Tactical Urbanism on Barcelona’s Superblocks

Earlier this summer, Principal Mike Lydon was interviewed by Streetfilms and he shared his own impression of Barcelona’s Superilla. A new human-centered experiment in the design of Barcelona’s street grid using a Tactical Urbanism approach.

This initiative gives the street back to residents and showcases the success of city streets that are designed for people and not for motor traffic.

Click HERE to view the Streetfilms video and article.

Tactical Urbanism in Santa Fe, Argentina

Earlier this year, Street Plans hosted a Tactical Urbanism workshop in Santa Fe, Argentina as part of our partnership with 100 Resilient Cities to provide member cities with resilience strategies through low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment. In Santa Fe, the workshop focused on engaging community members and leaders to come up with several demonstration project proposals for the recovery of Parque del Norte, a former sanitary landfill in the northern sector of the city. The goal was to add value to underutilized spaces within Parque del Norte by involving the community through short-term, scalable interventions.

The workshop was kicked off by a presentation on Tactical Urbanism and how its principles can be used to widen public engagement and test ideas, specifically in Parque del Norte. Nearly 40 participants, including the mayor of Santa Fe, business owners, cultural organization representatives, and other community members took part in this initiative. After a site visit, participants formed groups to brainstorm and propose ideas to transform Parque del Norte into an actively-programmed, neighborhood destination.

 

The proposed interventions included community programming, public art, furniture, lighting, and educational activities about resiliency, recycling, and botanical gardening. In addition, the community proposed to remove parking for the main entrance and create artistic crosswalks to make the park more accessible to pedestrians. The materials used and the community partners involved were also determined.

Photo of Parque del Norte’s main entry during the workshop site visit.

On June 5, World Environment Day, the Chief Resiliency Office gathered the community to plan the build-day for the interventions in Parque del Norte. The activities then took place over the weekend of June 29 as a way to celebrate the 1-year anniversary since the release of Santa Fe’s Resiliency strategy.

Check out a few photos of the final result below:

Reflections on 10 Years of the NYC Plaza Program

In 2007, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlanNYC made a bold commitment that all New Yorkers would live within a 10-minute walk of an open space. Rather than give that goal to the Parks Department as might seem obvious, the plan’s visionary crafters assigned it instead to the Department of Transportation, imagining that underutilized parts of the City’s street network could potentially be converted to public space. Charged with that task, NYC DOT’s ambitious Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, brought on Andy Wiley-Schwartz from the Project for Public Spaces to make the vision into a reality.

The resulting NYC Plaza Program, which celebrated its 10th Anniversary at an opening event for Corona Plaza in Queens this past Saturday, now boasts an impressive 30-acre portfolio with 74 locations citywide where streets have been repurposed into actively-programmed, partner-managed, neighborhood destinations. This a tremendous accomplishment for which Andy deserves hearty congratulations, as well as the program’s current director Emily Weidenhof. The NYC Plaza Program’s rapid growth was due in no small part to widely employing simple but transformative quick-build methods, first experimented with by NYC DOT in 2006-7 projects which pre-date the program’s official launch, including Willoughby Street in Brooklyn, 14th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan, and Pearl Street in Brooklyn. Using the principles cataloged in Tactical Urbanism and now replicated throughout the world, NYC DOT was able to reclaim street space virtually overnight, allowing city officials and local partners to test design and programming concepts, and deliver instant safety and public life benefits without waiting for costly and time-consuming capital reconstruction (that would come years down the line).

Photo: Andy Wiley-Schwartz, NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and numerous others commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the NYC Plaza Program at Corona Plaza in Queens, NY.

But the lynchpin of the program’s success is its reliance on local nonprofit organizations to generate project locations via an application process, and then maintain the new open spaces once they are implemented. This unusual and pioneering process was crafted with the wisdom that the best public spaces have a design program which reflects and responds to the neighborhood character and culture, and are activated and stewarded by dedicated community stakeholders. As Public Space Operations Manager at NYC DOT from 2008 to 2013, I was responsible for developing and managing relationships with the nonprofit maintenance partners and am personally very grateful for their hard work and commitment to making each plaza successful.

