St. Louis' inaugural "Sustainable Land Lab" competition, which was organized by Washington University in St. Louis and city officials. Over the next two years, the design team will cultivate and harvest four rotations of summer sunflowers and winter wheat on the vacant lot, hopefully preparing it for redevelopment in the future. In a video produced for Washington University, members of the design team explained the environmental aim of this experiment in growing beauty from blight. “If we can clean up and/or enrich this soil to make its redevelopment at some point down the road easier to do, more cost efficient, more environmentally friendly,” said Richard Reilly, a project manager who works for the Missouri Botanical Garden, “then we’ll have some long-term results from our project.” Along with Don Koster of Washington University and a team of volunteers, Reilly successfully grew one crop rotation last year, and it's already bearing fruit: Alderman Lyda Krewson has already enlisted the team to replicate their project further down Delmar Boulevard.
An aluminum rain screen and locally-sourced brick articulate a two-part program.The Brook, developed by Common Ground and designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects, is part of a new wave of affordable housing communities popping up all over the United States. Unlike the public housing projects of the mid-twentieth century, which focused exclusively on housing and tended to suffer from a lack of routine maintenance, The Brook, located in the Bronx, combines apartments and support services under one roof. This duality is manifested in the envelope’s contrasting material palette—dark grey brick for the residential spaces, raw aluminum over the community facilities. “The idea of the exterior was to symbolize, as well as reflect, the internal program of Common Ground as supportive housing,” said Alexander Gorlin. “It’s inspired in part by Le Corbusier and his idea of expressing the program on the facade, and expressing the public functions as a means of interrupting a repetitive facade." The Brook’s communal areas, which are clustered at the corner of the 92,000-square-foot, six-story building, are marked on the exterior by ES Tolga Dry Seal System aluminum panels from Allied Metal. In addition to articulating the change in program, the metal facade “represents coming together, creating a landmark for the neighborhood as well,” said Gorlin, who noted that Common Ground “liked from the beginning marking the corner as a special symbolic place.” The metal-clad corner also functions “urbanistically, to break the building into three parts, break down its scale,” he explained. A series of inset terraces interrupt the grey aluminum walls with splashes of red. “At one level it’s a bright color to be cheerful and optimistic,” said Gorlin. “In China, red is a symbol of good luck. It also symbolizes the heart of the program and the community.” The Brook’s 190 studio apartments are distributed to either side of the community facilities, along wings punctuated with square and rectangular windows. “We decided to vary the window placement so it would create a more lively asymmetrical pattern. It’s not just a simple grid,” said Gorlin. The designers clad the housing areas in locally sourced dark grey brick. “Brick is a very noble, ancient material,” observed Gorlin. As a good insulator, it also contributes to the building’s LEED Silver status. Other sustainability strategies include a green roof, a special boiler system, building management technology that turns off the lights when a room is not in use, and the use of recycled and non-offgassing materials. The Brook was erected on a vacant lot in a neighborhood once known for pervasive blight. Early in the design process, said Gorlin, the architects and developers discussed installing bars over the lower windows. “It was determined very consciously not to do it, even though there’s glass on the corner,” he explained. “We decided not to put bars up or make it look in any way prison-like. In fact, by not doing so it’s been maintained in perfect shape. People in the neighborhood think it’s a high-end condo.” Gorlin calls Common Ground “a miraculous kind of client in terms of what they do and the manner in which they deal with the community.” The Brook, he said, represents a new approach not just to affordable housing, but to homelessness. “To actually build permanent housing for homeless people” is a unique opportunity, he said. “It’s not just a shelter, but a place to start over in life.”
Friday> Freecell & Pulitzer Foundation turn a vacant lot in St. Louis into a parade of public programs
Last year, a vacant lot across the street from the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis became the site of a design competition for a temporary built-environment installation. New York’s Freecell Architecture won PXSTL's $50,000 project budget and $10,000 honorarium for a proposal to erect an adjustable canopy for performances and gatherings—an idea Kristina Van Dyke, director of the Pulitzer Foundation, called “both monumental and ephemeral at the same time.” Freecell’s installation, entitled Lots, opens Friday, May 9. An opening celebration from 7:00 to 9:00p.m. will include a dance performance by students at the Grand Center Arts Academy, which will be connected to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum by free shuttle bus for the evening. Through October 5, Lots will occupy the space across Washington Avenue from the Pulitzer Foundation, an elegant concrete building designed by Tadao Ando. (Read AN’s Q&A with Tadao Ando here.) Public programs will take over the canopy throughout the summer, funded by grants from the foundation. Thirteen grant recipients will provide programming for the inaugural PXSTL installation. See PXSTL's website for more information about the opening event, which is also sponsored by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University.
