Placemaking Conference: Retrofitting Suburbia


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  • -so, these 2 examples speak to the many co-benefits of retrofitting the unintended consequences of sprawl
  • The brain trust assembled here will speak to the significant market shifts. I’ll simply mention the headlines.
  • Suburbia’s “newness” is often at odds with its traditional imagery 
  • -reinhabitation at the multi-parcel scale-adding jobs, education, a library – and residences to the rear – while greening the parking lots with a town commons and swales
  • Adapting a conventional L-shaped grocery-anchored strip mall into a “third place”. OK City has some dead malls being reinhabited. Crossroads Mall bought last week to be reinhabited as a hispaniccommunity center.
  • While re-inhabitation tends to help with social sustainability, to get environmental benefits, one tends to need to redevelop and urbanize these properties into mixed-use, walkable, transit-served neighborhoods.
  • Suburbanization isn’t JUST a matter of low density or distance from the downtown. Perhaps the greatest contributor to the unintended consequences has been the way in which suburban form reduces walkability and increases dependence on the automobile. This single factor increases carbon and transportation costs, while it decreases human and environmental health. This slide shows the retrofit of a 45-hectare dead shopping mall outside Denver, CO into the downtown the community never had. It’s not very dense, but it is urban, compact, with very walkable streets, 2 public parks, a mix of housing types, has 8 bus lines coming through, and has reduced per capita vehicle miles traveled, reduced water runoff, increased trees and integrated solar and micro wind turbines. It’s done this by design. As Subrho said, “Design matters.”
  • But densification won’t work everywhere. Sometimes, regreening is the better answer.
  • So while redevelopment of the dead urban mall worked in the strong market of Rockville, regreening has worked well in the slow market of Columbus, OH. Driver here is replacing drag on economic development, with a catalyst.Mall demolished in 2009. Park opened in 2010. First new housing to open in 2013.
  • But densification won’t work everywhere. Sometimes, regreening is the better answer.
  • Series of fortunate events: airport closed, redev’d as mixed-use NU Mueller (green and lower right); Voters approved 1 cent tax for MetroRail, City rezoned a chemical plant (in blue) for TOD, upper right photo is the view from the train of the transit plaza at Crestview Station; Dying Highland Mall (red) has been purchased by Austin Community College – planning to reinhabit the mall and build a full campus on the mall’s pkg lots – as shown in the middle image. AND the city just approved pilot test of a FBC for this 3.5 mile stretch and the planning dept is now working on much smaller grain infill and strategies to preserve affordable housing.
  • Next step for all of you, is to consider joining CNU in removing the obstacles to urbanism. (I know a LOT of architects are suspicious of the MOVEMENT of NU – and I understand the reasons! But, less people understand the WORK of the ORGANIZATION. Great track record of initiatives at the national level – just got F/F to lift the cap on comm’l in m-u res’lbldgs from 20 to 35%. Sprawl Retrofit’s dev’g toolkits for municipalities. You have a great local chapter here too. I look forward to coming back and learning how Denver’s advanced the NEXT generation of suburban retrofits.
  • Placemaking Conference: Retrofitting Suburbia

    1. 1. imperatives :climate instabilitymitigating suburbanites‟ high carbon footprints and adapting to severe weatherrising energy costsliving compactly reduces energy use in buildings and for transportationpoverty and social segregationsince 2005 more Americans in poverty live in suburbs than citiespublic healthsuburban living raises risk of obesity, suicide, and death by automobile crashesAffordabilitythe savings of “drive „til you qualify” are wiped out by rising transportation costs
    2. 2. market driver headlines :demographic shiftssuburbia simply isn‟t “family-focused” anymore. 2/3 of suburban hh‟s don‟t havekids, 85% of new hh‟s won‟t through 2025 . Millenials are looking for nightlife andvalue wifi and connectedness more than cars.the new centersas metros have expanded, first ring suburbs and commercial corridors now havecentral locations, often meriting densification and urbanization of their“underperforming asphalt”.
    3. 3. relocalization of people, place,landscape, and activitytactical urbanism,crowdsourceing, andcollaborative consumptioncheap space for community-serving uses“third places”placemaking through :Re-inhabitation
    4. 4. Congress for the NewUrbanism: Next Genshort-term projects forlong-term gainspavement to plaza depaveparklet yarnbombingWalk posters
    5. 5. From strip to job andtown centerWillingboro Town CenterWillingboro, NJCroxton CollaborativeArchitects19601. Boscov’s Furniture2. Sears3. Woolworths4. Power plant20091. Mail-service pharmacy2. Office building3. Public library w/ retail4. Community College5. Town Commons6. Townhouses7. Planted swalesCourtesty Croxton Collaborative ArchitectsMTC Aerial Photography
    6. 6. -100 Oaks Mall & Medical Center, Nashville TN:Medical center on 2nd floor of once-dying mallWellspring Medical & Wellness Center, Woodburn,OR in former K-MartCollinwood Recreation Center, Collinwood OH:from dead Big Lots store to public recreation centerwith bioswales on former parking lotRWJ Hamilton Ctr for Health &Wellnesss, Hamilton, NJ: Former Ames Dept Store
    7. 7. Updating the “L” strip mall as a “third place” with portals to the neighborhoodLake Grove Shopping Center, Lake Oswego, OR: Eric Shoemaker Beam DevelopmentFrom “back” to a new front to the neighborhood
    8. 8. urbanize – organize buildings tocreate connected outdoor roomsand walkable street networksdensify and diversify: reward thepedestrian eyegreen the infrastructureplacemaking through:Redevelopment
    9. 9. Suburban Form Urban Form-buildings as discrete, stand-alone objects -buildings align and front onto the street-open space lacks form, is dominated by cars -open space is shaped by the buildings; outdoor room-blocks and streets are large, unconducive to walking -blocks and streets are smaller, more walkable,safer-single uses, separated infrastructure systems -mixed uses, more integrated infrastructure systemsFrom dead mall to green downtownBelmar, Lakewood, CO: Continuum Partners; Elkus Manfredi Architects, Civitas Inc.
