DesignIdeation: Affordable Housing
Across the nation, high-growth cities are challenged with providing affordable housing for their workforce. Public, private and nonprofit entities are […]
Across the nation, high-growth cities are challenged with providing affordable housing for their workforce. Public, private and nonprofit entities are joining forces to find a solution, and LandDesign’s Frank McMahan, PE is advising them on how design can play a key role in the success of affordable housing. Through cost-saving design, working hand-in-hand with municipalities and advocating within communities, Frank understands that the only way to solve this crisis is to bring everyone together.
Below, Frank shares his thoughts on how engineers can begin to positively impact the affordable housing crisis.
What are the challenges communities are facing in providing more affordable housing options?
Finding good parcels of land is the biggest issue we are facing. Affordable housing isn’t being developed in high-income areas like Ballantyne or South Charlotte because the land cost is so high, which is why you see it popping up in lower-income areas. Charlotte isn’t the only market where the cost of land is an issue. Across the country, land is cheaper in lower-income areas. So, when we are asked, “why we aren’t doing this in high-income areas?” — that’s why.
Aside from land cost, are there other challenges in developing affordable housing?
In terms of the community support, whether high- or low-income, no one wants affordable housing in their backyard. There’s a misconception that affordable housing is public or Section 8 Housing, but it’s not. Typically, non-profit companies and private developers are driving this type of development. Affordable housing accommodates civil servants and the working class: teachers, police officers, sanitation workers, etc. The working class can’t afford home ownership or market rate apartment rents because their salary doesn’t correspond with what the cost of living is. We are actively working with developers to change the stigma surrounding affordable housing and gain community support for these projects.
Funding is another challenge. For example, to build a standard multi-family garden style apartment community that’s affordable, it’s going to cost the developer about $170,000 per unit, which is the same cost per unit for market rate. There is a large gap between funding from banks, low-income tax credits and Housing Trust Fund money. Those sources help close the finance gap, but it’s not always enough.
Are there ways to stretch public funds to help close the funding gap?
The Housing Trust Fund and banks understand how difficult it is to finance these projects. They provide matching bonds that help, but the gap is large and sometimes hard to close. There are ways to stretch public funds by working hand-in-hand with municipalities to find exemptions through stormwater solutions, tree-save or relaxing some requirements for infrastructure, such as sidewalks, drive aisles, etc. Affordable housing projects not only adhere to jurisdictional standards, but also meet a whole other set of guidelines that are dictated by the requirements of the state to obtain and utilize low-income housing tax credits. Affordable housing units are built to market standards, no different than any other apartment complex.
Both the public and private sectors have announced funds to support the development of affordable projects but is that going to make enough of a difference to meet market demand?
Charlotte is 5,000 units deficient in affordable housing and it’s going to take years to close that gap. On top of that, affordable units have a 15-year lifespan and not everyone is a long-term affordable housing developer. Once a new developer gets a hold of an affordable property, a lot of times they will renovate and rent units at a market rate. It’s a vicious cycle of new affordable units becoming available, while others are going off the market. It can be tough to get ahead.
How has LandDesign become a partner to developers and community groups interested in developing affordable housing?
LandDesign is involved from the very beginning when developers start looking for land. We help them put together teams and navigate the process for getting affordable projects off the ground. We also work within communities to help change the public perception of affordable housing. What most people don’t realize is that everyone is aligned — us, developers and the community. At the end of the day, we are all trying to create a community that adds diversity to our schools, promotes upward mobility and provides an affordable place to live for those who need it most.
How many affordable housing projects is LandDesign currently involved in?
We are currently involved in a dozen projects from the preliminary QAP (Qualified Allocation Plan), the process to get funding from the state for affordable housing, through final QAP, when the developer is awarded tax credits. Most people are not aware that affordable projects take approximately eight months longer to complete than non-affordable projects. There are 22 additional tasks between with the city and state that non-affordable projects do not have to go through. However, the city and state understand how difficult the process is and LandDesign is working closely with municipalities to streamline the process as much as possible. All entities are aware affordable housing is an issue, but by working together we can close the gap at the rate it needs to happen.
What started your passion for affordable housing?
It started when I began working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership in 2014. I was working with the Partnership on Brightwalk, a mixed-income community in Charlotte, and I was asked to do a preliminary QAP, which I was not familiar with at the time. As I dove deeper into the project, I realized the challenges Charlotte was facing with affordable housing. Also, my wife is a teacher and most of her coworkers can’t afford an apartment or home due to the rising cost of living. It became a passion when I saw and knew people that were in these situations. These are hard working, educated people that are struggling to find a place to live. Where in Charlotte can you find a three-bedroom apartment for $800? You won’t. Affordable housing allows people to focus on what matters — their families and opportunities for upward mobility.
What role does engineering play in affordable housing?
As engineers, we work to find design solutions that save money in the long run. At the beginning of a project, we coordinate with local jurisdictional agencies to discuss their plans and requirements for the site. By coordinating planning and development efforts early on, we can anticipate road widenings, utility relocations and extensions and design elements that can create additional costs. Developers want to be ahead of those challenges and we are here to find cost-saving design solutions that will make an affordable project successful.
Do you think the civil engineering field as a whole can become more involved with affordable housing?
Absolutely, people don’t realize the extent of the issue and how to get involved. Most designers look at affordable housing like any other project. At LandDesign, we don’t see it that way. There’s a reason why we are doing this — to help people. People who are involved with these projects are not in it for profit. These are passion projects and they have to be, otherwise it wouldn’t happen.
Expanding the definition of trails.
Great outdoor spaces succeed because they provide the opportunity to create meaningful and memorable experiences. Crafting such experiences begin with […]
Great outdoor spaces succeed because they provide the opportunity to create meaningful and memorable experiences. Crafting such experiences begin with asking — “what will people do, see and feel in this space?” Trails, whether urban, rural, large or small, are often thought of as a connection to the outdoors that provides a recreational experience; a place to run, bike and walk. But trails can support an array of experiences other than recreation to become memorable trails; multi-dimensional experiences that tie together culture, history and education.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway (LSCG) in Charlotte, NC is a 19-mile trail system that connects people to neighborhoods, schools, employment and retail. At a surface level, the greenway seems like a recreation amenity for the community, but if you were to analyze the greenway under a microscope, you would see layers of experiences.
Within the LSCG trail system is a hidden experience that celebrates Charlotte’s culture and educates users on Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s rich history. Local non-profit, Trail of History, saw the opportunity to bring awareness to the region’s past by providing a way for the community to learn and engage with the greenway in a unique way. They worked with the County and the greenway’s design team to imagine a trail of 21 larger-than-life bronze statues of the men and women who contributed to the growth of the region.
“By placing figures of Charlotte’s past along the creek, the user follows the story of growth and development in the community. Charlotte got its start as a mill village, utilizing the waterway as a means for fire insurance. But as growth continued, the floodplains were cleared for new neighborhoods and development. A walk along LSCG is a walk through our history, which is now accentuated with the Trail of History.” — Beth Poovey, LandDesign’s Director of Greenways, Parks + Open Space
As users travel along the greenway, they are greeted by historical figures like Captain Jack, who’s known for his ride to Philadelphia carrying the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775, and Jane Wilkes, who worked to establish the first civilian hospitals in Charlotte. The most recent Trail of History unveiling was that of multiple figures memorializing Thompson Orphanage. The sculpture preserves the orphanage’s legacy, memorializing its 125 years of impactful work in the Charlotte community.
The Trail of History enhances the user experience at Little Sugar Creek Greenway by layering the trail with public art, education and history. These layers have added to the value of the community amenity, which sees over 1,500 daily users. Before taking a surface-level look at a trail, dig deeper and see what dimensions can be added to create a memorable adventure for users.
The Trail of History is located in Midtown Charlotte and follows Little Sugar Creek Greenway between Kings Drive and 7th and Morehead Street. Read more about the Trail and History, here.
Use #NationalTrailsDay to share your National Trails Day adventure, and learn more about how you can get involved with preserving our nation’s trails, here.
What makes a place? Is it the art, signage, ornate gardens that draw your attention? For Gabriela Cañamar Clark, a […]
What makes a place? Is it the art, signage, ornate gardens that draw your attention? For Gabriela Cañamar Clark, a place is defined by people. She starts by looking beyond the confines of a project, to imagine what moments can be created on busy streets, in between urban high-rises, or along a dynamic waterfront. These moments are not just placemaking aesthetics to Gabriela, but are moments for people to enjoy.
Below, Gabriela shares her thoughts on the influence of placemaking in the public realm.
Q: What is the role of landscape architecture in urban planning and placemaking?
Landscape architects are the authors of what happens in the fabric of a city in between the buildings. The definition of placemaking is making a place, but in reality, placemaking is made by people. If a place doesn’t feel inviting, then people won’t use it and it won’t come alive in the way it was intended. The first step in the design process is to understand the various spaces in the public realm — their mission and goal, and social and physical context. Responding with the right approach ensures we are creating a place where people want to linger. As landscape architects, we prepare the canvas for placemaking to happen, whether organically or programmed.
Q: What is the value of landscape/ placemaking in new development?
I think placemaking is a bit of a buzzword right now. In the private-sector it’s all about the brand of the place, and if projects have a strong identity in the marketplace, their chances of being successful are higher. As designers, we help translate that brand through signage, passive and active public art, curated gardens, etc. There are a variety of experiences can be incorporated into a project’s design. That’s where landscaping and placemaking can add another layer to what the developer is offering.
Q: What trends are we starting to see in public realm design, specifically in urban areas?
As landscape architects, we’d like to think the spaces we design function without heavy programming, meaning manned-programming (events, activities, etc.). Programming is fantastic, but without a sound infrastructure, creating public space that also functions in non-programmed time can be a challenge. The possibility of engaging with others is the whole point of public space! We need to think about ways to provide unique experiences whether there is heavy, soft or no programming at all.
Q: What are the challenges that come with creating a public realm in an urban environment?
In private development, public spaces can tend to feel as if they are exclusive to a certain population. Our job as landscape architects is to reach beyond the confines of a project and create a space that is welcoming to all. For the public realm, it’s inherent in the word — public should mean open to everyone. We need to hone our skills and craft to find a way to communicate through our designs that these spaces are indeed for all.
Q: How does transportation (metro, autonomous vehicles, Uber, etc.) influence how we design public space?
As designers, we need to anticipate new transportation technologies and look to find design solutions that accommodate these technologies. Back in the day, designs were required to provide a taxi pull-off for certain building uses. Today, because Uber and Lyft provide that type of service to the entire population, we have to organize our streetscape to accommodate this type of transportation. Designers should be analyzing how drivers respond to design and if they need signage to note where to pick up a rider, while also ensuring the pedestrian knows where to be picked up.
We are also looking at how we design the streetscape for bike share and scooters. When bicycles entered the public realm in the form of bike share, docking stations allowed for designers to find a solution for the streetscape that would keep things organized. The challenge with scooters is the lack of regulatory rules in terms of public engagement. Because of the freedom scooters have, to be picked-up and dropped-off anywhere, they tend to clutter streets.
Q: What design accommodations are we making due to the rapid growth in these urban areas?
We are seeing people flock to 18-hour cities where you can live affordably and be anchored by lifestyle amenities. To accommodate this growth, designers have to work at an extremely fast pace. 10-12 years ago, the timeframe to get multi-family, mixed use, mid- and high-rise projects off the ground would take well over a year. Today, the design and delivery process is happening within 10 months or less. How are we responding? By offering the best talent that can get it done!
Q: Throughout your career, what have you learned about translating a client’s vision for a project?
Listen — that’s the most important part! If designers bring to the table a preconceived recipe for a client’s project, we aren’t setting the project up for success. Every client has different concerns, priorities, financials and values. As long as we listen to their vision and goals for the project, we can use our expertise to design and deliver a project that achieves their goals. Anyone can design something beautiful, but it’s about meeting the needs of the client’s vision.
Q: What does the future of public realm design look like 10-20 years from now?
Hard to tell. I attended a conference where the speaker used the example of how stone was used as the primary cutting tool for a millennia — until someone put a handle on the stone, advancing the tool. The tool kept evolving, becoming more sophisticated over time, but it took a millennia to get from one tool, to the next.
We’re going through a period of time where new technology is emerging every year. The way people use open space is influenced by Uber, autonomous vehicles, cell phones, etc. It’s hard to predict how we will respond to the public realm because things are moving so fast. However, we are more aware than ever that human beings need to be with other human beings to be healthy mentally and physically. The appetite for communal space is still going to be going strong, but how they are going to be designed 10-20 years from now — I’d love to see it!
Making Water Conservation an Aesthetic Design Feature at Duke University’s Global Campus
Duke University’s 200-acre global campus in Kunshan, PRC is designed with form and function in mind. The design for the […]
Duke University’s 200-acre global campus in Kunshan, PRC is designed with form and function in mind. The design for the campus embraces the region’s challenges of heavy rainfall and urban flooding to elevate the overall campus experience, and creates a sustainable and tranquil learning environment. Duke Kunshan brings together over 200 students from 27 countries, providing opportunities for students and faculty to learn, live and grow inside and outside of the classroom. The global design team worked in tandem to conceptualize, design and implement Duke University’s Kunshan campus with the goal to respect the region’s culture; provide a unique space for collaborative learning; and to integrate sustainable design features that manage on-site stormwater and controls water levels.
Form and Function: Culture
Historically, water has played an important role in the culture of the Jiangnan region where the campus is located. Throughout the region, water is used as a means of transportation, supporting civic life; as a landscape element, extending the public space outdoors; and in courtyards, providing a gathering space for people.
Taking inspiration from the water-town culture of the region, water is used as a design theme throughout the campus, with a four-acre central lake, living water gardens and various water features, such as fountains, spread throughout. By incorporating water into the design, the campus is anchored in the culture of the region, extends education into the landscape and allows for sustainable solutions that make Duke Kunshan the best possible place.
Form and Function: Space
Duke Kunshan’s campus is designed to support an interactive learning process and constant exchange of ideas between professors and students. Given the plurality of learning styles, outdoor public spaces on the campus are positioned to become extensions of traditional classrooms.
A series of outdoor classrooms are strategically placed along the central lake to create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor learning, and the built and natural environment. By placing the outdoor classrooms in close proximity to the water, the campus becomes infused with an overall feeling of peace and serenity—creating a natural place for collaboration, study and reflection.
Form and Function: Sustainability
What may not be realized at first glance is the intricate stormwater management systems on the campus that work to create the sense of serenity at Duke Kunshan. While water features on the campus act as aesthetic amenities, they also serve a greater purpose to reduce runoff and control water levels. On campus water is managed through a three-part system and can enter the site through any one of these three systems. Each of these systems work together to control flooding events, manage runoff and treat water for reuse.
In the first system, water travels through a series of living water gardens that support local wildlife, flora and fauna. This system is designed to foster diverse water habitats through an aquatic plant palette. Today, these water gardens are home to birds, amphibians and small mammals.
In the second system, water is treated through subsurface infiltration ponds. By constantly moving the water through these ponds, it is treated and purified to LEED standards. Finally, the water reaches the celebration pond, honoring its journey to purification.
In the third system, water travels through the central lake that was designed to mimic the seasons of the year. This system controls water elevations in relation to the student population on campus. When the student population is low and the water level is high, the public spaces surrounding the lake are designed to be submerged in water.
