Image retrieved from - http://www.glennhowells.co.uk/content/masterplanning/390/0/5
Strategies for improving the Public Realm in Rego Park, Queens, NY By Rucha Mandlik
Hunter College UAP, CUNY - URBP 700 - Prof. Lynn McCormick - Spring 2013
The following paper uses the rational planning process model as the basis of evaluation. The decision is evaluated rationally, eliminating biases of any kind. A lot of the arguments in the subject of Public Realm & Urban Design cannot be quantified since they are based on many intangible qualities. Still, the paper includes data and statistics wherever possible.
CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF WEAK PUBLIC REALM
The planning issue at hand is discussed in the introduction section followed by its effects and causes on the local and global environment. Social, environmental and economic sustainability along with aesthetic value has been established as the decision criteria for the possible solutions. The decision criteria is then weighed in terms of the stakeholders involved in the issue. The paper at this point looks at the best practices in the market as well as the fundamental principles to guide the alternative solutions.
PRINCIPLES & BEST PRACTICES
The two solutions proposed in the paper are both Urban Design driven and focus on the physical design and appearance of the urban landscape. These solutions are evaluated in detail by using the decision matrix and one alternative is selected in the conclusion section. Costs, technical feasibility, timeliness and overall effectiveness are the dominating decision makers in this project.
Its hard to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished. - William H. Whyte
Introduction Public realm of a city is an environment that is publicly owned, accessible and maintained1. It includes streets, building facades, open spaces, plazas, parks, waterfronts and all the spaces in between. Good public realm is achieved when all of the above spaces are cohesive and well connected, giving the place a lively character. Many compact cities and towns around the world have a strong public realm, including the New York City. Whether it is Broadway or the 5th avenue, Bryant park or Union Square Park – lively, busy and active street life is evident all year round.
Many regions in Queens, The Bronx & Brooklyn are still too sprawllike to be called as a part of the city and too dense and close to downtown to be called as suburbs. This paper investigates a 1.5 square mile region in Rego Park, Queens. It identifies current planning and urban deign issues underlying in this region, analyses best practices and comes up with suitable solutions. Sustainability (economic, social, environmental) and Urban Design are the fundamental drivers for this project. The research also delves into plaNYC’s goals for parks and public spaces that involve activating the streetscape & re-imagining the public realm.
A successful public realm is an indicator of environmental, economic and social sustainability of a place. The importance of a lively street life goes beyond the aesthetic qualities. Inclusion of natural landscapes within the street life contributes to ecological benefits. Increased pedestrian/vehicular activities in an area is a sign of its successful economic activity. Presence of lively public places like – plazas and pocket parks attract people while supplementing the surrounding businesses. When people come together, the place becomes a social experience. In this context, NYC’s public realm works, but is it only limited to the borough of Manhattan?
Queens Boulevard, Queens
Broadway, Manhattan 1
At the Helm of the Public Realm: Urban Design Blog. Retrieved from - http://helmofthepublicrealm.com/
Rego Park, Queens Rego Park is predominantly a residential neighborhood in Queens, New York. The region falls under Queens Community District 6 along with the historic neighborhood of Forest Hills. CB6 has a fair mixture of land uses. There are retail and commercial uses along both sides of Queens Boulevard with frequent open spaces. As we venture inside the neighborhoods, we are greeted by 10-18 stories apartment buildings, semi detached houses, single & multi family houses as well as a couple of walk-ups. Rego Park is home to a considerable number of public schools and parks. (See 02 on pg.5)
Rego Center Mall
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Parking Lot c Jun tion
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s Sear halls ry s acot Mar avy oat F N Old ngton C eyond li B r u & B Bath Be d
Rego Center Mall spreading over 2 blocks, is the largest magnet (economic & civic) in the neighborhood. With an easy access to the Subway (63rd Drive Rego Park station - M & R trains) station and a well established vehicular access from Queens Boulevard, the location of the mall is ideal. Mix uses around the mall blocks include – commercial office buildings, restaurants, park, parking lots, small scale retail stores, clinics & residential buildings. Heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic somewhat characterizes this area as a civic center. However with a poor connectivity between ‘active’ zones and lack of cohesive urban design, the area appears to be suburban and scattered.