It was a very tricky dynamic- to invite a community group to help us plan and build a public space, and then ask them to commit to physically maintaining it for the foreseeable future. New York City is dotted with past examples of projects where that relationship failed, chiefly because once the project was built, the maintenance partner was left with a large liability but very little support or ongoing benefit. So we developed a more sustainable model based on my own experiences at Bryant Park such that DOT plaza partners are granted limited opportunities to subsidize their obligations through fundraising, sponsorships, and concessions like kiosks and food markets.

Photo: Danza Azteca Chichimeca performs a ceremonial dance at the opening of Corona Plaza in Queens, NY

Ultimately the public-private partnership model we developed proved to be adequate, but only up to a point. Most of the Plaza Program’s early partners were fairly well-capitalized BIDs and LDCs in high-visibility locations, but achieving the goal of building a plaza in each of New York’s 59 community districts meant finding partners in areas where resources were scarcer and revenue-generating efforts less fruitful, and that proved far more difficult. To address this, NYC DOT partnered with the Horticultural Society of New York to launch the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership with a grant from the JM Kaplan Fund. NPP works with smaller plaza partners to help them take care of their public spaces by providing training, capacity-building, and subsidized cleaning and landscaping services as part of The Hort’s larger workforce development program with ACE.

One of the most challenging aspects of developing any partnership-based public realm initiative is tailoring the design program to meet the capacity of the maintenance entity, and then calibrating expectations for successful outcomes. In Times Square and other midtown plazas, it was about responding to overwhelming demand – addressing concerns about plaza wear and tear, pedestrian circulation, and commercial event saturation. At a place like New Lots Plaza at the end of the #3 train in Brooklyn, it was more basic- how are we going to get the space swept and have snow cleared? Who can put out and bring in tables and chairs every day? What plants will survive with limited attention in the shadows of an elevated train?

Photo: The NYC DOT Plaza Program now includes 74 locations covering 30 acres

Every plaza is different and every partner is different, and it was our job to find a formula that solved for the distinct needs of each individual place. In the case of Herald Square, millions of dollars is spent each year by 34th Street Partnership on a sanitation crew that cleans the entire 31-block district around-the-clock. In the case of New Lots Plaza, the head of the small local merchants association owned a pizza shop and agreed to have his porter sweep the plaza each morning. The further out we went from the central business districts, the more we had to cobble together creative operating plans, sometimes requiring bare bones services provided by the City, often involving in-kind or volunteer participation from area businesses and institutions, and in a number of key locations bolstered by the valiant support of Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

What is crucial is that no public space is designed to a standard which cannot be reasonably managed and maintained. And for that, there is no better tool than using temporary materials. The quick-build approach allowed DOT to test if a public space would actually work in a given location from many different perspectives – not just in terms of traffic flow, but was it embraced by the community and did the partner have the ability to take care of it? In many cases plaza designs had to change and even whole partner organizations had to change to make the project successful. But what we have now, what is embodied in the work I do today with Street Plans, is a roadmap for using temporary materials to foster and cultivate public realm improvements incrementally – from demonstration phase to pilot phase to interim phase to permanent build-out – making tweaks where necessary, and ensuring that the long-term large capital investment is both sound and sustainable.

Photo: The newly-opened, permanently-reconstructed Corona Plaza in the background with a sign in the foreground showing its original incarnation as a congested parking lot

Ed Janoff is Senior Director of Project Development at The Street Plans Collaborative

Street Plans to Host Public Workshop in Asheville to Plan Tactical Urbanism Project

Street Plans was hired by Asheville on Bikes, Blue Ridge Bicycle Club, and AARP to advise the community in the temporary redesign of Coxe Avenue utilizing tactical urbanism in Asheville, NC. 

Street Plans will lead a public workshop on June 21st to further inform the community and local stakeholders about tactical urbanism and to plan and propose the specific elements of the project. The project will use temporary materials to test a reconfiguration of Coxe Avenue, a main  thoroughfare through downtown Asheville, to better inform a more permanent redesign of the street in the future. The goal is to make the street safer for all users, especially pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Click HERE to read a full article about the upcoming workshop. 