Water Conservation as a Design Aesthetic
Duke Kunshan is a catalyst project for the region, showing that water conservation on a global campus is possible. The design for the campus controls the annual amount of stormwater runoff and runoff is currently at a better state than at pre-development. Recently, the campus was recognized as part of China’s Sponge City initiative, aimed at promoting development practices that treat and purify rainwater and curb flooding risks. Duke Kunshan’s success has led to positive feedback from the community regarding the Sponge City Method, leading to the design and construction of other Sponge City projects in the City of Kunshan.
Playgrounds – Where Education and Nature Collide
LandDesign’s Susan England found her passion in an unlikely place. Growing up, Susan always had a deep respect for nature, […]
LandDesign’s Susan England found her passion in an unlikely place. Growing up, Susan always had a deep respect for nature, spending her childhood playing in the woods, camping and hiking. This love for her natural environment pushed her to pursue a career in landscape architecture, and in 2010 she joined LandDesign’s team in Washington, DC. Combining her love of nature and unique eye for design, Susan found her niche—transforming playgrounds into engaging play spaces that connect children with their landscape.
Susan seeks to create landscape design that will benefit children emotionally, physically and socially. Knowing that education is more than what happens inside the classroom, her design for play spaces incorporates the use of native materials that encourage students to engage with and respect their environment. In a 2012 study by the University of Tennessee, Dawn Coe, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies, analyzed the behavior of children after their traditional playground was replaced with a natural landscape. She found that children were more active and imaginative, and more than doubled their play time in a natural playscape versus a traditional metal playground. Susan uses these types of studies to lead designers in the transformation of playgrounds, including the recent play space at Capitol Hill Day School in Washington, DC.
Community Inspired Design
Capitol Hill Day Schools (CHDS) mission is to deeply engage a diverse community of students in connecting the classroom to the larger world, supporting each child in developing the confidence, compassion and intellectual capacity to live a life of purpose and value. With this mission in mind, CHDS saw the opportunity to upgrade their existing playground, and partnered with LandDesign to transform their playground into an active learning and play space that supports their mission and values.
Susan led a team of landscape architects in designing a playground at CHDS that emphasizes nature play, respect for the environment and fosters curiosity about the natural world. With the goal to create a play space where students of all ages can enjoy, each design element incorporates the use of both traditional play equipment and natural materials. Natural elements, such as sand, water and native and edible plants promote hands-on learning, imagination and interactive play. A dry creek bed with a hand pump for water play sits adjacent to a sand pit, allowing the children to play with each feature individually or use buckets to bring water to the sand for expanded creative play options.
Where Education and Nature Collide
After the completion of the playground, 6th grade teachers at CHDS decided to incorporate a project-based learning unit on community values into their lesson plan and use physical spaces as a framework for the study. Choosing to utilize the newly renovated playground as a case study for the lesson, the teachers invited Susan to speak to the class about how the school’s mission and values inspired the landscape design.
To give the class a glimpse into the design process, Susan worked with the students to brainstorm what values were important to their class and school community. Susan took the discussion to the playground where the students could explore the playscape and discover design elements that reflected the values they identified.
The children were able to make connections between the value of hands-on learning and collaboration through play elements such as sand, water and mulch; emotional and social well-being through open play nooks; respect for the environment and the use natural materials; and imaginative play and the inclusion of interactive elements such as chalkboards, a stage platform and moveable logs. Throughout this exercise, the students were able to gain a deeper understanding of how a community’s values can inspire design and in turn positively impact the community.
At LandDesign, we understand that design is more than creating a place. It’s creating a place that brings value to the community it belongs to. For the students of CHDS, their playground is now part of the fabric that makes up their community, and is a place for learning, growing and innovating. For Susan, design is not just creating a place, it’s creating an extension of the classroom, where education and nature collide.
Ask Kevin Vogel about how LandDesign’s civil engineers and landscape architects work together, and he’ll confidently tell you, “it’s just […]
Ask Kevin Vogel about how LandDesign’s civil engineers and landscape architects work together, and he’ll confidently tell you, “it’s just what we do.” Kevin is an advocate for LandDesign’s collaborative culture, and has worked alongside engineers and landscape architects to bring together diverse perspectives that produce better projects. It’s a simple formula, but when we bring the disciplines together early on in the design process—that’s when the magic happens!
Below, Kevin tells us what he thinks about the progression of our collaborative culture:
Q: What are the benefits that come with bringing civil engineers and landscape architects together at the start of the project?
I like to say that our civil engineers get a minor in landscape architecture, and our landscape architects get a minor in engineering. We know, understand and appreciate what the other brings to the table from years of collaborating and cultivating this design culture. We are always looking for opportunities to come together to make better places.
We have a great portfolio and breadth of work that proves our value to a client’s project by bringing together landscape architecture and civil engineering. Most people don’t understand the value until they see the dynamic between the disciplines working together from the start.
Q: Was there an the “ah-ha” moment, when you realized the benefits of collaboration between disciplines?
Ultimately, there are “ah-ha” moments in every project. Some projects are more integrated than others, but whatever the opportunity, you can find the “ah-ha” moment. With projects like Duke Kunshan University (Kunshan, PRC), Symphony Park (Charlotte, NC), LPL Financial Headquarters (Fort Mill, SC) and Kingsley Town Center (Fort Mill, SC), we pulled off stormwater, infrastructure, etc. while also maintaining the aesthetic and vision of the place. Those were some of our most collaborative projects.
Personally, an early “ah-ha” moment was when we started the entitlement process for the SouthPark Mall project in Charlotte, NC. Richard Petersheim (landscape architect) and I were both starting our career and we went to Caribou Coffee to discuss the project, and (ah-ha!) we knew that for us to pull this off, we had to focus on integrating our two disciplines.
Actually, the concept for Symphony Park was born out of this collaboration between Richard and I. The Charlotte Symphony used to perform their summer concert series on a grass field, but it had to be relocated to make way for new development. We started searching for spaces on the project site where we could move the Symphony and looked at an area of the property with a large ravine. We could have turned our backs to that space, but we chose to add a 2-acre pond that controls stormwater runoff from the new development and improves water quality. The cherry on top is the placement of the Symphony’s stage—right in the middle of the pond surrounded by the open space for folks to gather!
Q: What would you like for people to know about collaboration at LandDesign?
As engineers, we are problem solvers, so we tend to look for problems. But, I always like to say that your first answer is never “no.” Our minds are spinning from the start of a project about all the regulatory restrictions and hurdles, but it’s our job to figure those issues out. When our outstanding landscape architects and engineers come together, we can truly realize what the project wants to be.
Q: Speak to your experience working on Duke Kunshan University and the collaboration our team had to have for the project to be successful.
Duke Kunshan was a great opportunity! We won the design competition for Duke Kunshan based on our vision to integrate water into the campus. That area of China frequently floods and has seasons of high and low water. We pitched a central lake that would mimic the seasons of the year and rise and fall with the water levels. We maintained that overarching vision and saw it manifest into a really successful project.
The collaboration internally was like most of our projects. LandDesign was running the design and concepts, but this was a great example of how we integrate our services to come up with an idea that balances infrastructure and landscape architecture. We had to understand each other’s disciplines to bring our collaborative working environment to China, and successfully work side-by-side with their local teams.
Q: How has your background as a musician influenced your ability to collaborate with designers of different disciplines?
Being in a band is similar to being in a design charrette or client meeting. In the context of a band, you sit in a studio and start playing music that doesn’t exist yet and you create it in the context of a team. You come up with an idea and vision for what the song is going to be and go through the nuts and bolts to figure out what works, until you have a song. Creating new music is like working on a project and uncovering a vision for a project. Everyone puts their ideas on the table and all of a sudden you start rolling with the big idea, until you’ve got a project.
Q: What has your career as a civil engineer taught you about anticipating future infrastructure needs?
As communities grow, there are a lot of pressures on infrastructure. With new development comes runoff, flooding and water quality issues from an environmental standpoint, as well as capacity, transportation and roadway issues from an infrastructure standpoint. At LandDesign, we work with municipalities to provide a process that can help with these pressures and serve on stakeholder committees and advisory boards to strike a balance between being good stewards of our community, while working alongside our clients to create the great places communities need to grow.
Q: As a designer that has worked on numerous types of projects, (master planning, public infrastructure, public-private partnerships, etc.), what have those experiences collectively taught you?
Every project is an opportunity to listen to what the client and project needs are. We need to look ahead and not just think about what’s going on in the moment, but anticipate future needs. As engineers, we aren’t just here to design and permit, but to go above and beyond to help our clients build a successful project and create a place everyone is proud of.
The role of civil engineers and landscape architects in creating safer communities
— Janalyn Newchurch, PE According to the Charlotte Transportation Department (CDOT), there is an average of one pedestrian death […]
— Janalyn Newchurch, PE
According to the Charlotte Transportation Department (CDOT), there is an average of one pedestrian death every other week in this city. In response, the Vision Zero plan, implemented by CDOT, intends to completely eliminate all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030, but the program needs participation and support from those that shape our city.
Where does that put the design world when it comes to pedestrian safety?
It puts us, civil engineers and landscape architects, at the forefront of the effort to make cities safer for the community at large.
At LandDesign, we recognize our role in shaping communities and our influence on rapidly-growing cities like Charlotte. This is why we incorporate pedestrian safety elements into our projects. We use design elements such as pedestrian refuge islands, dedicated bike lanes and wide multi-use paths to make Charlotte a safer community.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 76% of pedestrian fatalities happen in urban settings.
Rea Farms, a new mixed use development in one of Charlotte’s most loved suburbs, is a great example of where we have used a variety of elements to create a safe and enjoyable experience for people, as the area becomes more urbanized.
We included crosswalks to connect the neighborhood to the south of Ardrey Kell Road so the community has a safe way to access the development. Sidewalks are designed to run along Ardrey Kell extending to Stone Creek Ranch, the neighboring community to the west. This too will encourage pedestrians to partake in the new mixed use area, while giving them a protected way to get there.
Pedestrian fatalities are located outside of intersections 72% of the time, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Pedestrian refuge islands provide people on foot a safe place to stop if they cannot make it across the road within the allotted time. Camp North End has several pedestrian refuges at intersections and at mid-bock crossings, giving people more protected places to cross the street. Our design of mid-block crossings discourage crossing outside of these designated areas, keeping people safe at the crossing locations.
Many of our projects have reshaped intersections to make the crosswalk more perpendicular to the street, which gives the walker a shorter distance to travel in the roadway.
The idea of designing a city around personal motor vehicles is changing to the idea of designing for the non-motorist.
Pedestrian and non-motorist safety is very important as the city continues to grow and change. Dedicated bike lanes give more room to motor vehicles and cyclists so they can share the road in a safer way. It allows the novice biker to feel comfortable navigating the roadways without fear of incident with a vehicle.
On the bridge on Providence Road over I-485 in Charlotte, we incorporated green thermoplastic paint at the high conflict point where motorists have to turn across the bike lane. This increases visibility to motorist and draws extra attention to the problem area.
There are over 40 growing cities currently committed to the Vision Zero initiative throughout the United States.
In our office across the nation, it’s exciting to be a part of teams across the country working to create safer communities for pedestrians and cyclists!
Janalyn Newchurch is a civil engineer in LandDesign’s Charlotte office where she is involved in all stages of civil design. Working collaboratively with landscape architects, Janalyn uses her design skills to create better communities through roadway and infrastructure design. Her commitment to community shows through in her volunteer work with OutTeach, ACE Mentor and Carolina PAWS.
DesignIdeation: Dallas Multi-Family
Heth Kendrick is a LandDesigner through and through. He started his career in our Charlotte headquarters, immersing himself in our […]
Heth Kendrick is a LandDesigner through and through. He started his career in our Charlotte headquarters, immersing himself in our storytelling approach to design. In 2014, Heth and his family relocated to our Dallas office to introduce landscape architecture and help drive our mission to ‘Create Places that Matter’ across the nation. He brought with him over a decade of experience in master planning and multi-family design along with the LandDesign passion for storytelling. Heth is now helping multi-family developers think about the city’s growth in a new way.
Below, he tells us what he thinks the future of multi-family development looks like in the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) region:
Q: What trends are you seeing in the Dallas multi-family market?
A: In DFW, developers are starting to ask design teams how to build a more efficient building that requires less material, but still has a high level of design. As DFW continues to grow, multi-family developers will need to plan for a sustainable future and reinvent the way we develop to accommodate that growth.
Q: In addition to the way we develop, what considerations need to be made to accommodate rapid growth in DFW?
A: Towns, especially in surban and suburban markets are hesitant to embrace multi-family and densification. In DFW, there’s a desire to grow multi-family outside of the city proper, but there’s push-back from surrounding towns. We need to understand the complexities of densification in terms of transportation, stormwater, utilities, etc., but also how to educate surrounding communities on the benefits of growth.
Q: How does the Dallas multi-family market differ from multi-family development in other markets you’ve worked in?
A: In Texas, we have far more design freedom than many locations in the U.S. Pool codes are more relaxed, which allows us to be more innovative with how pools can function. This is great, given that our weather affords a nine month pool season! The climate has a huge influence on the design of outdoor amenity spaces and allows them to be the focal point of the community.
Q: What multi-family amenities are currently trending?
A: We are working on multi-family all throughout Texas, but amenities are pretty much the same everywhere. Swimming pools are still popular in Texas and Arizona, and everyone wants sun shelves (tanning ledges) and moving water. Dog parks are a given. Ten years ago, dog parks were the cutting edge amenity, but now if your community doesn’t have a dog park then you will not attract residents. 60% of all residential homeowners have pets, so if you don’t have a dog park, people with pets may be less attracted to a multi-family community or they will use the great amenities you are planning as the dog park.
We’re also seeing innovative design opportunities like beer gardens and social gathering spaces. Developers need to understand if their target demographic is the 35 and younger crowd, they’ll want to gather in groups of 14-40. But, you also need to plan those spaces for residents that want to detach and create spaces for groups of one to four.
Q: What factors are influencing multi-family design? (i.e. – technology, sustainability, transportation, etc.)
A: Transportation – We are looking at how automatic vehicles, electric charging stations and drop off points for Uber/Lyft are influencing multi-family design. Just like the dog park 10 years ago, if your community doesn’t have an Uber drop off point you’re behind the times.
Technology – Technology is changing the residential experience from how you tour an apartment to how residents access their rooms. Developers and getting rid of the fob/key system and allowing residents to access their apartment via smartphone. We are also seeing developers integrate tablets into the tour process, allowing potential residents to walk and experience the space at their own leisure.
Sustainability – Our designers are incorporating sustainable design solutions that are showing developers that we can solve some of the world’s problems one development at a time. For example, we are placing honey bees on the rooftop of a multi-family community, which will allow management to harvest the honey and gift it to potential residents and sell to local businesses. Our DC office was the inspiration behind that!
Q: What do you anticipate happening to the multi-family market in the next 10-20 years?
A: Changes will need to be made based on the conversations about transportation. We’ll see developers backfilling developments as parking garages and surface parking becomes less dependent on vehicles. We can increase density by retrofitting parking garages to allow for more residential units and transform surface parking into open space.