NYC Parks Lost Battallion Hall
AT&T Telephone Exchange
01: Rego Park Study Area Retail
The study area for this project covers the blocks of Rego Center Mall and all the land uses between Junction and Queens Blvd. Land lots in this area include - 63rd Drive Rego park Subway Station, AT&T Telephone Exchange, Queens Tower, Lost Battalion Hall – NYC Parks and Recreation, Other retail stores, Offices and Residences within the defined boundary in the adjacent map. (See 01)
Rego Park residential zone.
63rd Drive Rego Park Subway Station
Rego Park, Queens
03: Queens Community District 6- Land Use Plan, NYC Dept. of City Planning
02: Queens Community District 6 Profile, NYC Dept. of City Planning
Increased paved areas
Increased heat island effect Increased cooling loads
Increased stormwater runoff
Street as vehicular corridor only
No community events No civic involvement
No green public spaces
Big Box stores
High traffic speeds
No pedestrian plazas in the area
Car oriented urban landscape
Few mall entrances on the connecting streets
People go outside Rego Park for public spaces
Dead walls facing the street
Lack of connections between ‘Active’ zones
Less interaction between people
Lack of local destinations
Weak Public Realm
Suburban scattered development
No sense of community life
Unsafe street corners
People don’t hang out much in Rego Park area
Local shops lose business
Unsafe for walking
No bike lanes
Increased crime Obesity
Isolated mall plaza Problem
‘For Rent’ shop fronts are seen
Discourages neighborhood development
Causes & effects of the weak Public Realm Some of the tools to support a better public realm already exist in the study area. Proximity to public transit, diverse community, presence of mixed uses and well maintained streets are apparent throughout the neighborhood of Rego Park. However there are a number of factors that weaken the public realm. The development of Rego Center shopping mall in 2010 has added a new ‘superblock’ that becomes the civic center for the community. While it has created a busy mixed use center at a prime location, the mall has increased the vehicular traffic. Rego Park’s wide streets and abundant street side parking further encourages the use of cars. And the mall’s parking garages with their dead facades add a variety of urban design issues for the study area.
63rd Drive Rego Park Station
Urban Design – Traffic & Safety Rego Park is home to one of the 25 “Senior Pedestrian Focus Areas” that DOT has targeted for safety improvements due to a high density of crashes involving older pedestrians. Queens Boulevard to the east of study area is notoriously known as the ‘Boulevard of Death’ after 72 pedestrians were killed between 1993 – 2000.2 According to the DOT research in 2012, 62nd Drive - 63rd Road, which are also the primary vehicular use roads for the mall, are found to be high crash corridors with ‘Severity Percentile’ of more than 85% (see 05-06 on pg.8) Rego Park’s wide streets encourage speeding.3 About 12-30% of the vehicles on 62nd Drive and 39-51% on 63rd road are found to be above the speed limit. In 2012 DOT’s proposal was implemented to calm the traffic and increase pedestrian safety & visibility. As a result, traffic lanes were narrowed and at times removed by increasing the width of parking lanes. This arrangement has added 35 more parking spaces on the street. 2 3
Rego Center Mall
Suburban scattered development in study area
An insider’s guide to Rego Park, Queens. Retrieved from - http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/real-estate/insider-guide-rego-park-queens-gallery-1.1140186 62nd Drive, 63rd Ave, 63rd Road, Rego Park, Traffic Calming & Pedestrian Safety Project, 2012, NYC Department of Transportation.
Urban Design – Traffic & Safety
05: Injury Summary 2005 - 2009. 62nd Drive – Data for Queens Blvd to 112nd street, NYC Dept. of Transportation
06: Injury Summary 2005 - 2009. 63rd Road – Data for Queens Blvd to 112nd street, NYC Dept. of Transportation
04: Senior Pedestrian Crashes in Rego Park area, NYC Dept. of Transportation.
Whether this proposal has improved pedestrian visibility and safety is yet to be documented. But it helps calm the speeding cars to some extent. However 35 more parking spaces on the street add to the area’s ‘car oriented’ character, since two multistory parking structures adjacent to the mall already exist and most of those parking spots are always vacant. Making the streets, crosswalks and roads safer to pedestrians and older citizens is a requirement, but, providing them with an active street life abundant with elements like – active facades, benches, resting areas, plazas, lights, fountains, green spaces etc. is a meaningful urban intervention that needs to be implemented in the study area.