In January Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer implored local designers and developers to propose ideas for 250 of the city’s several thousand vacant lots. Last week they announced four winners, which included gardens of dye plants for local textile production; a Habitat for Humanity–style homeownership program; environmental remediation via lavender fields; and meditation gardens made of recycled materials. The Lots of Possibility competition announced its intention to award two winners $15,000 for long-term residential or commercial development, while up to two more could receive a one-year land lease and $4,000 to implement temporary ideas. “The Lots of Possibility applicants brought us bold and creative ideas on how to transform these vacant lots into assets that advance sustainability and improve neighborhoods,” Fischer said in a statement. “The hope is that their ideas will have a ripple effect and inspire other creative and innovative uses.” Read more about the winners below in their own language, and read their full proposals by clicking through: 1.dye Scape (Pictured at top) 609 N. 17th St., 1655 Portland Ave. and 1657 Portland Ave. (Permanent Use) Submitted by Colleen Clines and Maggie Clines with the Anchal Project and Louis Johnson. The urban textile landscape is a network of small-scale gardens that cultivate plant fibers, animal fibers, and dye plants for the purpose of natural textile production. This site is intended to demonstrate the potential of plants to provide natural color to materials, teach residents environmental sustainability and entrepreneurship, and support local textile production. 2. Graduating to Homeownership 2926/8 Dumesnil Ave. (Permanent Use) Submitted by Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville and the Family Scholar House (Rob Locke, Jackie Isaacs, and Harvetta Ray). Using Habitat for Humanity’s volunteer construction model, a new energy efficient home will be constructed near the Parkland Family Scholar House (FSH) for a new graduate of the program. The FSH seeks to end the generational cycle of poverty through education, and by staying in the neighborhood, the graduate can continue to benefit from and provide benefit to the FSH community. A new program will also be created to provide financial counseling and application assistance to enable more families to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home. 3. Lots of Lavender 816 S 7th St., 526 N 17th St., and 1811 Lytle St. (Interim Use) Submitted by Christopher Head and oSha Shireman. Redirected rainwater, vegetated bioswales and French drains will be used to support lavender herb beds for decoration, potpourri, and oil of lavender production. This pilot project also seeks to demonstrate the potential of low maintenance/low mow plantings for vacant lots across the city. This project will be conducted in partnership with the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association and I.D.E.A.S. 40203. 4. Meditation Labyrinth 3831 Hale Ave. (Interim Use) Submitted by West Louisville Women’s Coalition (Ramona Lindsey, Elmer Lucille Allen, Chenoweth Allen, Wilma Bethel, Robin Bray, Ellyn Crutcher, Beth Henson, Gwendolyn Kelly, Pam Newman, Tyra Oldham and Harvetta Ray). This project will create an intergenerational open space for art and creativity. Community arts outreach will be paired with a walking path made out of personalized clay pavers and chalkboard walls made from recycled wood pallets and natural seating.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is pushing a plan to turn parcels of city-owned vacant land into urban farms and orchards. The HOME GR/OWN program has long been stalled, but received a boost from the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. Many of the properties are in the city's troubled Lindsay Heights neighborhood, where a network of nonprofits already works to alleviate the effects of Milwaukee’s disinvestment and foreclosure crises. HOME GR/OWN will work in concert with Barrett’s Strong Neighborhoods Investment Plan, an $11.8 million program to perform a kind of triage on ailing housing stock. The city-funded initiative promotes marketing of salvageable homes and vacant lots, but it also bankrolls the destruction of 300 structures deemed beyond repair. The initiative follows similar programs across the country, including in Chicago, where the Green Healthy Neighborhoods plan captured imaginations in 2011 but has since failed to secure funding. Still, the program’s promise is welcome in a city with as many as 18,000 vacant properties. Its proponents say it may be a cost-effective way to address many intertwined problems at once—many have seized on urban agriculture's potential to create jobs in communities struggling with violence.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer started 2014 off with a call to citizens: Help the city come up with creative ideas to redevelop vacant land. Local and far-flung designers are invited to re-imagine the land in a new competition. The winners of the Lots of Possibility competition will be awarded a total of $38,000 to put their vision into action. That money comes from local grant funding. A jury will choose six finalists in each of the competition’s two categories: residential or commercial use; and proposals involving temporary or interim use of vacant lots. Up to two winners will get $15,000 for long-term residential or commercial development, while up to two more could receive a one-year land lease and $4,000 to implement temporary ideas. “The rules for this competition are simple—be creative and be bold,” Fischer said in a press release. Louisville recently launched its VAPStat (Vacant and Abandoned Property Statistics) program to share public information about abandoned properties, foreclosure and redevelopment opportunities. There are more than 6,000 vacant lots in the area, with a high concentration in western Louisville. A 2013 study estimated about half of the approximately 6,000 vacant properties would “be remedied through normal market forces.” The Louisville/Jefferson County Landbank Authority and the Urban Renewal Commission own many more sites that they’re working to redevelop. More than 250 lots (list) have been made available for the Lots of Possibility competition. “[T]he faster the number of VAP properties are reduced,” reads the VAPStat study, “the sooner they become revenue-producing real estate and the sooner they start to have positive effects on their surrounding neighborhoods.” Sponsoring the competition are the Department of Community Services and Revitalization, Vision Louisville and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, funded in part by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The competition page lists as inspiration St. Louis' Sustainable Land Lab, Youngstown, Ohio's Lots of Green program, and Flint, Michigan's Flatlot competition. Entries are due Feb. 24. The winners will be announced in April. Entry information here.