Additionally, a challenge with Texas is that there aren’t a lot of natural growth barriers, and cities will continue to sprawl into suburban areas. We’ll start to see more edge cities like Plano, Frisco and Arlington becoming cities unto themselves and shifting from a suburban community to a new urban market.
The catalog didn’t kill retail, and neither will the internet.
Let’s get one thing straight, retail isn’t dying, it’s evolving. Before the internet and Amazon dominated the retail industry, there […]
Let’s get one thing straight, retail isn’t dying, it’s evolving. Before the internet and Amazon dominated the retail industry, there was the catalog. The catalog disrupted the retail industry, giving consumers the ability to shop from the comfort of their Lazy Boy.
Today, we are experiencing a new retail disruptor—the internet. The internet paved the way for online-only retailers to establish themselves as trusted and well-known brands in a highly-competitive marketplace. Even though the internet has transformed the way consumers purchase goods—the catalog didn’t kill retail, and neither will the internet.
The internet is a key player in retail’s renaissance.
As consumers familiarized themselves with Amazon Prime and same-day delivery, the need for brick-and-mortar storefronts faded away. Retailers were no longer limited by physical location and could reach thousands of consumers through digital marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and even social media.
Online brands have taken advantage of the internet’s power in creating brand loyalty by utilizing social media. Digitally-native brands like eyeglass manufacturer, Warby Parker, beauty brand, Glossier and mattress retailer, Casper have utilized social media to generate brand awareness and loyalty among consumers. Each online retailer has created a deep, personal connection with their customers which is becoming more vital in retail’s success.
With as much attention e-commerce has gotten from consumers, the need for a physical presence is becoming more crucial as people desire experiences over home delivery.
From clicks to bricks.
People want to touch, see and feel products before making a purchase, but online brands are limited to creating a virtual connection with shoppers. Knowing the need to foster an emotional connection with consumers, digitally-native brands are getting back to the basics of retail and opening brick-and-mortar storefronts.
Commercial development consultant, JLL estimates that digitally-native brands will open 850 physical stores in the next five years.
With the notion that the ‘retail apocalypse’ is upon us, online retailers making the shift from a digital to physical presence may seem like a questionable move. But in reality, online retailers establishing a physical presence is only increasing their brand awareness and enhancing their online performance. According to a study by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), opening a physical storefront helps the consumer not only put a face to the brand, but increases online traffic by an average of 45%.
Occupying both a virtual and brick-and-mortar space is a win-win for online retailers. Loyal customers will rush to experience the digital brand come-to-life, and a new group of consumers will get to discover the brand, their products and their digital platform for the first time.
However, the true measure of success is how online retailers will translate their digital brand experience to physical retail.
Meet the “new” retail anchors.
Consumers desire a unique retail experience and making deep connections with brands they trust. Online retailers have been able to accomplish this in the virtual realm—but how can they create a one-of-a-kind shopping experience in real life?
Online retailers have generated ‘hype’ around their brand through their online experience. This same excitement must be felt in their physical retail experience. Take online beauty retailer, Glossier for example. Glossier’s iconic pink-covered online presence and ethical beauty products have supported the brand’s loyal following. When the beauty brand opened its flagship store in NYC this past year, the storefront had to evoke the same feeling it created virtually. Shoppers flocked to Glossier’s pop up to see the brand come to life. After scrolling it’s social media accounts, it’s easy to see why consumers would want to experience the brand first-hand and take advantage of the ‘Instagrammable’ storefront. The digitally-native brand has seen tremendous success by establishing a physical presence and is expected to continue growing its physical retail presence this year.
The catalog came along to enhance the shopping experience, just as the internet is doing today. E-commerce is transforming retail as we know it and those who are adapting are experiencing success in both virtual and physical realms. So, before widespread panic sets in, take a breath and remember if the catalog didn’t kill retail, neither will the internet.
DesignIdeation: Master Planning
Long before he became president of LandDesign, Rhett Crocker was drawing plans and imagining how communities could grow. Baxter Village […]
Long before he became president of LandDesign, Rhett Crocker was drawing plans and imagining how communities could grow. Baxter Village in Fort Mill, SC was the first large-scale master planned community of his career, sparking a passion for drawing complex plans and building long-term relationships that come with lengthy buildouts. Today, Rhett is still drawing, but with a perspective that can only come with 20 years of experience.
Below, he tells us what he thinks the future of master planning looks like:
Q: Who needs a master plan?
A: I prefer to call it community planning. Master plans can come in a variety of scales and uses from communities to urban infill to resorts. Our job is to create the best vision for the place – for a community of people that we may never know. But this will be a place where people raise their families, start their businesses, earn their degrees, or relax on vacation.
Q: What’s the benefit of master planning?
A: It’s to have a better understanding of the long-term, so we know what to do in the short-term. These projects are built over many years and phases, so they have to be strategically planned and designed. Often times the most successful plans are those designed with the flexibility to adapt to changing markets, or uses. For LandDesign, bringing landscape architecture and civil engineering together on master plans helps us create a better vision for our clients and their projects.
Q: What do you know now about master planning that you wish you knew when you started out?
A: Sometimes we learn best by understanding what not to do, or what hasn’t worked best in the past. This all comes with experience and knowledge of the market and our clients. Once we understand how to think like our clients, we become better designers and advocates of their vision. The best experience we can get is seeing our plans come to life and always learning from that process to make the next one better.
Q: What will happen to existing master planned communities in 10-20 years?
A: Diversity in uses, density and infill. We’re seeing ‘suburban’ models becoming ‘infill’ strategies — which is great as it keeps the infrastructure and amenities more integral to the community, rather than continuing to spread out. A lot of suburban communities are becoming more urban, and adding the density and lifestyle component will make them places people want to live and work. It’s the key to affordability and the solution to transportation and proximity issues.
Additionally, a focus on active and healthy lifestyles. This is not new, but there certainly is a greater emphasis on being more active and healthy. Whether it’s walking/biking to work or knowing where our food comes from, all of this is important to the communities we are creating.
Q: What factors are influencing master planning? (i.e. – technology, sustainability, transportation, etc.)
A: All of the above — and how technology, sustainability and transportation are connected to people’s desire for access to more time. I like to say, “time is the new anchor.” People want to live within a close proximity to work and amenities so they have more time to experience life and less time commuting in their cars. Technology allows us to be better connected with many resources at our disposal – which give us more free time. We’re living in a time where we trust technology to get us through daily tasks more and more. We have to figure out what that means to an evolving community design.
Transportation options and mobility choices will continue to be a large part of this narrative in the coming years. Major advances are being made in the transportation world that will lead us to less dependency on the individual automobile. It’s important to keep this in mind, as one day we’ll be planning with less parking, streets and homes with garages. What this will do to the next generation of community planning will be fascinating, but we know it won’t happen overnight.
Q: What trends are you seeing in master planning presentation?
A: Video, animation and virtual reality (VR). People have a hard time visualizing the scale of a project. We’ve used VR Goggles to let people experience a place before it’s built. Technology is key to showing people what the project will look and feel like in real life, and it’s amazing the experience it can provide to those not accustomed to looking at plans.
Q: How can we stay on top of trends and start defining trends within the industry?
A: Dedicating time to research. Studying our projects gives us information to help us make better decisions and create better designs. We are currently working with universities and other partners to help us understand perspectives and where other markets are excelling, which may affect the future of community planning.
We have to continue to understand the choices people are making in their daily lives and how that affects where they want to live and work. As we all become more connected to technology, opportunities we thought were not reality become the norm. Just think, less than 15 years ago we had no iPhone/Uber/Airbnb/Netflix/Amazon same-day delivery. It didn’t exist and certainly was not a part of every day discussions. Today, it’s the norm.
Q: What role do you think civil engineers serve in the master planning profession?
A: The biggest role! These communities are being developed over time, and ultimately, they have to be buildable and affordable. The beautiful places we create are dependent on the best engineers to design, and we have those engineers! Engineering is integral in the planning and design process for these communities.
Engineers Week 2019
— Megan Schultz, PE February 17-23 is a week set aside to highlight and celebrate the achievements of engineers and […]
— Megan Schultz, PE
February 17-23 is a week set aside to highlight and celebrate the achievements of engineers and encourage youth to pursue careers in the A/C/E (architecture/construction/engineering) industry.
Breaking the Engineering Stereotype
While we are not above a well-placed math pun, the modern image of engineers has thankfully grown past pocket-protectors and thick rimmed glasses. We are seeing more diversity in the engineering workforce all around the country. Colleges and universities are offering more and more dual-degree and arts-engineering programs in their curriculum’s. Even the high school students I’ve met at ACE also come from all type of backgrounds and have varied interests.
It is our passion that we derive from our interests and backgrounds that will drive our best designs. I love hearing that engineering students pursue more in their free time than just their homework. Being able to draw from personal experiences in art, sports, theatre, or nature can make a good design into a great one. Especially when you are lucky enough to be designing a space that you are passionate about, your background can provide insight on details and nuances that make places exceptional. I think it is imperative for the engineering industry to celebrate and encourage this growing diversity!
What’s that you say? Civil engineers don’t get involved with the design of buildings? We just design utility connections and deal with site work? No, we aren’t architects or LAs, but that doesn’t mean our feedback at a charette or design meeting can’t be valued and incorporated. PSA to engineers: speak up and share your creativity!
Let’s break the stereotype, embrace what makes us more than just engineers and bring it to the collaboration table. After all, we are all on the same team, working towards the same goal (to create a place the matters). Having studied both civil engineering and architecture in college, I appreciate the overlap between the design methods. It taught me the importance of appreciating the concerns of all team members and learning to listen and speak in more than just engineering lingo.
It’s important to remember to keep trying to improve team communication. LandDesign is the perfect example of how open and continuous collaboration allows us to create innovation and beautiful spaces.
I’ve heard it said that good engineering means that you’ll never know that it’s there. Many of our most creative designs are often the most hidden, so it’s tough to reflect on accomplishments when the solutions are out of sight and out of mind. It’s important to share engineering successes with clients, consultant, and the public alike throughout all stages of the project.
Now, each new product presented at a lunch and learn isn’t going to be a one-stop solution to every project, but the point is—it’s important to pursue a new technology or creative approach to a typical problem. While red tape can be an engineer’s worst enemy, that does not mean we should be become complacent and avoid presenting new ideas and innovative designs. If we are convinced that our design is the best solution for the social, economic and environmental needs of our project, we should take that challenge on and be leaders in developing the new standards that future engineers may design by. Even if it falls through on the first attempt, remember it for next time, and try, try again!
There are new technologies and innovations being developed every day, which is critical as we are going to be facing bigger and more complex challenges in the future.
Climate Change is going to drastically impact the way that civil engineers and designers think in general. We are already experiencing the impacts of regulatory restrictions and increasing floodplains. It is imperative for us to be proactive, and not just reactive to these changes. We need to offer sound advice and engineering guidance to our clients about how their sites can accommodate for potential environmental impacts.
Taking it one step further, the prices and costs of various fuel and energy sources may begin to change. Accommodating sustainability and resiliency into our designs will go a long way to making sure that our places start off on the right foot and remain great over time!
Inspired By Design
2018 was a year of inspiration! We designed the heck out of some places and made them matter too. But, […]
2018 was a year of inspiration! We designed the heck out of some places and made them matter too. But, before we get to designing our way through 2019, we’d like to look back at some of our favorite projects of 2018.
Crystal City, Crystal City, VA
Before Crystal City became part of National Landing (looking good, Amazon), LandDesign was already working with JBG Smith on the rebirth of Crystal City as a 24/7 community. Given that Crystal City is practically in our backyard, this project hits close to home for our LandDesigners in DC. Through the transformation of the existing infrastructure of open space and streetscape, our designers are looking to create meaningful and accessible public spaces and amenities for current and future residents. The design will create a balance between a mix of uses and reshape the area for a new generation. As Crystal City begins this amazing transition, LandDesign is excited to be a partner and neighbor in crafting a new vision for the region.
Town Center Corte Madera, Corte Madera, CA
LandDesign has been working with 505Design on the renovation and reimagining of the Town Center Corte Madera. The most rewarding and challenging part of the redevelopment was the South Entry Plaza. Proposed demolition of the plaza was deemed too great an undertaking, so our designers worked to present a design solution to cover the existing infrastructure, but still using it for structural support. The result is a design that adheres to the upscale feel of the Town Center and creates a functional space for shoppers to gather. Coordination, collaboration and dedication to this project added to the overall success of the final design.
South End, Charlotte, NC
Charlotte’s post-industrial neighborhood of South End has been beaming with opportunity for decades, waiting for someone to see its potential. Now, just about every developer in the area is trying to get their hands on the golden ticket that is South End. This year, LandDesign has been a part of design teams that are redefining this district as Charlotte’s go-to destination for retail, dining and entertainment. Our part in bringing South End into the future includes creative stormwater solutions at The RailYard, a new multi-family development, working with retail experts, Asana Partners to piece together a vision for the Design District and upgrading Atherton Mill to a true transit-oriented mixed use development. LandDesign is an advocate and partner to the South End community every step of the way. (The new Jeni’s doesn’t look too shabby either.)
Asana Deep Ellum, Dallas, TX
Adaptive Reuse isn’t a trend that should be left in 2018, but a major part of 2019’s identity. LandDesigners in Dallas, TX are working with Asana Partners on the adaptive reuse of two historic buildings located in the Deep Ellum community. This small urban design development shows what collaboration means at LandDesign. Our landscape architects and civil engineers are working alongside Asana to discover a design solution that is right for Deep Ellum. The design takes into consideration the urban, industrial character of the community, while also providing a fresh design to position this retail center for success. With a scheduled completion of first quarter 2019, we can’t wait to see how this development will continue to service the growing region.
That said—2019, we’re coming in hot!
Retail centers don’t have a design problem, they have an idea problem.
Retail centers all over the country are seeing big-box stores like Macy’s and Sears close their doors due to increasingly […]
Retail centers all over the country are seeing big-box stores like Macy’s and Sears close their doors due to increasingly dropping sales. Without these anchors bringing customers in the door, retail centers are having a bit of an identity crisis. With online shopping and two-day delivery just a click away, why go to the mall? That million (er, billion) dollar question has LandDesigners thinking about how to transform forgotten shopping centers into unique customer experiences that will bring value back to owners and the community.
“Goods and services are no longer enough; what consumers want are experiences – memorable events that engage each individual in an inherently personal way. For retailers to survive and thrive tomorrow, they must understand the ramifications of today’s fundamental shift in the very fabric of the economy.” – B. Joseph Pine II co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP + author of The Experience Economy
Today, retail centers have to compete in a digital world. Digital storefronts can offer consumers the same, or even more, products and deals than their retail competitors, with less time and effort from the customer. But that doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar storefronts will disappear. LandDesign Principal, Eric Pohlmann says that we won’t see physical stores go away. In fact, online brands, like Warby Parker, Bonobos, Casper and many others are continuing to open physical stores throughout the country.
In order for retail to thrive in this digital age, retailers must create something different for consumers, specifically, something no one else has within the market. Whether it’s repositioning the store itself, the exterior space or the experience of getting to the store, everyone is searching for the ‘it’ factor. That leads us to the real question retailers are asking—what ideas are driving the new retail landscape?
