Parks, Plazas & Central Squares
PPS is working with the Center for Urban Development of the General Services Administration in a nationwide program to help GSA’s regional offices leverage federal real estate actions in ways that support communities — to bolster community efforts to encourage smart growth, economic vitality, and cultural vibrancy through partnerships among federal agencies, communities, and the private sector. PPS is acting as a prime resource to this placemaking effort, aimed at creating model civic spaces in and around federal buildings in 29 cities nationwide, by offering on-site technical assistance and design services, developing organizational management structures to ensure ongoing public space maintenance, and producing a series of educational and training tools aimed at assisting Portfolio and Building Managers undertake these projects. Projects include, among others, design of a new civic plaza at the Fort Worth Government Center, Ft. Worth, TX; the redesign of Boston City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA; and programming and redesign of the US Department of Education’s Plaza in Washington, D.C. Client: U.S. General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service, Center for Urban Development.
In late 1999, PPS began working with the city of Detroit to reclaim a concrete island that was originally envisioned to be the heart of downtown, and the axis from which all addresses and numbered streets in Michigan began. PPS worked with the community to develop a vision for a park that would become, in the Mayor’s words, the best public space in the world.
By recommending improvements to the surrounding sidewalks and radiating streets, and to buildings that will front on the park, the city envisions an entire district of public uses that will tie the park into a larger revitalization. The park is intended to be a place that attracts people day and night and that provides activities for different ages and types of groups year round. A spectacular transparent glass conservatory, a café, green space, fountains, and a space for gatherings and special events are all part of the initial vision. Around the park, sidewalks and several new buildings will be the settings for activities such as markets, performances, outdoor cafes, newsstands, and information kiosks, all designed to stimulate street activity in downtown.
PPS is working with Harlem neighborhoods to revitalize what has long been one of New York’s most troubled parks. The 30-acre Morningside Park lies on the border between low income neighborhoods and some of the city’s most elite institutions, including Columbia University. PPS worked with the Morningside Area Alliance and Partnerships for Parks to conduct surveys, workshops and interviews that would create a strategy to revitalize the park and its dwindling friends group. Focusing recommendations on new activities scaled to local community uses, the plan has helped the friends win new respect and enabled new partnerships with funders, churches, schools and New York Parks and Recreation. Funding: the J M Kaplan Fund.
LIBERTY STATE PARK
At 1100 acres, Liberty State Park, located on the Hudson River Waterfront, is among the nation’s largest urban parks. PPS advised the Liberty State Park Development Corporation on a vision for the park to take it into the next century while also identifying short and mid?term projects that can be implemented quickly to “get the ball rolling.” PPS facilitated brainstorming sessions, conducted research into noteworthy examples of waterfront parks the world over, and developed a long term concept plan and short term actions. Client: Liberty State Park Development Corporation.
HARLEM RIVER WATERFRONT ACCESS PLAN
PPS worked in northern Manhattan to revitalize existing park space and create new parks, to improve public access to the Harlem River waterfront, including the Harlem River Esplanade, Sherman Creek wetlands area, and Highbridge Park. Today these spaces – especially the esplanade and Highbridge Park – are virtually inaccessible to pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, the north end of the Harlem River Driveway, adjacent to an elementary school, is a hazardous intersection. Working with the local community, PPS has developed traffic calming concepts for the redesign of this intersection, connecting streets to Sherman Creek, and for the Harlem River Driveway itself. The Driveway, a four-lane highway between the Harlem River Esplanade and Highbridge Park, is an obstacle to increasing use of both parks. PPS and New York Restoration Project (NYRP) studied modifications to the major intersections, access ramps, and the Driveway itself to help determine future modifications and set the stage for a future community-based plan for the revitalization of these important parks. Funding: Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Client: NYRP.
RAHWAY STATION SQUARE CONCEPT PLAN
While New Jersey Transit was in the process of building a handsome new train station building in Rahway, the downtown’s special improvement district, the Downtown Rahway Partnership, hired PPS to look at the possibility of removing adjacent retail buildings to build a new station square. In addition, PPS investigated pedestrian, circulation and streetscape improvements that could be made in the surrounding neighborhood to better integrate the station and its proposed square into the community. Client: Downtown Rahway Partnership; Implementation Funding: ISTEA.
DOWNTOWN OSSINING PUBLIC SQUARE
PPS conducted a process to evaluate and develop concepts for reconfiguring and evolving new uses for a public square to help revitalize downtown Ossining, New York. As a result, a bare-bones parking lot, which is the site of the current farmers market, is being restructured and expanded into a new permanent market square with landscaping and public art, performance areas for artistic and cultural shows, areas for children’s activities, seating, socializing, community events, dining and the weekly market. Client: Village of Ossining.
PPS conducted an ambitious evaluation for the William Penn Foundation to identify the most successful areas and activities of Philadelphia Green, a community greening program of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. This study, which spans four low-income, central Philadelphia neighborhoods, entails both overall program evaluation and an examination of what strategies go farthest to enhance and sustain the public’s perceptions and use of specific sites, including community gardens, neighborhood parks, housing projects and tree-planted streets. Client: William Penn Foundation.
WILMINGTON STATION SQUARE
As part of a team looking at the potential of the Amtrak Station in Wilmington, Delaware, PPS developed a program of uses and design concept for the revitalization of the square in front of the station. Currently, the square is bisected by a major roadway and is little used. The proposed redesign would relocated the bisecting street, make the square more pedestrian accessible and create a multi-use urban garden with horticultural displays, a café, and other amenities. Recommendations for additional retail in surrounding buildings, including the station itself, were also developed. Client: Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Council.
