PROJECT 4: Anne+Kui+Leila+Frannie

PROJECT 4 TEAM: Anne Bowman, Leila Bozorg, Frannie Ritchie, Kui Xue


Citywide Scale:

Our approach to the citywide scale was one of consolidation and aggregation.  Rather than try to use revitalization as a catalyst for the most desolate parts of the city, we propose to strengthen the marginal areas of the city with the hope that we can create stronger, more stable neighborhoods in the core.  In choosing our neighborhoods, we looked for areas of high vacancy adjacent to areas of relative stability.  The goal in choosing these border neighborhoods is to create a bulkhead to prevent decay in the stronger areas. Likewise, we propose that anchoring redevelopment to a strong existing area will generate stability in the new neighborhood.

In our citywide strategy, we proposed several areas where the city should consolidate its resources.  All of the areas we chose have been on the city’s radar before: they have been designated Livable Communities or Empire Zones.  However, the city’s policies have addressed the entire city rather than proposing to consolidate resources.  We suggest investing heavily in a few areas that have a high likelihood of regaining stability.  As a corollary, we suggest incentivizing residents of other neighborhoods to move into our target areas and forgoing investment in those parts of the city that are the most vacant.

Neighborhood Scale:

At the neighborhood scale we pursued a similar strategy to the citywide scale.  By positioning our chosen neighborhood along Main Street, we were hoping to help bridge the divide between the eastern and western neighborhoods of the city.  Our neighborhood had a wealth of social and cultural resources but was still functioning below capacity, with 47% vacancy and many of the remaining residents housed in substandard dwelling units.  The neighborhood had a ‘snaggle-toothed’ pattern, with many blocks missing most of their houses; however, Masten Park does not currently have any formal passive open space.  The one park within the site is located on the southeast corner, and is more an assemblage of athletic fields than a park.

Our goals for the neighborhood scale were driven by the realities of the site.  Since Masten Park is bounded by two commercial streets, we wanted to retain the overwhelmingly residential character of the site but introduce housing appropriate for a wide variety of users, including seniors affiliated with the churches in our area and young families or couples who had less need for space than many of the existing homes in Masten Park offered.  Consolidating the green space created by vacancy and ordering it along a clear hierarchy of spaces (from public to private) was also important to us, as was introducing active open space for children and passive space for all users (both of which are largely absent from the site).  Finally, we wanted to create informal social space in the road itself by reducing the road area within our site and closing roads to encourage traffic calming.  As part of our road-reduction program, we created a north-south greenway with a pedestrian and bicycle path.  Many of the residents of our neighborhood are carless, and creating pleasant walk and bikeways was both a function of excess road capacity and our desire to create a pleasant pedestrian environment for those who use it by necessity.

The greenway is the centerpiece of our proposal – we took Masten Avenue, a street that had been dominated by vacancy and decay and turned it into a neighborhood asset, connecting a high school to athletic fields half a mile to the south.  By preserving three through streets, we made a minimal impact on the overall connectivity of the road network.

Closing Masten Avenue created a number of dead-end streets, which we actually saw as an asset; we also closed streets in the northeast and southwest corner of the district.  In Ecological Democracy, Ronald Hester uses a neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina as a case study: he finds that in impoverished, predominantly African-American neighborhoods, the street is an important space for socializing and informal play (Masten Park is 95% African American, with 40% of residents below the poverty line).  In creating dead-end streets, we sought to create safe spaces for the type of socializing that was already happening.[1]

Ultimately, we proposed 96 new one- and two-family structures in new developments.  We also proposed 95 infill units in strategic locations across the site.  Finally, we propose 100 units in three new multifamily buildings.  We estimate that approximately 750 new residents will move in as a result.

The Housing Cluster

The existing residential fabric in our neighborhood is evenly split between single-family and multi-family homes; the built structures are overwhelmingly “Buffalo double” duplexes or structures of a similar design.  In addition to being in poor condition, dwelling units in Masten Park are often more square footage than residents need or can afford.  The many large houses make it difficult for seniors to stay in the area as they age, and for young couples to move in.  At all ages, residents face the challenge of heating and maintaining their houses, which many residents can afford to purchase but few can afford to keep up.

Our goal in designing housing clusters was to accommodate the range of housing typologies that are currently not represented in the area, while maintaining the visual character of the neighborhood.  We wanted to capitalize on the phenomenon of street-as-social-space, mentioned above, by creating dead-end streets with public space in the center and narrow streets for cars.  The houses would have small backyards, with the hope that outdoor recreation would take place in front of the house.  To that end, our housing clusters have small semi-public squares as well as a pedestrian path to connect each cluster to the greenway.  The goal was to create a gradient of private and public space that would move residents seamlessly between their homes and the public greenway, to create a pleasant private space while creating alternate routes for pedestrians to get in and out of their neighborhood.

[1] The importance of the street as a social space was confirmed via Google street view, where we could see many residents using front porches, sidewalks and occasionally the street as an extension of the home.

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