Make it Mixed Use
Some shopping centers are looking to add more uses like residential, office, entertainment and open space to support retailers. By adding a mix of uses, the retail space becomes a high-density mixed use district, rather than a singular shopping destination. In the past, much of the space in retail centers has been taken up by unused surface parking. We live in an era where mobility and transportation is rapidly changing and there is an opportunity to recapture parking spaces for new commercial development to complement the retail experience.
LandDesign projects like Northlake Mall (Charlotte, NC) and Westminster Mall (Westminster, CA) are both going through renovations to enhance the overall experience. Focusing on how these centers can best serve their communities, property owners are considering a mix of uses to make these suburban centers more attractive.
See Things Through a New Lens
Technology is leading the transformation of experiential shopping, and physical storefronts can embrace technology as a differentiator between them and the digital competition. Retailers tend to forget that consumers want to touch, see and feel a product before making a purchase — something digital storefronts can’t provide.
Tools like interactive apps and augmented reality are meant to engage and delight the consumer and give them multi-sensory experiences of seeing, smelling and hearing new things. Retailers have the opportunity to use these tools to create a customized, immersive and memorable experience with their brand These experiences can create the emotional connections that ultimately drive purchasing decisions. Retailers can lean on technology to enhance the shopping experience and generate brand awareness and marketing in the influencer world (win, win!).
Keep Things Fresh
Experiential retail doesn’t always have to be about permanent design changes. In the past, retail lease agreements would last from five to seven years. Now, there is a shift to shorter lease terms allowing for new brands to rotate spaces to keep the shopping experience fresh. Pop-up shops have been keeping retail trendy for years, but recently, leading retail developer, Macerich, is taking the concept to their shopping centers. Macerich’s Pop-Up EXP is a micro-retail, pop-up experience that allows retailers to test out merchandise, capitalize on product launches, interact with thousands of consumers and create memorable experiences with their brand. Additionally, New York-based retailer, STORY, created an entirely new shopping experience through their ‘pop-up like’ concept that sells items from the point of view of a magazine. The carefully curated storefront acts like a pop-up shop that changes concept every four to six weeks, keeping the brand relevant and creating an exclusive experience for shoppers.
We’ve being seeing the term ‘retail apocalypse’ everywhere, but from where we stand, retail isn’t dead; it’s just evolving!
Today, shoppers care more about how they spend their time, who their dollars are going to, and ultimately, having an authentic and exciting retail experience. The way consumers shop has changed and it’s not a surprise. Let’s be real, who actually wants to spend their Saturday wandering aimlessly around a crowded mall? People desire something truly different, and when you put the experience first, it opens up a world of possibilities for retailers.
In reality, we have an exciting opportunity for the retail market to be the strongest it’s ever been. So let’s start with the idea, and then design the heck out of it!
Behind the Design: Simon Elementary School
At LandDesign, we strive to understand the connection between our built environment and nature, and how we can create healthier […]
At LandDesign, we strive to understand the connection between our built environment and nature, and how we can create healthier communities by marrying the two. We take the challenge to design healthier communities head-on, with the end user’s well-being in mind. The playgrounds at Simon Elementary School, located in Washington, DC, were once an uninspiring play space that was contributing to the poor water quality of the nearby Potomac River. Our designers saw an opportunity to transform the school’s playground and create a play space that would make a positive change for the region, and a healthier community for the students and teachers at Simon Elementary School.
From Pavement to Play Space
The playgrounds at Simon Elementary School were comprised of nearly two acres of pavement with only one small piece of play equipment on each. Located less than 500 feet from the banks of Oxon Run, a tributary to the Potomac River, the playgrounds were a textbook example of land contributing to rain runoff issues. LandDesign worked closely with the school principal, a group of teachers and parents, the District Department of Environment and Department of General Services to develop a pilot project to test integration of pending strict stormwater management regulations into school grounds. Capitalizing on stormwater management as a vehicle for change, our team created a landscape design for the playground that would infuse the play space with nature and create opportunities for children to explore and play in a natural landscape, while contributing to the rehabilitation of the Potomac watershed.
Closer to Nature
The new playground includes a blend of active and passive play areas, encouraging positive social interactions and physical development. To maximize the usability and impact of the playground, it was critical to keep the design flexible, which was achieved through the use of multipurpose play elements, open lawn areas and gathering spaces that can serve for classrooms and events as well as social hangouts. The design carves out a dynamic, absorbent landscape that improves water infiltration and forms pockets of differentiated play areas.
Large rain gardens surround the schoolyard, improving water management conditions while providing children direct contact to the process of treating rain runoff, fostering a natural appreciation for the environment. Native plants were carefully selected for their water tolerance, one of the many low impact development tools employed to support river improvements. The design for the playground redirects roof drainage to swales through the play space. An increase in pervious surface by 30% slows down runoff and reduces erosion.
Born from a watershed rehabilitation initiative, the Simon Elementary School playground was transformed into an inspiring, functional landscape that manages stormwater while forging a direct relationship between children and nature, planting the seed for environmental stewardship. In 2018, LandDesign was awarded the Potomac Chapter ASLA Social Impact Award for our work on the Simon Elementary School playground.
What Do Our Design Engineers Value?
In honor of National Engineers Week, we’re highlighting the values of our civil engineers through designs that resulted from […]
In honor of National Engineers Week, we’re highlighting the values of our civil engineers through designs that resulted from our integrated practices.
INNOVATION At Duke Kunshan, our civil engineers designed stormwater infrastructure that allows water to rise and fall with China’s dry and wet seasons.
COLLABORATION The multi-disciplinary approach of LandDesign’s civil engineers, landscape architects and master planners to the development of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway resulted in the restoration of a once-polluted stormwater channel into a thriving ecosystem along with a functional and recreational greenway that has contributed to the economic revitalization of the surrounding community.
SUSTAINABILITY Designed to meet net-zero energy goals, the LPL Financial headquarters obtained LEED Gold Certification through design elements such as the 99% regionally native and drought-tolerant plant palette, the use of permeable pavers for hardscaped areas and a 20,000-gallon cistern that captures runoff from the parking deck.
CONSTRUCTABILITY Infrastructure design for Kingsley Town Center included extensive roadway design, grading, drainage, stormwater management, erosion control and water main design that made the project implementable and constructible.
A GOOD CHALLENGE We faced two big challenges in designing the Discovery at the Realm—the varied topography of the site and the unstable clay soils. Our civil engineers capitalized on these challenges and took the opportunity to introduce a waterfall as a central design feature to enhance the aesthetic and audible experience within the community.
Transforming Tysons [Land8x8]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on Land8. “Why just make something, when you can create something […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on Land8.
“Why just make something, when you can create something that matters?” That’s the firm slogan that Stephanie Pankiewicz, Partner at LandDesign, considers throughout every project, and especially as she has had the opportunity to completely transform Tysons, VA. Currently known for its office parks, shopping malls, and traffic congestion, the future vision for Tysons is that of a high-density city — with walkable streets, an iconic skyline, and quality public spaces. With 14 active projects in Tysons, LandDesign is uniquely positioned to lead the city’s transformation, create something that MATTERS to the community, and set precedent for edge cities around the globe. However, communicating these large-scale changes to the many stakeholders, community members, and county officials has had its challenges. During the Land8x8 Lightning Talks, Stephanie shared how her company has utilized new and innovative technologies to best convey their vision for a vibrantly transformed Tysons.
Tagged by Washingtonian as “what may be the most ambitious suburban redevelopment project not just in Washington, but in all of American history,” the Tysons redevelopment project is a game-changer for the region. Currently a sprawling suburban office park with 167,000 parking spaces, or, as Washingtonian puts it, a “4.3-square-mile tangle of parking lots and office parks that’s long been considered one of the least habitable parts of Washington,” Tysons caters to cars not people. In 2014, four new metro stations opened on Metrorail’s Silver Line, increasing the area’s ease of access and bringing a direct connection from downtown DC to Tysons. Taking advantage of the new transit, county officials initiated a 40-year urbanization plan defined by a walkable urban center, seamlessly integrated public transportation, and acres of parkland. Envisioned at Fairfax County’s new downtown, it is estimated that by 2050 Tysons will be home to up to 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs in that year.
With 1,600 acres of land undergoing construction, such a transformation is hard to fathom – especially for the roughly 19,600 existing residents who may not be so sure about all of this development in their backyard. To convey their vision, LandDesign utilizes 3D visualization, including virtual reality headsets and 3D animations. A grassroots effort among employees, LandDesign uses these tools as a storytelling technique. As Stephanie explains, “To go from surface parking lots to a new downtown with 19 story buildings is quite a transformation, and the neighbors around it are in single-family homes, primarily…to imagine going from your single family neighborhood, a few minutes’ drive away, to a new downtown that is going to have 19 and 20 and 22 story towers is…quite a change. And to be able to explain that in 3D has been very critical.”
The use of 3D technologies have become more prevalent in the design industry, not only as a tool to collaborate with team members, but also to engage the community and realistically express a design idea to those who may not be able to visualize through the typical 2D plan renderings.
The use of 3D technologies have become more prevalent in the design industry, not only as a tool to collaborate with team members, but also to engage the community and realistically express a design idea to those who may not be able to visualize through the typical 2D plan renderings. 3D animations allow users to get a better sense of scale, and a real understanding for how the built product will look and feel. Stephanie adds, “It is also very authentic, which again is very important to the community members, because they don’t want to come to a meeting and think they are seeing a Photoshop montage, they want to know when this park is coming.”
Stephanie urges designers to go beyond the typical use of these 3D tools, as representational imagery, and to instead utilize 3D technology to better understand topography, materiality, scale, and the ultimate functionality of a space. With the assistance of such technology, Stephanie’s team was able to assure neighboring residents, work more collaboratively with team members, and receive county approval – moving one step closer to a new Tysons.
Design Details: It’s the Little Things That Matter
If you didn’t already know, LandDesign doesn’t just create beautiful places—we create places that matter. We consider the environment of […]
If you didn’t already know, LandDesign doesn’t just create beautiful places—we create places that matter. We consider the environment of each place we design and the people who will use it to help us identify the unique qualities that tell that project’s story. Then, we translate these ideas into smaller design details that ultimately impact how people experience each moment in that space.
We dig deep into the details, but are never lost in the weeds.
That means that we are never bogged down by the challenges that come with realizing a great design; in fact, we see challenges as opportunities to introduce innovative solutions. Our ability to connect the dots between design and implementation strongly relates to the collaborative nature of LandDesign—urban planners, landscape architects and civil engineers designing together. If you look closely at each of our projects, you can see how our designers work together to dig deep into the details and capitalize on the opportunities that make a place matter.
Discovery at the Realm
Discovery at the Realm is a perfect example of how we focus on the details to create opportunities that really make each project unique. The Discovery at the Realm design is centered around a manmade lake that functions as part of the site’s stormwater management system and serves as an amenity feature for the community. We faced two big challenges in designing the lake—the varied topography of the site and the unstable clay soils. We capitalized on this challenge and took the opportunity to introduce a waterfall as a central design feature to enhance the aesthetic and audible experience within the community. Head over to our Instagram to find out what details contributed to the implementation of the waterfall at Discovery at the Realm.
Continue to follow along with #DesignDetails on Instagram as we uncover the design details that make places all over the world matter!
Leveraging the Outdoors in Workplace Design
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Today’s workplaces are a notable departure from those of the cubicle-filled past. […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Today’s workplaces are a notable departure from those of the cubicle-filled past. With a better understanding of how design affects the mind, forward-thinking companies have rethought florescent lights, desk partitions, and separate departments, opting for natural light and flexible work zones to support creativity, focus, and teamwork. As companies strive to keep a competitive edge, several are leveraging the measurable benefits of outdoor spaces to improve employees’ creative thinking, refresh, and inspire. Coined by The Huffington Post the “new workplace frontier”, exterior office spaces may be the next design trend, driven by changing work styles, innovative technology, and the growing presence of millennials in the workforce.
What we can do with this outdoor office space is still in its infancy, however, many innovative companies have been able to effectively leverage outdoor space to meet the following needs:
Flexible and open workspaces
New technologies, such as the development of wearables and tablets, have given employees the ability to work from anywhere. As workers become increasingly mobile, the division between indoors and outdoors is breaking down. Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA was designed with plenty of both indoor and outdoor space. Featuring an open floor plan and a 9-acre rooftop park, the headquarters promotes flexibility and mobility, providing a range of choices for different workstyles. This trend of supplying a variety of spaces for workers to inhabit is shown to increase productivity, as the spaces adapt to the employee’s needs instead of requiring the employee to adapt to them.
Similarly, the Under Armour headquarters in Baltimore, MD features a fully-equipped gym, basketball court, and outdoor turf field for warm-ups, yoga classes, or circuit training. Other companies, such as the law firm Venable, are utilizing the outdoors to create an active, animated environment, transforming the area into the new social hub. Featuring a bocce court, lounge, and fire pit, this space is intended to relieve stress and make the office feel a little more exciting.
Integration of work and social space
In addition to indoor/outdoor flexibility, many offices are becoming more comfortable, simulating the relaxed feeling of home in their furniture and layout choices. In an effort to boost satisfaction, productivity, and retention, some employers are replacing or supplementing assigned desk seating with a variety of less-conventional workspaces, such as oversized lounge seating or café tables and chairs, for workers to hold impromptu work sessions.
As companies move toward a more flexible and comfortable workplace, they also are encouraging employees to linger in communal spaces. These shared spaces, where casual meetings and impromptu exchanges occur, often have a different ambiance than the work zone. The use of lounge furniture, bar-height tables, and WiFi invites employees to get away from the formal conference table setting in favor of something cozier. By providing plenty of communal space for chance encounters, employers spur unexpected collisions and collaborations. Data suggest that such collisions improve performance and creativity. Yahoo, for example, notoriously revoked at-home work privileges because, as the chief of human resources explained, “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions.” By creating shared space where employees can work with partners, consultants, and customers, a shared sense of community emerges, and with it, innovation.
A focus on personal health and wellness has become increasingly prevalent recently, and companies are responding to the trend, often considering the health of the environment as well.
Not only are employers providing healthy snacks and fitness classes, some are even considering employee health in the overall design of their facilities. Certifications like LEED and WELL Building Standard are becoming more widespread, with a focus on how to best build a healthy, people-centric office. Kickstarter’s headquarters in Brooklyn, NY is one example of a company choosing sustainable, human-centered design. Formerly a pencil factory, the space was transformed to let in light and features nature-filled spaces, including a central solarium and rooftop edible garden.
Another way to promote wellness is by encouraging movement throughout the day, an activity that research has shown to be important to employees’ physical and mental health. By providing both active spaces for walking, and reflective, serene spaces for contemplation, Kickstarter’s headquarters provides multiple places for employees to get relief from mental fatigue.
Recruitment and retention
Today, the employment experience is just as important as the job. Workplace design is all about designing for people, and organizations must offer a range of options to meet the needs of different groups of workers. What matters most is making employees feel valued, and recognizing that their quality of life matters. As Building Design + Construction states, “community gathering spaces, appealing food offerings, workout facilities, outdoor break areas, recreational amenities, modern furnishings, and advanced technology platforms communicate the message that an employer cares for the well-being of employees, which can be a big aid to recruitment and retention.”
While many companies are beginning to incorporate some of these elements into their workplace design, there’s plenty of room for even greater awareness and implementation of this way of thinking holistically about the workplace.
