The latest news on New York architecture.

  • New York will invest to achieve resiliency

    Henry Melcher reports for The Architect's Newspaper: COME HELL OR HIGH WATER. BIG, SCAPE, Penn Design/OLIN, OMA, MIT, and Interboro win HUD's resiliency competition, Rebuild by Design.

    THE TEAM LED BY BIG PROPOSED A LANDSCAPED BERM AROUND MANHATTAN TO PROTECT AGAINST FLOODING.
    In April, when the 10 finalists in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild By Design competition presented their plans for a more resilient Northeast, the underlying question behind the initiative was: What’s Next? What—if anything—would actually come out of Rebuild By Design? Today, that question was answered.
    At the Jacob Riis Houses, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer, Governor Andrew Cuomo, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Zia Khan of the Rockefeller Foundation announced that hundreds of millions of dollars are in place to implement BIG’s berm for Lower Manhattan, Scape’s living breakwaters off Staten Island, Penn Design/OLIN’s resiliency upgrades for the South Bronx, and Interboro’s strategies to protect Nassau County. Later in the day, in Little Field, New Jersey, Secretary Donovan and Governor Chris Christie revealed that MIT’s plans for new parkland in the Meadowlands and OMA’s comprehensive flood protection system for Hoboken would also receive federal funds. These six winning teams are out of an initial 148 who entered the competition last summer.
    BIG'S PLAN PROTECTS MANHATTAN WITH A LANDSCAPED BERM. SEE MORE OF THEIR PROPOSAL HERE. “Implementing these proposals is morally the right thing to do because they will save lives,” said Secretary Donovan at the day's first announcement. “But it also makes economic sense because for every dollar that we spend today on hazard mitigation, we save at least four dollars the next time disaster strikes.” While the design and implementation specifics of each plan have not been finalized, the investment in these proposals is significant: $355 million for New York City, $185 million for New York State, and $380 million for New Jersey. The money comes out of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program and is in addition to the billions of dollars already being spent on resiliency projects led by the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.
    A TEAM HEADED BY OLIN AND PENNDESIGN CALLED FOR "INTEGRATED STORM PROTECTION AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE). SEE MORE OF THE PROPOSAL HERE.
    At the announcement, Mayor de Blasio said that within the next four or five years, New Yorkers are going to see “a hugely different physical reality in this city.” And that is because these plans do more than protect against the water, they reimagine and reopen the city’s connection to it.
    A KEY COMPONENT OF SCAPE'S PROPOSAL WAS LIVING BREAKWATERS. SEE MORE OF THE PROPOSAL HERE.
    About 95 percent of New York City’s money goes toward realizing a section of BIG’s “Big U” proposal to wrap Lower Manhattan in a berm and green space. The new “bridging berm” along the Lower East Side will provide waterfront space for the neighborhood and protect 29,000 public housing units from the next storm. The city will also receive $20 million for continued study and planning as part of PennDesign/OLIN’s proposal for Hunts Point in the South Bronx, which is a regional hub for food distribution.
    INTERBORO'S PROPOSAL CALLED FOR GREEN-BLUE CORRIDORS SEE MORE OF THE PROPOSAL HERE.
    For New York State, $125 million will help fund Interboro’s proposal for Nassau County, which transforms the Mill River into a blue-green corridor. And another $60 million is set for SCAPE’s oyster reefs—or “living breakwaters”—to protect Staten Island’s South Shore.
    OMA'S TEAM PROPOSED STRATEGY FOR HOBOKEN RESILIENCY. SEE MORE OF THEIR PROPOSAL HERE.
    In New Jersey, Hoboken will receive $230 million for OMA’s plan to flood-proof the city with a mix of hard and soft infrastructure. There is also $150 million set for the “New Meadowlands”—a public park designed by MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism.
    THE PROPOSAL FROM A TEAM LED BY MIT PROPOSED NEW PARKLAND. SEE MORE OF THE PROPOSAL HERE. Secretary Donovan said that the winning projects were chosen not just for their feasibility, but because they could best serve as models of resiliency for other vulnerable parts other country.  

