Thursday, June 30, 2011

Blog Post No. 2011-11: Liberty Wharf is as advertised... question

The Photos: All credited to Russ Preston.

Photo 1: Looking east, with Legal Harborside 1 to the right.

Photo 2: Looking around the corner of the western building into the harbor.
Photo 3: Legal Harborside from across Northern Avenue.
Photo 4: Detail of the second floor, street side on the western building.
Photo 5: Up close on the streetscape.
Photo 6: One of the few new buildings in the area not clad in pre-cast concrete panels.
Photo 6: Looking between the buildings.

Photo 7: Looking west along the water, back toward downtown Boston.
The Location: Liberty Wharf, 242 Northern Avenue, South Boston Waterfront (aka The Seaport District), Boston, MA (Map)

Year of Urban Fabric Restoration: 2010.

The Story: In this case, less is actually more. This location was formerly Jimmy's Harborside. Having never eaten at Jimmy's I can't comment on the food. But there is no question that its demise laid the groundwork for an urban design upgrade of the first order. Compare the pictures above to this:

Certainly iconic. Well known as a Boston tradition. Yet distinctly lacking as it met the street. In its last iteration, the Jimmy's building was a single continuous frontage that gave you almost no sense that Boston Harbor was, you know, just behind it. The new design, from Elkus Manfredi, breaks open the site into 3 structures, wraps the Harborwalk around the water side and lets even those walking by on the street side know that the waterfront is really there. I confess that I hadn't really thought to go check out the location until Brian McGrory wrote a typically worthwhile column in the Boston Globe a week ago on what a success it's turning out to be: "Waterfront hits its stride." With such an endorsement, I made a mental note to see what the fuss was all about the next time an opportunity arose. So when fellow CNUer and urban designer Russ Preston came up from Providence for lunch earlier this week, we went over to Legal Sea Food's new Harborside 1. It was a nice day, if somewhat hazy, so the doors out to the harbor and the boat slips a level down were all wide open. In summer, exactly the way it should be. In the true spirit of RTUF's taking whatever we're given: although RTUF's photo apparatus was deployed, Russ' pictures were just that much better, so that's what we have. We here at RTUF highly recommend a visit yourself if you're here in town or come to visit anytime soon. If the rest of the redeveloped waterfront works this well, we will be lucky indeed.

RTUF Sketch of the Restored Urban Fabric: RTUF was spared the effort this time as the project architects, Elkus Manfredi, have a handy series of images, including a site plan, here. And Liberty Wharf itself even has a blog, check it out here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blog Post No. 2011-10: Block 89, Madison, WI

Redevelopment requires patience, my friends...

Location: Block 89 (bounded by East Main, South Pinckney, East Doty, and King streets), Madison, Wisconsin

Map and Images: Here and here.

The Story: So, your faithful RTUF correspondent has been out in Madison, WI, for CNU 19 for the last couple of days. It's been fun reconnecting with the NUers from outside of New England (and even a few of my fellow regional denizens). I'm leaving a bit early and so going to miss the "Mano-a-Mano at Monona," a.k.a., the Saturday evening plenary that will close the Congress in which Andres Duany and Charles Waldheim will discuss what New Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism. As a quick aside here, I have almost lived up to my promise to read the Landscape Urbanism Reader and give you, RTUF's vast and influential readership, my own personal take on the NU-LU dispute. Loook for that dispatch in the next couple of weeks.

But, to return to the title of this post: we are stepping outside of the Boston focus of the blog today to highlight the great, but painstaking work that was required to turn a piece of once-failing urban fabric in the heart of Madison into a great urban block -- Block 89. I went to a session this morning on financing mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented projects and heard Thomas Neujahr, one of the principals of Urban Land Interests, the project's developer, walk through the project's complex financing and buildout approach, which used a combination of municipal tax increment financing,  and a redevelopment district plus patient and carefully considered phasing over a 20-year period, starting in the mid-1980s at pretty much the nadir of downtown-located retail and mixed-use in Madison as well as the country as a whole. His presentation included aerial before and after photos of the block that I will post as soon as I can access the dropbox where the presentation has been uploaded.

Madison, by the way, is a great town. The area between the two lakes and focusing on the State Capitol and the University of Wisconsin's main campus was built out on a plan by John Nolen. The standard grid is broken by 4 radials centered on the capitol building that give the overall layout of the city a dintinctive character and focus. Since today is the opening day for Roslindale Square's seasonal farmer's market, it is worth noting that they have a very massive farmer's market -- the Dane County Farmer's Market -- on Saturdays that goes all the way around the state capitol on 4 sides. It's got to be the one of the biggest markets of its kind in the US, if not the biggest. Some photos here:

Photo 1: Bee stall with vendor and beehive hat.

Photo 2: Picked up some 8-year aged Wisconsin cheddar here.

Photo 3: It's pretty much a one-way loop all the way around.

Photo 4: They close off King from the capitol for a couple blocks. Block 89 is in the background.

Photo 5: This was some kind of a pie or other pastry eating contest featuring younger women in beauty contestant tiaras and sashes. Not sure what the guy with the cheesehead hat was doing.