Building Design + Construction, “Workplace design trends: Make way for the Millennials”
Fast Company, “8 Top Office Design Trends for 2016”
Forbes, “10 Workplace Trends You’ll See in 2017”
Forbes, “Office Design Trends Driven by Millennials”
Gensler, “The 2008 Workplace Surveys”
Harvard Business Review, “Why You Should Tell Your Team to Take a Break and Go Outside”
Harvard Business Review, “Workspaces That Move People”
Huffington Post, “Outdoor Workspace: The Next Workplace Frontier”
SFBI, “9 Essential Workplace Design Trends for 2017 and Beyond”
Wired, “Planning a New Silicon Valley in the Heart of Brooklyn”
WorkDesign Magazine, “2017 Office Design Trends Forecast”
WorkDesign Magazine, “How to Create More Collisions in Your Workspace”
Olmsted Scholar Feature: Coal Ash Wastescapes – Advocating for Design Remediation
By: Lauren Delbridge, LA Designer. Originally posted on LAF News. Landscape architecture naturally combines aspects of science, engineering, ecological understanding, and […]
By: Lauren Delbridge, LA Designer. Originally posted on LAF News.
Landscape architecture naturally combines aspects of science, engineering, ecological understanding, and design in a way that sets us apart from scientists, engineers, ecologists and other designers. We as a profession have the skill set to tackle large-scale issues, which is an aspect of the field that has always captivated me. I quickly became drawn to design projects focused on the remediation of disturbed sites, and I began to find my niche in the complexities of scientific engineering, natural systems, and experimental design.
Nearly 140 million tons of coal ash are produced each year in the United States.
As coal is burned to produce energy, the ash created during the process is collected, mixed with water, and piped to create ponds, which are typically unlined. Coal ash itself contains questionable amounts of heavy metals such as chromium, arsenic, and lead that become problematic as these unlined ponds allow seepage into the underlying groundwater systems.
I framed my year-long thesis project around the issue of coal ash ponds and delved into the complex nature of coal ash, the workings of coal-fired power plants, existing engineering strategies, and applied methods of phytoremediation and bioremediation. With EPA rulings mandating the safe closure of coal ash ponds across the United States, I recognized the great potential for thoughtful, designed remediation strategies that would safely transform a coal ash pond into a space for human interaction, education, and experience.
I focused my work around Dominion’s Chesterfield Power Station, situated along the James River south of Richmond, Virginia. As the largest coal burning power station in the state, the site offers opportunities for remediation at a large scale that could act as a precedent for the treatment of other coal ash ponds across the country. One of the more unique aspects of the site is the adjacent Dutch Gap Conservation Area that creates a distinct juxtaposition between the degraded industrial landscape and thriving ecological habitats. In addition to remediating the coal ash ponds and designing with people in mind, my project also responds to the surrounding ecological conditions.
My thesis project focused on Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield, Virginia.
The most challenging aspect of my project was creating a landscape that was more than a beautiful space. I worked to design a system of remediation that would continue to accept coal ash waste as the Chesterfield Power Station continues to burn coal. The coal ash waste travels through a series of remediation cells and is ultimately transformed into a growing medium. The act of turning waste into soil is the ultimate form of responsible waste management.
The extensive research that went into discovering strategies to remediate coal ash was a huge part of my project, and informed my design work in ways that went well beyond the explorations that I had engaged in previous studio projects. While site inventory, analysis, and synthesis played a role in design development, the overlay of remediation processes introduced me to a new way of going about site design. This coal ash remediation project was ultimately a culmination of science, engineering, and ecology that came together as a space designed to be beautiful and to foster human education and experience. While still experimental and theoretical in nature, “Coal Ash Wastescape” opens the conversation to what coal ash ponds could become in their future lives.
I am interested in continuing to merge science, engineering, and ecology in an artful way to create landscapes that offer more than just a beautiful view. Beginning to understand the complexities of remediation has inspired me to seek out opportunities for landscape architects that expand beyond the traditional boundaries of the profession. I plan to continue research on the remediation of coal ash and get involved with organizations that have the motivation and mandate to explore alternative solutions to the disposal of coal ash. As these conversations develop, I would like to focus more attention on the future of the coal ash pond site as a whole.
In addition to staying involved with the developing conversation about coal ash, I plan to travel to remediated or reclaimed landscapes of note to expand my knowledge of redesigned disturbed lands, with a view to documenting a set of case studies. This documentation could be used as an educational tool for public and/or industry information and as a basis for further design research. Even though to date, very little remediation work has focused on coal ash ponds specifically, much could be learned from current projects that deal with similar issues while creating spaces for people to experience.
I want to push the profession of landscape architecture into conversations currently dominated by scientists, engineers, and ecologists. I feel that we as designers should hold the power to bring together these technical fields in a way that creates environments for people.
Lauren Delbridge is LAF’s 2017 National Olmsted Scholar and winner of the $15,000 undergraduate prize. The Landscape Architecture Foundation’s (LAF) Olmsted Scholars Program recognizes students with exceptional leadership potential who are using ideas, influence, communication and service to advance sustainable design and foster human and societal benefits.
A Walkable City is a Better City
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Intrinsic to the success of cities and the quality of life […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Intrinsic to the success of cities and the quality of life they offer is how people move within them. For the past century, the car has been the central consideration in the design and planning of our urban areas. Increasingly, however, the car-dominated planning era is behind us, as city dwellers are more frequently walking, biking and using public transit to get around. It’s time for city planning and design to catch up with this new trend. That is why Arup Group, a leading international consulting firm of planners, designers, and engineers, is making the case for walking. “From 70 years of practice we know that a walkable city is a better city and that the more we walk the better the city is in every respect,” declares Gregory Hodkinson, Chairman of Arup Group.
Arup’s recent publication, Cities Alive: Towards a Walking World, shines a light on the impact walkability has on the success of a city. This new report analyzes research and trends in city design to show how walkable cities can improve the local economy, the environment and personal wellness. Highlighting 50 drivers of change, 50 benefits of walking, 80 international case studies, and 40 actions that city leaders can take to inform walking policy and design, the report aims to inspire action and aid cities in improving city walkability.
Benefits of walkability
A walkable city has a multitude of benefits. The report demonstrates the significant social, environmental, economic and political benefits of walking and highlights the opportunities available for cities to embrace walking. Here are just a few of the 50 benefits discussed:
- Social benefits: The health benefits of walking are perhaps the clearest, including reducing the likelihood of obesity and chronic disease, as well as improving mental health and happiness. Walking also provides other social benefits, including an opportunity to foster social interaction, reduce crime, and strengthen community identity.
- Environmental benefits: Walking provides an active means for people to mitigate and address local and global environmental concerns. From noise and air pollution to heat island effect, a shift from car-dominated design to pedestrian walkability mitigates a range of environmental concerns. Pedestrian-focused design also allows reclamation of underused road space. Space previously reserved for cars can be shifted towards green space that better addresses community needs, provides wildlife habitat, and functions as stormwater management.
- Economic benefits: Businesses and property owners can also benefit from more walkable places, with research showing that pedestrians spend approximately 65% more than drivers (p.55). Walkability has been proven to boost prosperity, support local business, promote tourism, and encourage inward investment – attracting investors and private companies that in turn feeds higher employment, property values, and more (p.55). Furthermore, investing in better streets and spaces for walking can provide a competitive return compared to other transport projects. Cycling and walking are estimated to provide up to $11.80 in return of investment per $1 invested.
- Political benefits: Walking is increasingly a political agenda item as cities fight to reduce car congestion and pollution while striving for a safer, healthier, more vibrant community of residents and visitors. Promoting walkability addresses sustainable development and city resilience to climate change, while also encouraging inclusiveness and equality.
How walking is changing the city
Car culture is in decline in many parts of the world, including North America, Japan, Australia and European countries. This cultural shift, especially among the millennial generation, is in part due to a change in priorities, where car ownership is no longer a status symbol. In fact, a renewed focus on health and sustainability has caused many to shun cars in favor of walking, cycling and public transit. The 2008 recession made it difficult for many people to afford cars, and the general move toward more flexible employee commuting arrangements has made it easier to get around without owning a vehicle.
Planning efforts to reduce vehicular traffic in favor of more active modes of transport have already begun to show positive results. In particular, an increased prevalence of walking has forced us to design public spaces and streetscapes that are appealing at a human scale. Cities are realizing that in order to encourage walking, routes must be safe and entertaining, which has led to an increased attention in the design of public plazas, green spaces and corridors. Shifting the design focus to walking, access and mobility for people of every age group, income level and ability has also received renewed attention, connecting all parts of the city.
Many cities are taking active steps to encourage more walking among residents and visitors, several of which are already experiencing the wide range of benefits that come from creating places for walking. To show what can be achieved, the report outlines 80 case studies, including improved wayfinding systems, open street events, pocket parks and traffic calming measures that exist today.
Footbridges, such as the one in Rocinha, Brazil, are one strategy to connect communities previously divided by highways, waterways or other impediments. The footbridge, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, connects Rio’s largest favela, Rocinha, to a new sports facility as well as to the surrounding community in an attempt to provide walkable connectivity to an area once divided by a busy highway. Projects such as The Goods Line (in Sydney, Australia) or the High Line (in New York City) similarly connect multiple neighborhoods while keeping pedestrians separate from vehicle traffic. Crossings of pedestrian networks with other transport networks and natural barriers are often the biggest barriers to overcome on foot. Footbridges are a simple option to maintain safe connections and bridge previously divided communities.
Small parks, called parklets, and other nodes of activity also encourage walking by activating streets and enhancing the pedestrian experience. To ease this process, the Department of Transportation in Los Angeles recently initiated “People St” Do it Yourself Street Regeneration Initiative. This program essentially offers DIY urban design kits to create pedestrian plazas, mini-parks and bike parking that is intended to re-appropriate any of the 7,500 miles of street within the city. One project that sprung from the initiative, Sunset Triangle Plaza, closed a portion of the street to vehicular traffic, using treated pavement and large planters to delineate the new pedestrian space, and brought movable furniture and public programming to an underserved area. These innovative public spaces encourage exploration by foot and promote community interaction. Public plazas also inject art and culture into the city, strengthening a neighborhood’s identity.
Improving the wayfinding and signage of a region also promotes walkability simply by making street navigation easy. Signage created by Applied Wayfinding at Brighton, UK combines on-street wayfinding with an iPhone app containing 3D illustrations and searchable content, to help navigate the city. Such maps incentivize walking and make it easier for people to choose walking as a regular daily mode of transport – a public health benefit and an advantage for local retailers that experience an increase in footfall.
By the shifting the focus from cars to people, and placing walking back into the center of urban design, we can create cities that are healthy for people, the environment and businesses. Arup’s comprehensive report proves how walkability is central to the economy, environment and personal health of the city. View the full report here.
Urban Design is Affecting Our Brains
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Design affects the brain. We know this intuitively, as we get […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Design affects the brain. We know this intuitively, as we get frustrated when poor wayfinding causes us to get us lost or we feel renewed after a run in the park, but only recently are we starting to understand how and why. Our immediate environment can prompt both negative and positive effects and it’s becoming evident that the way spaces are designed can exert a strong influence on our behavior. This is especially important in cities, where mental health problems caused by overstimulation, isolation, and loneliness, are particularly high. To alleviate some of these city stressors, we turn to urban design.
City dwelling and mental health
Many factors contribute to mental health and wellness, including biological factors, experiences, and lifestyle, but the built environment also plays a critical role. While mental health and happiness can be difficult to measure, cities are associated with higher rates of most mental health problems compared to rural areas. City dwellers have an almost 40% higher risk of depression, over 20% more anxiety, and double the risk of schizophrenia, in addition to more loneliness, isolation, and stress — including chronic stress, such as gridlock traffic or work demands. Good mental health is critical for both individual well-being and overall human health, but it is under-prioritized in the design of our cities.
Contributors to positive mental health
Urban design has the potential to help support mental health. Urban conditions like pollution, noise, crime, and overstimulation can be reduced with appropriate planning. The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH), an independent research collaborative, is working to increase the body of knowledge and awareness of strategies to support better mental health in cities.
The center highlights the importance of mental health, stating that “good mental health can improve our enjoyment, coping skills, and relationships, our educational achievement, employment, housing and economic potential, help reduce physical health problems, ease healthcare and social care costs, builds social capital, and decrease suicides.” UD/MH has developed a set of policy recommendations, called the Mind the GAPS framework, which encourages city planners and developers to create spaces with the following attributes: Green, Active, Pro-Social, and Safe.
Access to green spaces and nature is continually linked to improved mental health, reducing depression, and improving cognitive functioning. The experience of nature is an antidote to the stressors of urban living. Incorporating street trees, views of nature, and community gardens are all ways to reduce stress. Increasing community walkability and bike-ability, as well as providing good public transit, ensures opportunities for people to be active, which is also linked to improved mental health. Dedicated spaces for sports fields and tennis courts provide active space, as do walking loops in parks. Collectively, green space and active space should be weaved throughout the urban fabric.
Creating social places that encourage interaction is one of the most important opportunities for promoting good mental health. Designing cities that enable human connection helps combat loneliness and feelings of isolation. Social interaction builds self-confidence and fosters a sense of community and belonging. Mixed-use development, which blends shops, offices, and residential spaces into a single neighborhood, is one design approach that sparks interaction among individuals. Design elements as simple as street benches promote conversation, and the creation of open spaces allows for informal meeting spaces for groups. The perceived safety and security of a space is also a component of how people feel. Proper wayfinding and minimized traffic congestion reduce anxiety and help improve feelings of security.
To learn more about the relationship between urban design and mental health, the Urban Realities Laboratory at the University of Waterloo is using tools to conduct psychological research on the streets of cities. From 2011 to 2013, they conducted studies in New York City, Berlin, and Mumbai in which participants were monitored for their psychological state while being lead through city streets. Wristband sensors measured stress levels and emotional states while participants were shown different styles of urban aesthetic. The study showed that many aspects of the urban environment exert a strong effect on our emotions and influence our attraction to particular areas of the city. For example, long, featureless facades caused passersby to become unhappy and bored, while respite from the crowding and noise of the streets, such as green space or a quiet courtyard, produced psychological restoration.
Urban design in action
Some architects and urban designers have already put this research into action. For example, the Trust for Public Land has several urban greening initiatives underway, such as those in Chicago and Los Angeles, which recognize the importance of green space to promote mental health.
In Chicago’s Northwest side, one recent project transformed nearly three miles of unused rail line into an elevated trail. The 606 integrates the community with green space and provides an alternative, uninterrupted commute through the city. This 2.7-mile trail acts as a community connector between four neighborhoods and six ground-level parks. This alternative transportation corridor provides commuters with a less hectic travel and gives low-income neighborhoods spaces to connect to nature and thrive as a community.
In South Los Angeles, a 16 square mile area of concrete alleys is being converted into safe, green, community spaces. The Green Alley Master Plan creates a network that improves community walkability and green space to serve one of the most underserved communities in the region. Both projects highlight the potential urban design has to alleviate city stressors and create livable cities.
While more research is needed, there is already clear evidence that proper urban design can promote good mental health. Given the importance, we need to make positive mental health a priority in urban design. Understanding the effects of urban environments on mental health is the first step in helping to create saner, happier cities.