Urban Design – Connectivity & public spaces The sidewalks in Rego Park are in a good physical condition, however, the planning of the links or connections between the key attractions is poor. The plaza between the buildings of the Rego Center Mall is a usable, good urban space away from the subway station. People traveling from the station to the mall plaza are forced to use sidewalks facing dead walls. There is no recreation/ street life to look at along the way. These sidewalks just remain as physical connections rather than extending into a lively pedestrian thoroughfare. The presence of Rego Center Mall attracts a lot of people on foot but does not provide for enough and variety of public spaces. As a result, the area remains as a mundane suburb. Lost Battalion Hall is the only recreation facility within the study area. It is located on the Queens Blvd facing away from the mall activities. There is a small recreation area behind this facility and a pedestrian link along the AT&T Telephone Exchange building. Decent pavement and street furniture on this link makes it an attractive alley but fails to draw people walking across the street. Corner of Junction Blvd and 62nd drive is yet another good location for a public space within the study area.
Mall plaza - good urban plaza, away from the station
A city’s public realm is the defining characteristic signifying the extent to which a city values all its residents.4 Improving the plan and form of public realm positively affects the daily activities of the users. Aesthetic enhancements to the street draws people outdoors and an extensive network of public spaces with variety of uses, enhances the quality of life. It also helps create a sense of place and pride for the local community. Successful redesign of the public realm in the Rego Park study area will result in livable spaces supporting the diverse user groups.5
Sidewalk connecting the station to mall plaza
Quote by Kevin Lynch. User groups – Kids, adults, elderly, students, physically disabled. Residents,office goers, business owners, visitors etc.
AT&T Building & connection to NYC Parks in front of the mall. No Crosswalk provided on Junction Blvd.
Community Life ‘Public realm’ and ‘Community Life’ are interdependent entities. An attractive public realm draws people and encourages community interaction whereas a strong community cares for the local public space with active involvement. In case of Rego Park study area, there is minimal community interaction. There are no community activities, markets or entertainment events that could add value to community life. Majority of the residential zones around the study area resemble the ‘Radiant City’ pattern of urban planning with distinct boundaries between the ‘private’ and ‘public’ zones. Beautifully landscaped areas in the apartment complexes are exclusively for the residents. This negates the possibility of frequent community interaction on the streets.
In addition to urban planning, the building design of the Mall fails to support a lively community life. Rego Center Mall is exclusively a cluster of retail stores opening and closing at fixed times. Store organized entertainment events, effectively marketed sales and festive events are rarely seen at the Mall. Moreover the physical design of the Mall building too, doesn’t provide indoor public atrium that could be used by shoppers during inclement weather. The Mall has limited number of cafes and restaurants which further restrict the user flow. The two parking garages adjacent to the shops occupy half of the built space that could be used by many more retail shops and entertainment destinations.
Residential towers in Rego Park neighborhood.
Multi-story parking garage at Rego Center Mall
Local Economy Investment and improvement of the public realm can contribute to the economic growth of a community. Land and property values can be increased, tourism boosted, an area’s image enhanced, productivity improved and new investment attracted.6 The neighborhood of Rego Park is already a transit oriented development. Proximity to the subway station makes it an ideal choice for residential and commercial tenants. With magnet stores like Costco, Centrury21, Sears and Marshall’s, the Rego Center Mall is usually a crowded place. However, in spite of the above qualities, many of the mom n pop stores, small retailers, local cafes & restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood are found to be vacant. Frequent empty ‘stores for rent’ observed on 63rd Road are a clear sign of business migration out of the area. Hence the quality of space in the study area fails to attract investment and could negatively affect the neighborhood real estate market in the future. Creating a local destination by improving the region’s public realm will in turn help improve the economic sustainability of its local shops.
Rego Center Mall roof and other paved surfaces in the study area.
Environmental Sustainability The built footprint of Rego Center Mall covers more than 60,000 sq ft of land in the form a concrete roof. Part of the roof is covered by mechanical equipments and the rest is a parking garage. Other buildings in the vicinity too, consist of concrete and asphalt rooftops. These impervious surfaces add to the miles of concrete paved sidewalks and asphalt roads in the area. Rooftops, streets and sidewalks generate significant amount of stormwater from rain and melting snow. These impervious surfaces cover 72% of New York City’s 305 square miles in land area. Stormwater can pose challenges to the City in the form of combined sewer overflows and flooding.7 Although the study area is not prone to flooding, the excess stormwater generated by the ‘hardscapes’8 in Rego Park adds to the total amount of stormwater that eventually floods low laying areas in Queens.
Stores for rent are frequently observed in the study area.