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  • Do older buildings and neighborhoods contribute positively to a city's economy?

    Emily Badger reports for The Washington Post: An economic defense of old buildings. Jane Jacobs, a woman akin to the patron saint of urban planners, first argued 50 years ago that healthy neighborhoods need old buildings. Aging, creaky, faded, "charming" buildings. Retired couples and young families need the cheap rent they promise. Small businesses need the cramped offices they contain. Streets need the diversity created not just when different people coexist, but when buildings of varying vintage do, too. "Cities need old buildings so badly," Jacobs wrote in her classic "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," "it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.” Ever since, this idea -- based on the intuition of a woman who was surveying her own New York Greenwich Village neighborhood -- has been received wisdom among planners and urban theorists. But what happens when we look at the data? The National Trust for Historic Preservation has tried to do just this, leveraging open property-parcel data in three cities to analyze the connection between the kinds of places Jacobs was describing and the numbers that economists and businesses would care about: jobs per square foot, the share of small businesses to big chains, the number of minority- and women-owned businesses. The novel geospatial analysis, drawn from the District of Columbia, Seattle and San Francisco, suggests that older, smaller buildings do matter to a city's economy and a neighborhood's commercial life beyond the allure of affordable fixer-uppers. In Seattle, the report found one-third more jobs per commercial square foot in parts of town with a variety of older, smaller buildings mixed in. In Seattle, it found more than twice the rate of women and minority-owned businesses. In the District, it found a higher share of non-chain businesses. The findings don't necessarily mean we should save all old buildings from demolition, or even that one old building is better than one new one. But they give preservationists (and Jane Jacobs enthusiasts) new data in fierce development debates over how rapidly changing and relatively older cities like Washington should grow. "For a long time, preservationists have been making the the cultural argument that these places feed our soul, and they connect us to our past," says Stephanie Meeks, the president and CEO of the National Trust of the National Trust. "But this is the first time we’ve had empirical data to show that these places perform better economically and on many livability factors, as well." The report divided each city into a grid of 200-by-200-meter squares to allow comparison across neighborhoods (city blocks tend to be different sizes even across the same city, making that unit a poor measure). This is Washington, with its main commercial and mixed-use neighborhoods highlighted: The Jacobsian quality of each grid square was measured by a "character score" combining three factors from county assessor data: the median building age there, the diversity of building ages (as a standard deviation), and the "granularity" of many small buildings versus a few large ones (think H Street instead of NoMa). "If you‘re walking for 30 seconds down a street, how many interesting things do you pass?" asks Michael Powe, the lead researcher on the project with the trust'sPreservation Green Lab. "That's a good measure of granularity." The report then compared the results to more than 40 metrics of economic and social life, accounting for differences across neighborhoods in median income, transit accessibility and private reinvestment. The trust looked at concentrations of social activity through cellphone use, at businesses per 1,000 square feet of commercial space, at population density and walkability scores. This is the map of small businesses in Washington: And here are new businesses launched in 2012: The trust acknowledges that these are sophisticated correlations at best; it's hard to say that old buildings cause small and minority-owned businesses to open shop, or that theycause twentysomethings to congregate on Friday nights. Still, smaller, older buildings don't lend themselves well to formulaic chain stores, making them a good home for other kinds of businesses that don't then have to compete for rent with Starbucks and Chili's. This means that the barriers to entry are lower on a strip like H Street. Neighborhoods with many small shops and restaurants side by side are also more conducive to foot traffic and the kind of unanticipated business that's created when you walk to a restaurant on Barracks Row in Capitol Hill and later wind up at a bar next door. The trust argues that these qualities inherent in older, smaller-scale building stock keep cities affordable for local businesses and lower-income renters, although economists like Edward Glaeser have argued precisely the opposite: that preservationists who oppose new development restrict the supply of new housing that might drive prices down. "The idea that building new is going to lead to greater affordability has been the standard economic model of supply and demand," Powe says, "and that may hold true in the aggregate at the end of the day. But it’s very hard to build new affordable housing, and this is a great natural stock of affordable stuff." For the whole report click here.

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