Where Should We Plant Urban Trees?
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Cities are generally both warmer and more polluted than non-urban […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Cities are generally both warmer and more polluted than non-urban areas, as paved surfaces absorb heat, leading to increased energy consumption, and vehicle and human activity produces waste and airborne particulate matter. These have huge negative consequences for human health, but a dense urban tree canopy can help reduce these risks. The role trees play in making cities livable is well documented, and the increased recognition of the multiple benefits provided by trees has helped spur active planning and management for a healthy urban forest. But where to plant so as to provide the most benefits while efficiently using resources?
A recent study, “Where to plant urban trees? A spatially explicit methodology to explore ecosystem service tradeoffs,” a collaboration between the SUNY Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, and The Davey Institute, and published in September 2016 by ScienceDirect, aimed to determine areas of high-priority for future tree planting across Baltimore, Maryland. The study explores strategies for tree planting by comparing the benefits and tradeoffs of five different planting scenarios. Each scenario focused on optimizing the benefits provided by trees, especially the role they play in mitigating heat island effects and removing air pollution. Developed to meet the city’s Baltimore Sustainability Plan goal of establishing 40% tree cover by 2037, the findings will be used by the city to develop a strategic planting strategy.
To learn more about the study, I spoke with Ethan Bodnaruk, environmental and geotechnical engineer at Atlantic Testing Laboratories, and co-author of the study (other authors include C.N. Kroll, Y. Yang, S. Hirabayashi, D.J. Nowak, and T.A. Endreny). Ethan previously worked as a research and teaching assistant at SUNY Department of Environmental Resources Engineering while receiving his Masters of Ecological Engineering. Here’s what he had to say.
In your study, you explore the benefits of urban tree planting. What are these benefits and why is a healthy and maintained urban tree canopy important?
We might not often think about all the things trees do to make our cities more enjoyable and beautiful places to live. They shade our urban surfaces like pavement that would otherwise soak up a lot of heat, and they further cool the local environment through evapotranspiration. It’s like they act as mini air conditioners when they “breathe in” carbon dioxide and “exhale” water through their stomata. Trees play an important role in efforts to reduce stormwater runoff that can pollute our local water bodies. Trees also remove small amounts of air pollutants either through direct gaseous uptake or by deposition of particles to leaf surfaces, known as dry deposition.
Trees, of course, can also provide food to us humans, as well as food and shelter to a variety of wildlife. There are too many benefits of trees to list, and many are very hard to quantify such as those related to aesthetics or beauty, stress reduction, and other cultural services. So it’s important to maintain our urban forests, and as some have pointed out, urban forests and urban green spaces can be the primary day-to-day experience of “nature” for many city dwellers.
In the academic literature, the concept of ecosystem services captures and describes the benefits of trees. Ecosystem services are organized in broad categories of cultural services, provisioning, regulating, and supporting services.
Why did you choose Baltimore, Maryland as your area of study?
I chose Baltimore for many reasons. One is that there was a lot of previous research done there on a broad range of related topics through the National Science Foundation’s long-term social ecological research (LTSER) project in Baltimore. For instance, much research had gone into quantifying the city’s heat island effect, quality of urban streams and the Chesapeake Bay, and exploring social and environmental inequalities. Our research partners at the US Forest Service had also focused on Baltimore in the past. Finally, Baltimore has a sustainability plan that includes a goal of establishing 40% tree cover by 2040, so that goal provided a useful constraint or parameter for my tree cover modeling work.
Tell me more about your methodology. How did you utilize i-Tree models and other available resources?
I utilized i-Tree models that quantify the air pollution removal performed by trees, avoided health outcomes due to reduced pollution, and estimates of the monetary value of the avoided health outcomes. The health outcome side of things is calculated from an EPA model called BenMAP, which stands for Benefits Mapping. Another i-Tree model estimates temperature and humidity across Baltimore based on land cover (proportions of trees, asphalt, short vegetation, etc.) given the recorded weather conditions from a weather station. By then changing the land cover (adding more trees) I could investigate the location-specific effects of tree cover on temperature and humidity. I then wanted to find priority locations for tree planting based on these pollution and temperature effects (more on that later).
You can imagine that a lot of data is required as inputs to these models. The US Forest Service completed an urban tree canopy assessment project in which high-quality aerial imagery was taken and processed to create land cover maps rich in data. This high-resolution imagery quantifies different types of land cover such as trees, grass, and different kinds of impervious surfaces. It was very important for our work, as well as spatially explicit US Census data, which provides information not just about overall population, but where people live and basic demographic data such as age. This type of data is needed for the health benefits. We also utilized other land cover data from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD). Estimates of fine particulate pollution (called PM2.5) and ozone were also obtained for Baltimore from the EPA.
You mention in the report that your main goal is to determine areas of the city where planting should be prioritized, and existing tree cover should be protected or maintained. What factors did you consider to determine which areas to prioritize?
Really the main goal of the work is to create a tool that communities can themselves use to determine priority areas for planting, weighing and considering a wide range of factors. My work was a first step in creating the first few pieces of such a tool and testing it out.
In this initial work, I focused on the air pollution removal and temperature mitigation (cooling) effects of trees. So we wanted to look at where trees can remove the most air pollution, where they can best reduce air pollution burdens for people in particular, and locations where trees are most needed to reduce extreme temperatures.
One consideration was to be aware and explicit through the modeling itself that there can be a big difference between where the hottest and most polluted locations are versus where people who can experience the benefits of mitigation are. That’s why we needed Census data to know where people are, and also demographic data because we know that the elderly and very young are more susceptible to extreme heat, for instance. Also, we experience heat stress through a combination of temperature and humidity so I used a metric that combines these (the heat index) to explore priority locations for tree planting.
Your report detailed five different “priority planting “scenarios. Can you briefly describe them and the different benefits they explored?
I created different planting scenarios that:
Maximized air pollution removal,
Maximized human benefits of air pollution removal,
Prioritized plantings based on locations with the worst heat index (combination of temperature and humidity)
Prioritized plantings based on a combination of the worst heat index, population size, and relative risk due to age (elderly and very young)
Prioritized plantings based on a combination of the previous point plus the modeled effectiveness of trees in reducing the heat index.
One point I wanted to make was that tree planting priorities could be very different even using the same model and general ecosystem service depending on how you set it up and what exactly is the focus, for instance, air pollution in general or air pollution in populated areas.
Which tree-planting scenario proved to be most beneficial to the city?
This is a very difficult question to answer for many reasons, including the limitations of our models, data, and the subjective or multi-faceted nature of the values and benefits associated with trees.
What we were aiming for is to create tools and approaches that city planners and other people can use to explore planting schemes based on multiple priorities and metrics. Where high priority locations overlap across several different metrics or priorities, we could say synergies are present. In locations where they do not, there are tradeoffs between different services or priorities. We want to use science and mathematical models to supplement local knowledge of where we need more green space, where issues of concern can be addressed, and so forth.
What results were unexpected and what factors may have altered your findings?
One thing that was surprising was that there were very few air quality monitors in Baltimore, so much of the data we used was interpolated and otherwise estimated using statistical techniques. I would have thought in a city its size with known industrial pollution sources there would be many more monitors that could capture the spatial variations across the city. This lack of monitors led to data that we knew underestimated peak pollution and predicted only very small differences in pollution levels across the city. This fact led to consider other locations with more robust data for future work, such as New York City.
The urban core of the city generally showed to be the area where trees had the highest monetary benefit of pollutant removal, however, these areas often have limited available space for tree planting. What strategies could increase planting in this area?
In terms of modeling where new potential tree cover could go, I used the simplification that impervious areas such as buildings and roads would not be replaced by tree cover. To a certain extent, this makes a lot of sense because people would laugh at a model that says to tear down buildings or get rid of roads to obtain more benefits from trees. We basically assumed that any land with bare soil or grasses could potentially be turned into tree cover.
Downtown areas are of course mostly buildings and roads so there is not much of what we defined as “potential plantable” area either according to the assumptions used in the model or in real life. But for future work, we wanted to utilize map-based data that includes estimates of how much paved surface area could be removed and replaced with trees. We generally know that removing impervious surfaces where and when possible and replacing them with green space is good across many different types of ecosystem services. It’s often possible to squeeze some trees into parking lots, or remove portions of sidewalks for trees.
Of course, local communities and people who have direct experience in their locale would know much more about such “potential impervious plantable” areas than a modeler who doesn’t live in the area. So that’s why we ultimately want to gear the tools toward the people who can use them combined with local knowledge.
What further work would you hope to study in order to supplement your data?
There are many avenues for further work. In the paper, I summed it up this way: With further development including consideration of additional ecosystem services, disservices, user input, and costs of tree planting and maintenance, this approach could provide city planners, urban foresters, and members of the public with a powerful tool to better manage urban forest systems.
In what ways do you hope your work will impact the future?
I hope this work will continue to raise awareness about the importance, and benefits of, green spaces in urban areas. One encouraging story I heard about the impact of i-Tree models in Baltimore was that engaged citizens and community groups used the models and their results to get a larger urban forestry budget. Results that indicated benefits of trees significantly outweighed the costs of planting and maintenance went a long way in the tight fiscal environment that many cities face.
To learn more about the research presented here, download the entire study on ScienceDirect. To see what else Ethan is researching, including topics of composting, science and spirituality, visit his blog at www.ethanbodnaruk.com.
Performance Metrics for Sustainable Landscapes
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Today’s landscapes are asked to perform much more than functional […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Today’s landscapes are asked to perform much more than functional or aesthetic services: they filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve human health, and more. As projects become more complex, and clients aim higher to meet today’s climate challenges, the use of performance metrics is becoming increasingly prevalent.
Why Use Data?
While the design of green space and lush plantings seems inherently ecologically beneficial, quantifying the actual value of those benefits is a little more complex. This barrier makes it challenging as we advocate for high-performing landscapes. Meanwhile, the drawbacks of initial cost and maintenance are seen as barriers to the development of more green space. This is where landscape performance metrics are valuable; using data to estimate the positive benefits of design elements and ensuring a landscape performs to the anticipated standards. Data allows us to quantify the benefits of a designed landscape and provides hard evidence for a client trying to balance a project’s budget, schedule, and demands.
Using performance metrics enables designers to show a design’s value and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions. As a landscape architect, I’m increasingly asked to provide performance targets for my designs. Whether I’m advocating for installing a green roof, providing a space for social engagement, or planting more trees, data helps clients understand the long-term value of these decisions, and align our visions. Landscape architects must be able to speak to a design’s performance, which is where data becomes crucial to support a claim. Being able to make rough performance calculations, and having evidence to support decision-making in the infancy of a design, is crucial to the successful implementation of a design vision.
This newfound need to quantify and measure the impacts of design decisions has brought about collaborations and research that is transforming the practice of landscape architecture. Many resources are now available to quantify the likely results of a project goal and determine the value of a landscape. The development of peer-reviewed methods of evaluating environmental impact has emerged, and a number of case studies, toolkits, and resources are available to help better define how to achieve sustainability.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is the first comprehensive rating system for the design, construction, and maintenance of sustainable landscapes. The rating system provides a wide-ranging set of guidelines needed to measure the performance and the value of sustainable landscapes.
Applicable to projects varying from 2,000 square feet to over 200 acres, the program aims to ensure that landscapes are planned, designed, developed, and maintained in a way that either avoids, mitigates, or even reverses the harmful impacts on the environment. SITES advances best practices in landscape architecture and ensures clients that their project has achieved field-tested standards for sustainability.
The Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Landscape Performance Series is another online resource for quantifying the value of the landscape. With over 100 case studies and dozens of toolkit calculators, the Landscape Performance Series aims to transform the way landscape is considered in the design and development process. Bringing together innovations from research, industry, academia, and professional practice, the website is a handy place to find precedents, explore metrics, and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) also provides a number of sustainable design resources, including toolkits and guides. The toolkits are broken down into environmental, economic, and social models. The resources are a compilation of the available assessment tools, checklists, and modeling software for a variety of projects and project goals. ASLA has also compiled 40 case studies, which highlight the transformative effects of sustainable landscapes. These tools are aimed at putting sustainable design theory into practice.
Recently, I have become increasingly involved in performance metrics, delving deep into the available resources and even receiving SITES AP credentials. Being able to pull from existing resources and project examples has made the process more manageable, as I try to more fully integrate performance metrics into my practice. Data allows me to evaluate my design decisions, and make sure I’m proposing the best solution for my client.
New metrics and guidelines are helping to better define the benefits of sustainable landscape design, allowing designers to test their methods, become better practitioners, and speak authoritatively about the environmental benefits of sustainable landscapes. They also ensure that projects perform to the quality the client expects. As practitioners we have a unique opportunity to both utilize and advance this important work, creating landscapes that provide clear sustainable performance, and, eventually, elevate the practice as these metrics create new standards.
A Tale of Two Tree Saves
Saving trees was a major priority in establishing the vision of LPL Financial’s new campus on the outskirts of Kingsley […]
Saving trees was a major priority in establishing the vision of LPL Financial’s new campus on the outskirts of Kingsley Town Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The site was designed with the intent that employees be able to engage with nature and walk within the trees without realizing they are surrounded by development. The end result is a greenway-adjacent campus with over 10 acres of tree save area, about 30 percent of the total site.
The Sealed Air headquarters located at the Lake Pointe Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina also boasts about 30 percent tree save acreage, totaling over 12 acres. The vision for the Sealed Air campus was that of tree houses cut within the existing vegetation across the campus. Very early on in the project, the team flagged trees that were important to preserve throughout the campus during construction.
LandDesign landscape architect, Eric Pohlmann, summed up the tree save efforts for both projects, “The tree save concepts were ideas generated early on with the teams for both projects and really continued to be owned by the clients as decisions were made during the design and construction process.”
The LPL Financial headquarters has obtained LEED Gold certification through design elements such as the 99% regionally native and drought-tolerant plant palette, the use of permeable pavers for hardscaped areas, and a 20,000 gallon cistern that captures runoff from the parking deck.
The Sealed Air campus is more than 60% open space, and of that, only 8,000 square feet is ‘water thirsty’ sod. The project is pursuing LEED Gold certification, and will likely be certified thanks to these elements, and the additional design effort taken to preserve 12 acres of woodlands onsite, use of crushed gravel throughout the site to maximize permeability, and the 50% reduction in irrigation demand due to the drought-tolerant plant selection.
The Livable City Revolution
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Around the globe, cities are rediscovering their industrial land. Once […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Around the globe, cities are rediscovering their industrial land. Once sustained by industry, in some places, much of this urban infrastructure has closed down, with only the bones remaining. Today, cities are drawing all types – techies, bankers, artists, and immigrants alike – but space is limited. As urban land becomes more precious, communities reconsider the possibilities in once blighted areas and are finding new ways to accommodate the growing population and interests of city dwellers.
This resurgence has been triggered by a shift in cultural attitudes towards the city – one in which we celebrate the history and joys of city living, and find possibility in rubble, infrastructure that has fallen into disuse or disrepair, and formerly ignore brownfields
From small and often temporary pop-up parks, to the revitalization of entire riverfronts, landscape architects are playing an increasingly critical role in reclaiming abandoned urban spaces and transforming them into public commons. This investment is more significant than pure aesthetics; it contributes to larger goals such as environmental justice, social equity, and community resilience. Often, no matter the scale, a single project intends to ameliorate an entire array of issues.
