The Best of Projexity’s Site&Seek Series, 2015: Projects That Matter
Well it wouldn’t be the end of the year without another ‘best of’ list. It’s been a fun year starting Projexity’s Site&Seek series, where I profile projects that have a real impact on people, design, nature and cities. I covered lots of amazing projects in 2015. Here are 5 of my favorites.
1. Put a plaza on it
If I have to think of one controversy this year that encapsulates many urban problems, it has to be New York City’s Mayor De Blasio’s plan to revert the pedestrian plaza at Times Square back to vehicular traffic. Triggered by the overabundance of aggressive street performers, the mayor thought one idea would be to discourage pedestrians altogether and appease drivers (needless to say this caused considerable uproar among many New Yorkers).
That’s why one of my favorite sites that I profiled is the Flatiron District Plaza. Conceived under the same NYCDOT Public Plaza program that created Times Square pedestrian plaza, the Flatiron Plaza is very popular with locals and tourists alike. It shows that a well-maintained pedestrian area can create vibrant public space and not be the root of disorder.
The Flatiron Plaza was featured in my post “3 Kinds of Temporary Public Spaces and the Cities Who Love Them”.
2. Streets for everyone
One big reason that spurred the Times Square controversy is the constant tension between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. In June we profiled urban boulevards — a multi-modal street typology that allows all types of travelers to traverse safely next to each other.
A major factor for successful boulevards is having a well-designed and well-used median. My favorite example from our post is Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. Its medians are lined with tall mature trees and along the main walking paths one can find seating coves, bikeshare stations, informational booths and outdoor cafes. The opportunities are endless.
Check out Paseo de la Reforma and other awesome urban boulevards in my post “5 Notes On Urban Boulevards”.
3. Infrastructure makeovers
In contrast to boulevards, pieces of large urban infrastructure often dissect neighborhoods. In May we profiled various projects that seek to improve the public spaces in, around, and even under infrastructure. Waterfront Toronto’s Underpass Park is a great example of transforming leftover spaces in the shadow of the elevated Gardiner Expressway into much needed public space.
And with the recent announcement of Project: Under Gardiner, a privately-funded, 1.75 km long project that will provide a continuous stretch of activity, recreation and public space under the expressway, Toronto shows its commitment to making the most of their infrastructure.
For more infrastructural inspiration, head over to my post “Your Infrastructure Needs a Makeover”.
4. Adapt, reuse, repeat
In recent years, many cities have taken the opportunity to preserve historic sites and adapt them for modern use. I’m a fan of all the sites we profiled in our post from April, but I love the message that Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx represents — that adaptive reuse does not have to be high profile and glamorous to be a true amenity for neighborhoods. NYC’s Department of Parks partnered with Bronx River Alliance to turn the abandoned concrete plant and surrounding area into a neighborhood park, with green spaces that cater to families and residents.
See all five reuse projects in my post “Historic Sites, You’ve been (pre)Served”.
5. Feeding a community
Community programs and design projects can go hand in hand to improve neighborhoods. Community gardens such as those organized by the Green Scheme in Washington D.C. beautify neglected space and provide access to fresh, locally-grown produce to areas known as food deserts.
More initiatives that are having a real impact on communities’ access to healthy food can be found in my post “Growing a Solution to Food Deserts”.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll through some of my favorite projects that I highlighted in 2015. Here’s wishing you all a happy holiday and may we get to see more great neighborhood projects in the coming year!