Street Plans Helped Youth Leaders Design & Build Curb Extensions in Bridgeport, CT

Last week, Street Plans teamed up with inspiring youth leaders at a non-profit called Make the Road Connecticut and the public health department at Sacred Hearth University to demonstrate how some simple tweaks to street design can have positive outcomes for safety, aesthetics, stormwater, and placemaking. 

Youth leaders designed and painted their own curb extensions to slow traffic, shorten crossing distances, and add a pop of color to their walk to school. They also addressed 3 state reps including Steve Stafstrom to rally for improved bussing and walking infrastructure. 

Street Plans Concludes 6-month Study for NYACK Bike & Ped Master Plan

As a sub-consultant to Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc. (FHI), Street Plans has worked with the Village of Nyack to develop a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan for the region. For Earth Day this year on Sunday, April 22, Street Plans conducted outreach by talking with residents and constructing a pop-up protected bike lane. Residents were able to experience first-hand the types of bicycle infrastructure that will be made possible by the larger master plan. 

Street Plans and the project team will wrap up the 6-month long study at the final Steering Committee meeting on June 18th. 

Click HERE to read an article describing more about the project. 

Street Plans Holds Final Workshop Before Tactical Urbanism Project in Akron, OH

Last year, Street Plans was awarded a grant from the Knight Foundation to work with the City of Akron and University of Akron to design and construct a three-month pilot project along 9 blocks of Exchange Street in Akron, Ohio. 

Street Plans began the project last September and held the final community workshop and volunteer training session on Saturday, June 2nd. The final design, which includes a protected bike lane, is set to be built with community residents and city leaders between August 11-15. 

Street Plans’ Principal Tony Garcia was recently quoted in an article saying: “It’s been great coaching the city and citizens through the process of designing and building a world class bicycle facility on Exchange [Street] that has already led to improvements in the design of ongoing public works projects and will accelerate the delivery of a much needed project.” 

Click HERE to read a full article about the project. 

Street Plans, Streetfilms Kick Off Outreach for Jersey City Bicycle Master Plan

On World Bike Day, Sunday, June 3rd, Jersey City held their 9th annual Ward Tour. Over 3,000 cyclists came out for a 16-mile ride through each of Jersey City’s wards. 

Street Plans is the primary consultant to the City of Jersey City in the development of their first ever bicycle master plan. On Sunday, Street Plans increased awareness for the upcoming plan, talking with cyclists before and after the event. Clarence Eckerson from Streetfilms is also working as a sub-consultant for the Jersey City Bicycle Master Plan and was there generating excitement and awareness for the plan through a brand new Streetfilm! 

Click HERE to view the Streetfilm. 

Street Plans’ Principal Tony Garcia Interviewed about Miami Bungalow Project

Street Plans’ Principal Tony Garcia was recently interviewed by Cuban Art News about the Miami Bungalow Project that he is leading and how the low-cost approach of Tactical Urbanism can help preserve the character of Little Havana in Miami. 

In October of 2017, Tony was awarded the 2017-2018 CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Architecture & Design. The mission of the CINTAS Foundation is  “to encourage artistic expression and appreciation by offering grants to artists, architects, composers and creative writers of Cuban descent living in or outside Cuba, and by making their art available to the public.”

The CINTAS Fellowship award has allowed Street Plans to carry out the Miami Bungalow Project, which “seeks to identify ways that the spirit and character of the bungalows can be preserved in their scale and relationship to the public realm, while accommodating the pressures of increased development demand.”

Click HERE to read the full article.  

Street Plans’ Biscayne Green Project Wins CNU Charter Award

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), an international nonprofit organization working to build more vibrant communities, announced the winners of its 17th Annual Charter Awards. This year the jury focused on winners whose “projects advanced equitable and inclusive placemaking.”

Street Plans’ Biscayne Green project received a CNU Charter Award! For three weeks, Biscayne Green transformed 101 parking spaces– two parking medians– into new public spaces, testing design ideas to inform the long-term re-design of Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. 

Click HERE to view a full list of CNU Charter Award winners.