Boston’s Lawn on D is an excellent example of how small-scale interventions can dramatically shift community livability. The Lawn on D was conceived as a way to temporarily activate an underutilized space on D Street, anchored by the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Formerly an urban fill site that blocked views and precluded access, the 2.7-acre space today is a platform for innovation. The design team, led by Sasaki, established a vibrant, flexible space to be utilized for endless programming possibilities.
Essentially an urban experiment intended to test configurations and programming, the space is a hub of activity for community events. Bright moveable furniture, interactive art installations, and engaging programming draw users in and invite them to make the space their own. The active and inclusive space provides this up-and-coming community with a space to come together. The flexibility of the space is key to its success, allowing for changes to be made to fit the future needs of the community.
In Aalborg, Denmark, an entire 30+ acre sustainable city district, Godsbanearealet, boasts being Aalborg’s first sustainable and carbon neutral quarter, and one of the largest climate adaption projects in Denmark. Rainwater management and flood control are built into the city’s masterplan, with green roofs, basins, and canals installed throughout the city district to store and collect rainfall. Recreational spaces, affordable housing, and retail are mixed together to make up this livable district.
Inspired by the areas former use as a freight train terminal, the city’s name is roughly translated to “freight train area.” Instead of straying from the site’s industrial past, the designers, POLYFORM Architects, embraced it and made a space that resonates with a unique cultural identity. Building upon the values of the area, the design seamlessly integrates the historic rail. This project is part of a gradual conversion of all freight railways in the area, and shows how a brand new, high-performance landscape can be integrated into derelict and abandoned railway land.
Hudson River Park is a 550-acre riverside park on the west side of Manhattan. The park includes 13 public recreation piers, a five-mile walk along the riverfront, and a tree-lined bicycle path. While the land was previously bustling with commerce, over time the shipping activity diminished and the piers fell into a state of disrepair. After years of industrial decline, the park arose from a 1997 master plan by landscape architecture firms Matthews Nielsen and Quennell-Rothchild. The goal was to create a people-centric, accessible greenway, making the riverfront a core part of the city again. Running adjacent to eight diverse neighborhoods, this plan aims to reclaim the waterfront for the public, a trend that has spread to many other waterfront cities.
Several projects have sprung from the master plan, including Pier 25, which features ample play activities, such as sand volleyball, mini-golf, and a multi-purpose turf field, as well as Segment 5, whose broad lawn allows for community gatherings, while playful hills provide views to the waterfront. Each parcel of the park uniquely speaks to the needs of the residents of the adjacent community.
Other features include a sports complex, playgrounds, water features, a dog run, and an abundance of lawn space. The park is also an estuarine sanctuary, designed to provide coastal fish and wildlife habitat, while the marine organisms filter and clean the water. Additionally, the park provides recreational and educational opportunities, such as kayaking and canoeing, expanding overall access to the waterfront. Hudson River Park acts as a park connector network, linking many recreational sites and landmarks as it runs along the edge of the Hudson River. While currently only 72% complete, the park is already an integral part of the lives of many New Yorkers, provided needed outdoor recreation space in one of the densest cities in the country.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Recent investments in infrastructure have resulted in inventive solutions to city issues of crowding, pollution, and blight at every scale imaginable. This investment is vital to creating sustainable, thriving, and equitable communities. Such community revitalization projects reconnect people to their beloved cities and help keep cities healthy places to live.
- Travel and Leisure, “Industrial Urban Green Spaces”
- Sasaki, “The Lawn on D”
- Landezine, “Godsbanearealet: A Pioneer Climate Adaptation Project”
- Sangberg.com, “Godsbanearealet“
- Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architecture: Hudson River Park Pier 25
- Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, “Brooklyn Bridge Park”
- The Dirt blog, “Landscape Architects Remake Cities”
Durham: A Growth Center for Revitalization
North Carolina has been ranked the number one growth state according to the U-Haul Migration Trends Report with the Raleigh/Durham […]
North Carolina has been ranked the number one growth state according to the U-Haul Migration Trends Report with the Raleigh/Durham area consistently showing high-growth numbers. They have found themselves as number nine on Forbe’s America’s Fastest Growing Cities 2016 with a 2015 growth rate of 1.27% and a projected 0.93% for 2016. Raleigh has led the Southeast as an ascendant tech hot-spot which comes as no surprise with the Research Triangle Park making up the center of the Raleigh-Durham region. As Learn NC states, this innovative, research Park has spurred economic growth with over 37,000 jobs and an average salary of $56,000 annually which is 45% larger than the national average. Not only are the job opportunities and educational institutions a driving factor for growth, but North Carolina’s climate and overall quality of life lure future residents to the area. However, with growth comes the need for plans to strategically prepare for the future of the City.
Durham is one of the cities that understands the importance in providing a path for growth that mitigates sprawl, supports infrastructure and sustains the quality of life. The City has been proactive in making plans and positioning themselves for alternative transportation such as transit. They are already seeing successful revitalization projects that are bringing the livelihood back to the community.
A specific area that is seeing exceptional revitalization is Durham’s Government District. An area where a development now known as Gateway Center is oriented to the existing vitality, and which adjoins the future Dillard Street transit stop on land once owned by Hendricks Automotive. Although there are a handful of public service centers such as the corrections department, county court, city solid waste services, and housing authority; there are a number of contributing energy curators that are located in the District. The American Tobacco campus is one of the main job generators in Durham, while the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and the Durham Bulls baseball stadium provide night life and help employ a sense of culture. Surrounding these city assets are huge underutilized, post-industrial landscapes that yield a great opportunity for redevelopment and the infusion of vitality to the Government District.
As visionaries and master planners, we recognized the long-term value and prominence of this property and began looking at the broader context with Citisculpt in 2013. A primary objective is bridging the divide created by Hwy 147 to the communities to the south. Fayetteville Street and the distinction of this site from the freeway provide for a true ‘gateway’ moment to the City and the emerging district. We have guided the master planning effort for the +/- 15 acres into a unique urban center that brings the community together. The initial 300+-unit multifamily residences are set to be occupied in 2017. The full build-out of the Gateway Center will have 200,000 SF of class A office, 145 key hotel with 20 condos, a companion hotel, ground floor retail and restaurants, and another 76-unit multifamily residences. To deliver this vertically integrated solution, the development team has formed many partnerships from both the private and public side of the table. One of the parking structures for Gateway Center is intended to be in partnership with the City. The development team has also aligned with GoTriangle to provide future Right-of-Way for the transit system within Pettigrew Street, as well as future provisions for transit parking for the Dillard Street Station. Discussions are underway with NCDOT and the City with regard to a potential land swap and implementation of a bold new district park at the intersection of Fayetteville Street and Pettigrew Street, and the on-going negotiations with NCDOT regarding the much needed street connectivity to Jackie Robinson Boulevard, which is a controlled access street.
The complexity of the development deal, and the public infrastructure creates a unique permitting process. LandDesign has orchestrated several Special Use Permits and Variances to accomplish the design objectives of the development in real-time with the project site permitting. With a tight delivery to market and a dynamic new vision for one of Durham’s primary gateways, LandDesign’s expertise has built an implementable strategy for Gateway Center, as well as created value for the adjoining underutilized parcels that, once developed, will create one of the most exciting urban environments in Durham.
To learn more about the growth of development in Durham, visit Business View’s article.
Creating Places the Entire Family Can Enjoy
Dreaming of a place to relive the nostalgia of your childhood camp experience while creating new memories with your children […]
Dreaming of a place to relive the nostalgia of your childhood camp experience while creating new memories with your children and family? The essence of a true multigenerational, summer getaway awaits at Camp Lake James where you can shut off your phone, unplug and enjoy your natural surroundings and company.
Just a short drive east of Asheville, NC, near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Camp Lake James offers activities for all ages – swimming, boating, kayaking and fishing to name a few. The grounds include a social hall, amphitheater, expedition center, pool and spa area, fitness facility, natural beach, docks, butterfly garden, tennis courts, and access to community trails. In the evening, take in the crisp summer night air and the view of the peaceful lake while sharing a few scary stories and roasting marshmallows around the fire pit at the outdoor amphitheater.
LandDesign had the exciting privilege of providing the landscape and hardscape architectural design of this lakeside retreat. One important feature of the Camp’s design is the preservation of the natural habitat. Plant species and products were carefully selected to conserve 50%-60% more water than an otherwise non-regulated irrigation system. Nearly 6,000 individual trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns, ornamental grasses and sedums, representing over 100 different native species, were installed along the grounds. Look for the rare native “Ben Franklin” history tree at the intersection of three trails.
Another perk of Camp Lake James? The educational component. If you’re looking to appreciate and explore the natural historical character of the camp, head on down to the Expedition Center. This hub of nature programming allows you to create fish habitat, build bluebird boxes and preserve green space. The kiddie pools allow for adults to kick back under the shade sail that acts as a UV absorbent and protector, while the children enjoy tracing the tracks of native animals in the pool deck – creating a uniquely playful and educational area. Whether you prefer exploring the shoreline in kayaks, hiking the many trails, or relaxing in Adirondack chairs – there’s something for all.
With the last stretch of summer among us, we encourage you to go with friends, family or your significant other, and experience a getaway customized to the individuals in your group. Trust us, the nature will speak for itself.
Camp Lake James was awarded three awards: NC Chapter Award of Merit, American Society of Landscape Architects (2009), Excellence in Irrigation Award, American Society of Irrigation Consultants (2009), and NC Chapter Award of Merit, American Institute of Architects (2008).
Symphony Park: Charlotte’s Most Entertaining Retention Pond
Only in Charlotte does one look forward to spending Sunday evenings in June laying on a blanket next to […]
Only in Charlotte does one look forward to spending Sunday evenings in June laying on a blanket next to a 1.87-acre retention pond.
For 14 years, Symphony Park and its visually-striking 2,700 square foot covered stage, has been home to the Charlotte Symphony’s Summer Pops series. Luring an average of 4,000 people each weekend to picnic on the lawn, friends and family take in some of the best of the Charlotte cultural scene with a glass of pinot grigio.
We imagine that most of the folks staking out their 10×10 of green space hours before the concert begins aren’t concerned that the park was designed to capture and treat the runoff from the surrounding 60 acres of development, and has also improved downstream flooding for adjacent property owners. But they shouldn’t be. Symphony Park was meant to be a destination. A place for the Charlotte Symphony to extend its’ reach within the greater Charlotte community. An urban oasis between the mall and adjacent office developments and residential neighborhoods. A place to bring people together.
The multi-functional park hosts an array of events and festivals throughout the year including Summer Pops; Beer, Bourbon & BBQ; Movies under the Stars; Latin American Festival; Picnic at SouthPark; Sunset Jazz Festival; MS Walk; and the annual Holiday Tree Lighting.
This popular summer series, voted “Best Concert Series” and one of “50 Things Every Charlottean Should Do” in the city by the readers of Charlotte Magazine, is conducted by the spirited Albert-George Schram. This Sunday’s concert presents a particular theme we are rather fond of, where the featured music was written with places in mind. Hence the name, Oh, the Places You’ll Go. We hope to see you out there enjoying the symphonic sound.
Click here to purchase Summer Pops tickets.
NorthEnd: Charlotte’s Next Great Neighborhood
By: Richard Petersheim, Adam Martin and Amanda Zullo By 2020, Charlotte Center City will be the central hub of an “Applied […]
By 2020, Charlotte Center City will be the central hub of an “Applied Innovation Corridor,” beginning in SouthEnd, extending through Uptown and “NorthEnd”—a 5.6-square-mile[charlotteobserver.com] hip, artsy new sector north of Uptown along the North Tryon Corridor—and linking onward to the UNC Charlotte campus. While banking and hospitality institutions continue to serve as the economic backbone of Charlotte, new technologies, industrial sectors and emerging markets bring greater prosperity and investment to Center City. These sectors are looking to NorthEnd for development growth and opportunity. Currently under way in NorthEnd, the CAMP NorthEnd Redevelopment Area, along with new initiatives like the Brightwalk community and the Fire Department Headquarters have built upon the area’s unique residential character and industrial history. The Hercules Industrial Park used to be a Ford Assembly Plant and later became a missile plant during World War II. The result of this revitalization effort: a distinctly walkable, mixed-use urban industrial park with distinctive neighborhoods, like Brightwalk and Tryon Hills. This area fosters an atmosphere of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship; provides unparalleled connectivity for moving goods and people; and creates an exciting urban living and working experience linking the NorthEnd to NoDa (North Davidson), Belmont and the larger “Applied Innovation Corridor.”
The NorthEnd Vision came about as visionaries thought of this transit thread as an “Applied Innovation Corridor;” positioned to be the significant catalyst to bridge the divide between the North Uptown area and NoDa along this corridor. CAMP NorthEnd, a 100-acre parcel prime for prosperity, is the nexus of this meeting ground. CAMP NorthEnd is set to be the master planned multi-modal urban neighborhood that will redefine innovative, sustainable development for Charlotte and the region. Once complete, CAMP NorthEnd will house over 3 million square feet of office, retail and residential space, as well as 18 acres of integrated public parks and plazas. CAMP NorthEnd will strive to be net energy positive in every aspect of its community. This redevelopment represents the rebirth of one of the most prolific and historic sites in Charlotte.
The “Applied Innovation Corridor” currently has significant momentum from both private and public sector investment. These investments have catalyzed the area and have begun to transform the identity of NorthEnd into a dynamic residential and business address. Major infrastructure projects of roadway improvements, transit, and stream restorations continue to be funded on all sides of the “Applied Innovation Corridor,” which will provide for a powerful investment platform. Current planned NorthEnd investment projects include the following:
- LYNX Blue Line Extension (Northeast Corridor), $1B
- Red Line Commuter Rail, $450M
- Brightwalk Redevelopment, $100M
- 911 Call Center Campus, $65M
- NC Music Factory, $35M
- 2014 Community Investment Plan for the Applied Innovation Corridor, $30M
- Fire Department Headquarters, $16M
- Tryon Street Improvements, $9.5M
- Current NorthEnd Infrastructure Improvements Underway, $4M
- Statesville Avenue Improvements, $1.5M
- Irwin Creek Stream Restoration, $0.5M
Transit and Economic Development
Transit and economic development go hand in hand; one in turn will inevitably influence the other. “A healthy public transit system is vital to a thriving regional economy. Investing in public transit fuels local economic activity by creating new jobs, attracting commerce and investment, and enhancing business profits and productivity.”[partnersfortransit.com] Charlotte, with lessons learned from other fast growing, car-reliant, southern cities like Atlanta, set the intention to evolve as a community that cares and carefully considers its development growth pattern. As noted in the Center City 2020 Vision Plan, a comprehensive strategic plan that provides a “big picture” framework and unifying vision for Center City’s growth and development,[charlottecentercity.com] Charlotte decided on design decisions that integrated multi-modal transit opportunities in conjunction with trending development areas.