Parks and Public Spaces, PlaNYC - A greener, greater New York, April 2011, City of New York NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection. Retrieved from - http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/stormwater/index.shtml 8 Hardscapes - Hardscape consists of the inanimate elements of the building landscaping. Examples include pavement, roadways, stone walls, concrete paths and sidewalks, and concrete, brick, and tile patios. Retrieved from - http://www.leeduser.com/glossary/term/6983 6 7
In addition to increased stormwater, impervious surfaces in Rego park study area result in ‘Urban Heat Island Effect’9 The development of a heat island in an urban area has regional scale impacts on energy demand, air quality and public health. Although the heat island effect occurs throughout the year, its occurrence during the summer months is of particular public policy concern because of the association of higher temperatures with increases in electric demand due to air conditioning, elevated air pollution and heat-stress related mortality and illness.10
Concrete paved impervious surfaces with no tree cover or vegetation.
With little trees and vegetation to absorb water and reflect heat, the unsustainable urban settlement in the study area contributes to the citywide and global environmental damage. Lost Battalion Hall – Recreation center and NYC Park is located on Junction Blvd behind the mall. This serves as the only green space in the study area. In spite of its close vicinity to the mall block, it does not extend – actively and physically onto the mall streets. The study area has no provision for bike lanes. Public schools in the area caters to a high volume of high school student population. Many kids are seen skateboarding or biking on the streets, many times dangerously close to the traffic lanes. Daily routes of school going kids also include regular crossings at the infamous Queens Blvd. Medians on Queens Blvd have remained sparsely landscaped, which is another opportunity lost for creating a landscape corridor doubling as an attractive public space.
Rego Center Mall - Parking garage roof.
Urban Heat Island Effect - A densely populated area in which pavement and buildings absorb, store, and release solar energy, making the vicinity warmer than it would be if the pavement and buildings were not present. Retrieved from - http://www.leeduser.com/glossary/term/4929 10 New York City Regional Heat Island Initiative. Retrieved from - http://www.fs.fed.us/ccrc/topics/urban-forests/docs/NYSERDA_heat_island.pdf 9
New York City vegetation & air temperature maps. Densely vegetated areas are cooler than paved urban areas.
Highly urbanized areas have higher surface temperatures contributing to the urban heat island effect.
Landsat surface temperature August 14,2002 - 10:30am
Stakeholders Local Businesses & Non-Profit Organizations
NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks), Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have innovative programs under the plaNYC agenda to help enhance the public realm in the City. The implementation of the city programs will bring social and environmental benefits to the study area and the revenue generated from additional facilities and infrastructure will offset City Government’s investment in this project in a long run.
The necessity to reinvent and enhance a neighborhood’s public realm is often contested in terms of value for money. However there are a number of stakeholders that are always benefited by successful changes in the public space design. Local businesses are benefited by more people on the streets. Pop up cafes and food vendors coupled with outdoor sitting areas add to the overall economic success of a place. Many small businesses in the study area will benefit from an improved streetscape with planted tress providing shade, to the attractive outdoor sitting spaces. Rego Park Green Alliance is a local non-profit organization that was started to promote education, community empowerment and sustainability, could partner with Queens Community Board 6 to help develop and implement necessary changes in the study area. Rego Center Mall Management office, which is the primary user in the study area, could think of different initiatives to further expand the mall building and improve the economic and environmental performance of the mall structure.
Municipal investment in Union Square, New York, in 1985 stimulated private housing investment in the area. Restoration of the park helped to stabilize commercial and residential property values adjacent to the park. Apartment with a park view command higher prices than those without. - The Value of Public Space The Environment and local community
The city above all becomes the primary stakeholder in this arrangement. Government funding, political support and will for urban design projects make or break a city in the area of public realm. Under the Bloomberg administration, New York City agencies have taken a number of initiatives to activate the street life at various locations.
Maintaining a strong quality of life is one of the keys to the city’s vibrancy and competitiveness. Transforming streets from utilitarian corridors for vehicles into great places for people improves the everyday experience of people in the community. Healthy streets promote sustainable transportation alternatives like – biking and walking to combat the public health issue of Obesity.6 In addition safe and pleasant public environment create an opportunity for a happier community. Streets and other public spaces like plazas and parks promote multiple functions like promoting recreation, capturing storm water, cleaning out air and providing an ecological habitat. Public spaces create a chance to offset the negative environmental effects caused by necessary paving on vehicular roads and roofs of built structures.