    10. 10. transit triggers infill of an office parkUniversity Town Center, Hyattsville, MDPrince George’s Metro Center, Inc.; Parker Rodriguez, RTKL Associates, WDG Architecture1980 2009
    11. 11. From a park-n-ride + mall to a high-design civic centre geothermal TOD SurreySurrey Central City, Surrey, BC; Simon Frasier University, Bing Thom Architects, Incsource: Dunham-Jones, Williamson, 2009Library Classrooms above shopping mallPhase 1: college classrooms built above mall, + new high rise
    12. 12. Recapturing traffic islands for redevelopment while making walkable intersectionsFort Totten MetroRail stop, Washington DC Planning Department, WAMATASource: Washington DC Planning Dept website
    13. 13. Intersection retrofit and public placemaking as catalystNormal Illinois Roundabout, Normal Illinois: Doug Farr Associates, Hoerr Schauer Landscape
    14. 14. Photoz; G. KomarFrom 5-lane arterial to 2-lane Main Street with multi-use parking RamblasLancaster, CA: Moule & Polyzoides
    15. 15. retrofitting land use, transportation and energy on a commercial corridorCambie Corridor, Vancouver, BC, Vancouver City Planning Department
    16. 16. reconstruct local ecology, daylightculverted streams, and clean run-offadd parks to increase adjacentproperty valuesfood and energy productioncarbon sequestrationplacemaking through:Regreening
    17. 17. from mall parking lot to TOD with water treatment bioswale as park amenityNorthgate Urban Center, North Seattle, WA: LEED-ND pilot programThornton Place, Mithun Architects for Stellar Holdings & Lorig Associates•Added 530 units of housing at net 96 units/acre (another 1800 coming?)•Increased open space within the Northgate Urban Center by 50%•Provided pedestrian links that shortened walking distances by 50% from several adjacent neighborhoodsSource: Dunham-Jones, Williamson 20112000condos toreplace200 apts?
    18. 18. Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel: City of Seattle, SvR Design•Reduced impervious surface by 78%•Designed to remove an estimated 40-80% of suspended solids from 91% of the avg annual stormwater runofffrom the 680-acre drainage basin•Created new habitat: native birds were observed within one month and native volunteer plants have gottenestablished with the 85% native species that were planted. Source: Kaid Benfield, Natural Resources Defence Council•Adds an estimated 30% increase in adjacent property values
    19. 19. From urban mall to park ringed with urban housingColumbus City Center Park, Columbus OH
    20. 20. Target retrofitting more strategicallyat the metro scaleSupport new tools: Form-BasedCodes, Transfer of DevelopmentRights, Health Impact Assessments,Retrofittability Analyses, GreyfieldAudits, etc.Replace “drive „til you qualify” withcompact housing with affordabletransit by retrofitting commercialstrip corridors into transit-servedboulevardsCome to CNU 21 in Salt Lake CityMay 29-June 1strategy:Next Steps
    21. 21. From edge city sprawl to developer-driven 430-acre TODWhite Flint, MD; White Flint Partnership, Washington Metropolitan Planning Council1. Permits development of a newdowntown over next 20 years2. Dedicated-lane BRT circulators outwardfrom Metro Station3. 10,000 residential units, 2600 of them“affordable”4. Commercial space up from 14mil s.f to20mil5. Limited parking6. High-rises up to 30-stories7. Generate $6-7bil in revenue for thecounty
    22. 22. From edge city sprawl to developer-driven 430-acre TODWhite Flint, MD- North Bethesda Market East & Market II; JBG Companies
    23. 23. Connecting the Dots: Retrofitting the airport, mall, chemical plant and corridorAirport Boulevard, Austin TX: City of Austin, Gateway Planning Group
    24. 24. • Healthy Communities• Aging in Place: RethinkingRetirement• Resilience planning and adaptationto local climate change, local food• Local/district energy, net zeroenergy, low carbon communities• Collaborative Economies: bike-sharing, scooter-sharing• Using social media to enhancecommunity buildingstrategy:Emerging Trends
    25. 25. Partnering toRemove Obstaclesto Urbanism byReformingStandards andPracticesPast Initiatives:HOPE VI Mixed-Income CommunitiesLEED-NDCNU/ITE Manual onWalkable UrbanThoroughfaresEmerging Initiatives: TacticalUrbanism, Urban Agricutlure, CodeReform, New Urbanism in China