The Lynx Blue Line, Charlotte’s light rail system operating on a 9.6-mile transit spine from South Charlotte to Uptown, provides the platform for transit-oriented development to spur and catalyze change in a morphing urban landscape. The LYNX Blue Line Extension (northeast corridor), set to open in 2017, is an addition of a 9.3 mile alignment,[charmeck.org] from Ninth Street in Center City through NoDa, heading north and terminating on UNC Charlotte’s campus. Once the Blue Line is complete, riders will be able to travel to destinations along the twenty mile transit line through Charlotte.
The Red Line Commuter Rail is a proposed 30-mile project that will operate along the existing Norfolk Southern rail line (the “O” line) from Center City Charlotte to Mooresville, in southern Iredell County. The alignment runs parallel to Graham Street through NorthEnd.[charmeck.org]
Brightwalk, on the site of Double Oaks, a 576-home community built in 1950, is a redevelopment of a brownfield community one mile north of Center City. Brightwalk is one of eight neighborhoods that make up the key communities in the “Applied Innovation Corridor.” “Brightwalk is one neighborhood in a mosaic of neighborhoods and it’s the mosaic that creates the fabric of an urban community,” says N.C. State Representative Kelly Alexander Jr., a Charlotte native.[clclt.com] Brightwalk’s master plan fuses 98 acres of parks, greenway trails and roads with commercial and mixed-income residential uses, as well as environmental art development by the McColl Center. Brightwalk is complemented by improvements made to Statesville Avenue, in addition to work being done to instigate change in the adjacent Druid Hills neighborhood and NorthEnd area.
Additionally, the Tryon Hills area builds on the unique residential character and industrial history of NorthEnd. It is poised to become a vibrant community hub, providing diversity of its housing stock, places to gather, green space, commercial and incubator space for individuals, families, and businesses looking for a walkable urban lifestyle. This area is prime for development opportunities for both new infill development as well as forward-thinking adaptive reuse.
Prior to the 911 Communication Center, emergency services were scattered around the Charlotte metro area in separate facilities. By consolidating services, this 74,000 SF facility presented a unique opportunity to improve all functions in a coordinated, well-planned system thereby improving the lifesaving response time and reducing the critical response time. The facility is planned to have an operational staff of approximately 460 people based on a 2030 planning horizon. The facility will staff: Police and Fire 911/Dispatch, Emergency Operations Center, 311 Call Center, Charlotte DOT Traffic Camera Division, Mecklenburg County Sherriff’s Communications Division, and the City Data Center. The center is located at 1315 North Graham Street, just north of the new Charlotte Fire Department Headquarters Building.[charmeck.org]
The N.C. Music Factory, a 50-acre development, is home to restaurants, bars and concert venues as well as smaller businesses and office space. Two apartment complexes are under development with hope to build a hotel in the future. In fall 2015, Avid change, a fast-growing software company, announced the building of their new headquarters at the N.C. Music Factory. This location will add at least 600 jobs, stirring hopes for technology sector growth and redevelopment as part of the vision of the “Applied Innovation Corridor.” Once Avid change moves in, the N.C. Music Factory site will be able to accommodate at least 3 million more square feet of office space, potentially catering to another corporate headquarters.[charlotteobserver.com]
Charlotte’s Community Investment Plan (CIP), is a long-range investment program to help address the needs of the community. Approximately $816.4 million in proposed community improvements will be planned, designed and implemented, focusing on efforts relating to housing diversity/neighborhood improvements, increased connectivity/infrastructure improvements, economic development/job creation and growth.[charmeck.org]
The Fire Department Headquarters, a 36,000 SF facility, opened in April 2015. The site formerly housed a Sealtest office and an ice cream factory. The department, in coordination with the City of Charlotte, wanted the building to match the character and style of the surrounding area to keep in line with the North Graham Street and Statesville Avenue corridor revitalization project. The Fire Department Headquarters is located at 500 Dalton Avenue.[charlotteobserver.com]
NorthEnd’s infrastructure improvements involve both streetscape and stream restoration projects. The proposed green infrastructure overlay system will tie the community together, supporting a well-connected, walkable street network, linking to the city’s greenway system, and providing quality open space opportunities. This green infrastructure network can help support economic growth and stability by providing accessible and efficient connections between residences, schools, parks, public transportation, offices and retail destinations. Investment opportunities have catalyzed improvements to Statesville Avenue and Tryon Street, as well as to the Irwin Creek stream restoration project.
Additionally, the Cross Charlotte Trail, a 26-mile trail and greenway facility, is planned to meander from the City of Pineville, through Center City and NorthEnd, connect to UNC Charlotte’s campus and terminate at the Cabarrus County line. NorthEnd is staged for a plethora of opportunities to become a vibrant, engaging, economic node on both the LYNX Blue Line and the Cross Charlotte Trail.
NorthEnd is positioned to be the significant catalyst for change to connect the North Uptown Area and NoDa, providing a strong interconnection of streets, transit and greenways with complementary housing, office and retail offerings. With these many facets forming and influencing one another, NorthEnd is set to thrive and grow, living up to its vision of an innovative, creative, dynamic, vibrant city within the city of Charlotte, North Carolina.
#xclt | Follow the Progress, Be Part of the Change
By: Amanda Zullo Imagine a greenway that stretches 26 miles, allowing residents to travel seamlessly from one end of Charlotte […]
Imagine a greenway that stretches 26 miles, allowing residents to travel seamlessly from one end of Charlotte to the other by foot or on a bicycle. Imagine a greenway that comfortably separates the user from the automobile, providing a safe and friendly experience. Imagine a greenway that connects people to community destinations, like PNC Music Pavilion, UNC Charlotte’s campus, and Freedom Park; neighborhoods, like Montford and NoDa; and providing better transportation and amenities for Charlotteans.
Hi, welcome to the Cross Charlotte Trail, or as we like to say “XCLT” around here. The Cross Charlotte Trail is more than just a project LandDesign is working on; it’s a visionary idea of connecting our city in ways that haven’t before been possible. The City of Charlotte is partnering with Mecklenburg County to create and combine a 26-mile trail and greenway facility that will stretch from the City of Pineville, through Center City, on to UNC Charlotte’s campus, and connect to Cabarrus County line.[charmeck.org] LandDesign is leading the master planning and design efforts, and a sub consultant team consisting of: HR&A Advisors, Toole Design Group (the nation’s leader in bicycle and pedestrian transportation design), Carolina PR and STV, Inc. This powerhouse team is combining forces with the City and County to make this vision happen.
The Cross Charlotte Trail will be the culmination of existing trail segments with gaps filled in by the County and City, stitching critical sections of the greenway together. Existing greenways, like Little Sugar Creek Greenway (south of Uptown), Toby Creek Greenway (near UNC Charlotte’s campus), all part of the Carolina Thread Trail, account for the existing 7.6 miles. The County will complete 5.5 miles of trails and the City will complete the remaining 12.8 miles of trails. In total, 25.9 miles will seamlessly connect to make this XCLT Matter.
Currently, Charlotte ranks relatively low compared to other US cities in terms of total trail mileage. If the complete Mecklenburg County Greenway Master Plan is implemented, Charlotte will rank in the top 5 US cities with the most multi-use trails.[charlotteagenda.com] One resident stated, “I think [the trail] will be a magnet for people to come live here.”[youtube] Another resident said, “Any way that you can make entertainment and exercise accessible to the residents and get us outside enjoying the beauty of our City is definitely going to enhance the lifestyle of the residents.”[youtube] Dan Gallagher, a Charlotte Department of Transportation official involved with the project stated, “This is a project I believe is transformative. I think it will pay dividends for our residents in the near term and for generations to come.”[charlottefive.com]
The Trail will serve as a catalyst for economic and community development. Approximately 98,000 jobs and 80,000 residents are located within a half mile zone along the proposed trail. “It’ll cut down on a lot of people that are commuting; this [trail] gives them an alternative to coming into Uptown and travelling back home,” said a Charlottean at the June 30th Public Meeting.[youtube] The Trail will be funded by a $5 million bond referendum that passed in 2014, which has covered the planning and projections, and $30 million in bonds proposed for 2016 for construction costs.[charlotteagenda.com]
Part of the planning process includes community engagement and feedback. With over ten pop-up meetings, more than five community meetings, newsletters and the website, residents have the opportunity to provide feedback and make this Trail Matter to them. The first meeting was held on January 27, 2015, where 250 attendees provided feedback on a “high priority” 1.2 mile trail segment from Tyvola Road to Brandywine Road, an area close to Park Road Shopping Center. This segment is set to be completed in the next five years.[charmeck.org] The most recent public meeting was held on June 30, 2015, where over 200 residents provided feedback on three potential alignments extending from 9th Street in Uptown to UNC Charlotte’s campus. Overall, “public response has been very positive, with negative comments originating typically from those who don’t live near the trail,” according to Joe Frey, Cross Charlotte Trail Project Manager.[charlottefive.com] Frey said the only complaints he’s heard are why can’t the trail be built faster and that it doesn’t run through every neighborhood.[charlotteagenda.com]
In terms of a horizon timeline, several portions of the trail will be built in the next two or three years, while other portions may take longer. Some segments will need public-private partnerships, looking to precedents like what Little Sugar Creek Greenway at the Metropolitan had successfully achieved together. As a local stated at the June 30th Public Meeting, “I think what they’re looking at is very ambitious and I think we can do that. Charlotte has a lot to offer!”[youtube]
If you missed the first two public meetings, you can still provide input and comments on the website. There is an interactive trail map as well as a Wiki Map to pin your comment. You also have the option to email feedback to: email@example.com.
Reflecting on the Design Process at Tinner Hill
By: Katie Pavlechko As a landscape architect, what’s more exciting than strapping on a pair of boots, getting out […]
"A community draws strength and identity from knowledge of its history and the accomplishments of its forebears, and is enriched by the creative and intellectual talents of its citizens."-Fall Church City Council
As a landscape architect, what’s more exciting than strapping on a pair of boots, getting out of the office, and visiting your very first project under construction?! To observe floors being poured and walls being formed that were once beautifully hand drawn lines on a piece of trace paper is an experience unlike any other. I recently visited our project site, The Reserve at Tinner Hill, located in the vibrant and closely knit community of Falls Church, VA, aptly nicknamed ‘The Little City.’ Climbing up wooden ladders and walking through and on top of rebar, I watched as the concrete structural slab was poured for the project’s rooftop courtyards.
Since 2012, The Reserve has played a major part in my professional journey and allowed me to experience all sides of our profession as a designer, planner, project manager, consultant coordinator, writer, marketer, presenter, and artist. Presently, it is the fast-paced, under-the-gun type of decision-making that keeps me on my toes as construction administrator. Entering into the final phases, I look back at the big lessons learned.
Build strong relationships with team members.
Throughout all project phases, I most enjoyed building relationships along the way with the client team, consultants, City staff, boards & commissions, and community members, all of whom were committed to contributing to the authentic design narrative of The Reserve. Remember that these are the people with whom you’ll be sharing working dinners in preparation of late night meetings at City Hall. You can only hope to share those meals in a conference room with windows!
Engage the community.
As the team leader for community engagement, LandDesign placed priority on celebrating the cultural resources surrounding the project site, influencing both the public open space, streetscape, and building footprint. Through engaging work sessions (make sure to bring cookies!), sharing historic documents and images, and conversations over coffee, our team is uncovering the hidden stories of figures that were part of a larger story in the fight for civil rights. We are using the urban landscape to provide a visible record of these experiences and contributions through an engraved timeline in the public streetscape special paving.
Let the “Big Idea” inspire even the smallest details.
Inspired by the remarkable and well-documented history of community transformation, The Reserve will bring to light the genuine stories of the individuals who have contributed to the evolution and strong community identity of Falls Church today. The overarching theme is about getting to know the neighborhood, both past and present. It is about neighbors having face-to-face interactions, taking care of their streets, and supporting their local shops. I have learned to hold strong to the design details that I know contribute to the larger story. Even factors like the arrangement of site furnishings can facilitate the way neighbors interact with each other, local business owners, or visitors.
Visit the construction site with confidence and curiosity.
Show up with questions. Show up with curiosity, and share experiences with others. An eagerness to coordinate with the client and contractor more efficiently and effectively will benefit the overall project, and bolster support for your input and enthusiasm as a team member.
The Reserve is a story of community; a story that I am so proud to share. And it could not have been uncovered without the knowledge, expertise, and passion of the people I have gotten to know over the years within “The Little City” community.
Stay tuned for more updates on The Reserve at Tinner Hill as construction progresses into the summer!
Of Wizards, Lamborghinis and Story in the Design Process: The First Post in a Series
It’s not uncommon to see someone in full wizard garb at Volta Coffee in Gainesville, Florida. Even aspiring conjurers need […]
It’s not uncommon to see someone in full wizard garb at Volta Coffee in Gainesville, Florida. Even aspiring conjurers need a caffeine jolt. But add to the mix a young professional sipping a double espresso with his red Lamborghini parked just outside and you start to get a feeling that this local coffee scene supports more than just a diverse clientele … it’s a meeting point and incubator of story. A place where the most amazing story I could ever hear might be sitting just a table away, enjoying an iced cafe au lait.
Wizards, Lamborghinis and Volta Coffee had me ruminating on the importance of story, especially its use in the design process. How story bonds design concepts to people and places in meaningful, understandable ways. How it adds authenticity, relevancy and even whimsy in the creation and reinvention of cities and destinations.
A century ago, Gainesville was still throwing off its “Hogtown” roots and starting down the road as a major point of research, education and service anchored by the University of Florida. The City’s story then was linked to cotton, World War I and the University’s enrollment of just under 200 students. The rapid growth of the City, the 51,725 students, the wizards, and Volta Coffee would all come later.
The new Gainesville is perhaps exemplified by the recent opening of Florida Innovation Hub at UF and the broader plans to transform six city blocks into Innovation Square, a node for research, commerce, housing and recreation. Development of “shark skin” technology to reduce treatment-resistant bacterial infections in hospitals is the story of the day here; a storyline, at least in rough outline, that was envisioned in the master planning and design of this new district.
That cup of coffee in Gainesville and Volta’s merry band set into motion a bit of a side project: To document through a series of interviews why story matters and to uncover the steps taken to explore, and ultimately, script meaningful stories as part of the design process. More than 25 conversations later, there is still much to learn… but also, much to share. Over the course of my next several posts, I will introduce you to several professionals for which story and design are an essential part of their work. Each offers a bit of wizardry of their own making useful for practitioners seeking to advance the craft of story in their creative process.
Ferris Wheels: A Fad or Permanent Feature?
By: Gabriela Cañamar Clark Last year’s opening of the Capital Wheel, an observation wheel in the banks of the Potomac […]
Last year’s opening of the Capital Wheel, an observation wheel in the banks of the Potomac River at National Harbor, caused a wide variety of reactions amongst visitors and residents of the Washington, DC metro region. There were the self-called Washingtonian/traditionalists who prefer the Washington skyline, clear of clutter, highlighting the George Washington Memorial as the most important and recognizable icon. There are also the local enthusiasts of all things new and exhilarating who can now say we have attractions like other important cities in the country, not to mention the world.
In Washington, DC we have a particular challenge as all things are measured and valued against our city’s status as the United States Capital city. As a designer, I can’t help thinking about what is right and what is wrong: closely guarded preservation, or the natural path of a city’s growth through different eras? Are items like this out of context? And if so, will they be short lived (relatively speaking)? Or, are they simply a reflection of the current culture and city dynamics?