Tuesday, March 17, 2015  |  0 Comment(s)  |   Email   Print

Site Design and Legacy Cities

by Ryan Mackin

Innovative site and stormwater design is essential in satisfying the spectrum of goals of Vacant to Vibrant. Our design team, Jason Kentner—partner at IMPLEMENT and associate professor of landscape architecture at Ohio State’s Knowlton School, and Sean Burkholder—assistant professor of landscape and urban design at the University of Buffalo, carried out a design process that re-envisioned vacant project lots in Gary, Buffalo and Cleveland. This process required the designers to maximize stormwater retention potential, fit criteria for quantifiable and consistent research, and create usable spaces for residents living in close proximity to each site. Community engagement and input was integral in each site’s design outcome. From resident feedback via surveys, discussions, and community meetings, the designers set out to create vibrant community spaces as much as green stormwater infrastructure sites. Thus each site is unique to the desires of the residents, but aligned on standards to measure environmental impact. By working on both the regional and local scale, it is our hope that the design template and approach used for Vacant to Vibrant can be replicated for standard-sized residential lots throughout a variety of Legacy Cities.

Jason Kentner further explains his design approach:

The great opportunity for us as designers working with the Vacant to Vibrant projects has been to work one-on-one with community residents and stakeholders to reposition vacant properties as positive assets within each neighborhood. The community dialog in Cleveland, Gary and Buffalo has been very productive and in each case speaks to the deep commitment and investment that residents have to each other and the best possible future for the respective neighborhoods. Through the design process one significant choice that community residents and stakeholders helped in making was the choice to have the proposed landscapes acts as either “active” or “passive” spaces within the neighborhood. Active spaces are commonly used for recreational sports and games while passive spaces often provide for simple places to relax or gather with neighbors. Where active spaces were desired, residents often spoke of having spaces for neighborhood children to play. Where passive spaces were desired, residents saw the potential of having peaceful spaces that would be filled with blooming flowers and singing birds.


Figure 1. Design concept rendering of Lawrence Place site in Buffalo.

Based on feedback from residents and stakeholders our approach was different in each city and in many cases from lot to lot. In Buffalo, the three properties had already established roles and uses within the community with one serving as a connection to an existing city park and the others occupying prominent corner sites where neighborhood gatherings were common. In Cleveland, from block to block the residents had somewhat different expectations for each of the properties resulting in a wide range of amenities being made available to the neighborhood. In Gary, there was a great deal of pride in the history of the neighborhood that residents wanted to display while allowing the use of future sites to remain somewhat flexible. In each case, the participation of neighborhood residents has been invaluable to shaping the design of each Vacant to Vibrant project site. We look forward to seeing the projects move toward completion with the coming spring.



Figure 2. Design concept rendering of Hulda Avenue site in Cleveland.



Figure 3. Figure 4.

Figure 3. Stormwater site plan for 1035 Oklahoma Avenue in Gary (above).

Figure 4. Landscape site plan for Shale Avenue site in Cleveland (right).




In addition, Vacant to Vibrant is proud to be featured on Legacy City Design, a new website that presents a variety of design practices happening in U.S. cities that have experienced loss of jobs and population over the past few decades. Legacy City Design draws connections among projects in various Legacy Cities, shares information about design and implementation processes, and advocates for new design solutions through a diversity of research and pilot projects. Legacy City Design is founded and coordinated by the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City—part of the City College of New York’s Spitzer School of Architecture.

Website visitors can discover and compare groundbreaking projects from Charleston, West Virginia’s Slack Plaza, to St. Louis, Missouri’s Sustainable Land Lab Competition, to Cleveland’s own Opportunity Corridor and Velodrome.



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