BATTERY PARK CITY PARKS
PPS collaborated with the Battery Park City Parks Corporation (BPCPC) in an effort with three primary objectives: 1) to develop a clearer understanding of the composition of users and patterns of use occurring in the parks in Battery Park City (BPC), overlooking the Hudson River, 2) to develop ideas for experiments that could be completed in the short term to deal with general issues in the Park, such as safety in parklands, increases in demand for park facilities and amenities, and inappropriate usage of some park areas, and 3) to integrate these ideas into an organizing plan. To accomplish these goals, PPS and BPCPC staff worked closely to collect and design instruments for data collection, discuss issues and observations, develop solutions, and to jointly participate in activity mapping and surveying of park visitors. PPS provided the BPCPC with information and materials assisting them in implementing a series of short term improvements to the parks in BPC, and is currently helping to implement recommendations for short term experiments as well as ideas for longer term strategies that can help BPCPC adapt effectively to projected increases in future use. Client: Battery Park City Parks Corporation.
CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK
PPS helped develop a process and guidelines to assist the Georgia World Congress Center in reviewing proposed gifts of public art for inclusion in the Centennial Olympic Park that was being developed for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. The procedures and criteria were developed to guide the GWCC in evaluating public art works and in documenting the review process, defining eligible artists and projects, and identifying local experts and advisors to participate in the review of gifts of public art. Client: Georgia World Congress Center.
COURT STREET COMMUNITY SQUARE
As part of a plan to transform a downtown parking lot into a vital community square, PPS developed a program of uses and temporary structures that began to make a difference within six months of starting the project. The formerly vacant space next to city hall is now the site of constant activity, including farmer’s markets, plays and even weddings, in addition to parking. The new square opened in 1993 and has become a popular meeting place for city workers, visitors and shoppers. Other regular community events there include art and fashion shows, concerts, theatrical performances, dances and pot luck dinners. It is one of several early action improvement programs, in addition to a long-term plan, to address the deficiencies of the downtown that PPS developed working with the community. In the long-term, PPS defined five key development projects, now underway, to create a unique, mixed-use arts and entertainment district downtown. Client: City of San Bernardino.
PPS conducted a community workshop to improve Albert Park, and developed a plan for making improvements, which included a garden in conjunction with San Rafael’s sister city in Italy, a children’s play area, bocce courts and a front porch on the library overlooking the Park. As a result of the workshop, the community has taken on major responsibility for implementation, a portion of which has been completed, and the rest is underway. Part of this implementation process has involved community people taking photographs, as well as visiting and observing examples of parks in other cities, making phone calls and conducting other research. Client: Recreation Director, City of San Rafael Parks Department.
TOWN LAKE PARK
PPS worked with a consultant team of landscape architects, architects, hydrologists, traffic engineers, and economic planners to develop a master plan for the parklands around Austin’s Town Lake and to establish guidelines for the development of adjacent public and private land. PPS studied the use made of the parklands surrounding the Lake, which is a 6?mile body of water that runs through the city. Issues studied included public access to the waterfront, pedestrian paths and circulation throughout the parklands, and density and distribution of use. Client: City of Austin.
FLUSHING MEADOWS – CORONA PARK
PPS conducted a comprehensive user analysis of Flushing Meadows?Corona Park, which is the second largest park in New York City and the site of two World’s Fairs. The results of this analysis included recommendations and priorities for future planning, including the establishment of a management organization for the park, improvements to circulation, parking and access, and layout and design of new activity centers in the park. The plan also included recommendations for short?term, easily implementable changes such as signage, lighting, landscaping, and amenities. Funding: New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
FAIRMOUNT PARK SYSTEM
With 8,000 acres of parkland in the form of downtown plazas, wooded picnic areas, parks in declining neighborhoods and extensive recreation facilities, the Fairmount Park System is the largest city park system in the world. Under a federal grant, the City of Philadelphia undertook a comprehensive Grounds Maintenance Study of the park system. PPS conducted a survey of park use in order to help determine the appropriate uses and regulations for various parks and to revise park programs and maintenance schedules. Park visitor needs and conflicts between uses were analyzed as were specific problems such as litter, vandalism, personal security, and design of picnic areas and playgrounds. Funding: City of Philadelphia.
PPS conducted a study of Bryant Park, formerly known as needle park, which was notorious for drug dealing and other negative activities, in order to make the Park once again safe and inviting for office workers, shoppers, residents and visitors. PPS used interviews, videotaping, and activity mapping to address such issues as image, access and circulation, programming, landscape elements, management, security, and attitudes of park users and non-users. PPS developed design as well as activities programming and maintenance recommendations, which were incorporated into the final plan for the midtown Manhattan park that today enjoys perhaps the highest use and best maintenance of any urban park in America. Our recommendations included increasing visibility into the park by removing walls and hedges, improving circulation within the park, creating an entertainment program of films, concerts and events, enhancing the formal French landscape design, and adding thousands of movable chairs that make the park more user-friendly and signal to the public that the space is well-managed. Funding: Rockefeller Foundation.
CENTRAL PARK MALL
As a member of the design team for the Mall Restoration Project, PPS analyzed current use of this central gathering space in the park. By comparing patterns of use and current management of the area with research on the changes in the design of the Mall over the last one hundred years, it became evident that the Mall was not functioning as a promenade. PPS made a film which documents the changes in the design as a response to changing social and cultural preferences for entertainment in parks. The film has been used extensively to build support for the proposed design changes which evolved naturally from the study. Funding: NYC Parks and Recreation.