Properties next to the Mountain bay Trail in Wisconsin sell faster and for an average of 9% more than similar ones some distance from the trail. - Brown County Planning Commission
Berlin’s land values demonstrated a rise of 17% from tree planting in an area in 2000. - The value of Public Space
Small businesses choosing a new business location rank open space, parks and recreation as a number-one priority. - The Value of Public Space Government and City Agencies
Principles & Best Practices Creation of a successful public space at Rego Park study area could follow the place diagram principle defined by Project for Public Space (PPS) organization. PPS Place digram includes fundamental qualities of a great public space viz. Accessibility & Linkage, Comfort & Image, Uses & Activities and Sociability. These qualities are judged based on quantitative as well as qualitative aspects. Great public spaces are where celebrations are held, social and economic exchanges take place, friends run into each other, and cultures mix.11 When the four characteristics of the Place Diagram are successfully present and in sync with each other, the urban space can truly serve as a ‘stage’ for city’s public life.
PlaNYC’s chapter on Parks and Public Spaces introduces a range of best practices to re-imagine a weaker public realm. Under the plaza program, NYC DOT has recently redesigned Times Square crossing, Madison Square,Fordham Kings Bridge Plaza, Flatiron Plaza and with PlaNYC’s goals the city expects to build 13 more plazas this year. DOT’s other initiatives like – City Bench, Urban Art, Bike Corrals and Street Seats are extensions to the plaza program. The city is investing funds into developing prime tourist areas, creating local destinations, adapting sustainable practices and re-imagining public spaces and streets to create an identity for NYC as a safe, economically successful, environmentally aware and people friendly city in the world.6 NYC Park’s 21st Century Landscape Design Guidelines not only outline the best practices and technical details in creating different kinds of landscaped parks, but it also provides information on the system of cool and green roofs that could be installed on existing buildings. DEP’s Green Infrastructure Plan provides data to support citywide green design strategies. Project for Public Space, Municipal Arts Society & NYC DCP have many programs and examples where ‘Placemaking’ tools have been implemented successfully. In addition to the NYC’s agencies and organizations, best practices in Public Realm and Urban Design are observed all around the world. Alternative solutions for the study area could look at some of the organic cities of the world where low impact urban developments and sustainable practices are in place traditionally. Most of the car-oriented, modern cities today, are looking back at the vernacular city planning of old towns. Shared streets, landscaped medians, softer surfaces, compact footprints, mixed use development, narrower roads are all qualities fostering a healthy public realm and could serve as tools for the Rego Park study area development.
Place Diagram, Project for Public Space 6
Parks and Public Spaces, PlaNYC - A greener, greater New York, April 2011, City of New York PPS place diagram – retrieved from - http://www.pps.org/reference/grplacefeat/
Proposed Solutions: Solution ONE: Outside In This alternative focuses on the outdoor public spaces including the streets, sidewalks, open paved areas, spaces between the buildings and street level parking lots. The approach is described as ‘Outside In’ where the public realm is redefined outside the built structures. The idea is to create a vibrant outdoor public space that would support the land uses and built structures in the study area. This solution involves the use of Woonerf on Junction Blvd; which is the major connecting street in the study area. Woonerf is Dutch for ‘shared streets.’ It is a living street where pedestrians and cyclist have a legal priority over motorists. This technique helps calm the traffic and create vibrant public spaces. Making Junction Blvd. Into a shared street could be a valuable extension to DOT’s traffic calming solutions in this area. The street connecting the Subway station to the Mall plaza could be made into a one way, one lane street with wider sidewalks allowing for street markets, trees, bioswales and pedestrian plazas. However, current parking on Junction Blvd. will have to be reduced significantly to accommodate more pedestrian activities. Public Park/Sqaure in place of existing parking lot
Convert Junction Blvd. into one way, one lane shared street
Provide pedestrian crosswalk connecting Mall Plaza to existing & proposed Park AT&T Corner could become a pedestrian plaza
Landscape median on Queens Blvd & 62nd Drive
Increased tree cover with bioswales along the sidewalks Solution ONE: Outside In
The corner of the AT&T building (owned by AT&T) at the junction of Junction Blvd. 62nd Drive is an ideal paved surface for a small scale plaza. A public-private partnership could convert this space into a usable public square. Food vendors and ice cream trucks are already active at this spot, hence the addition of street furniture with some plantings or sculpture/water feature would make this spot a prime activity zone enhancing the place diagram’s qualities of sociability, uses and comfort & image. Author
The parking lot in front of the mall along Horace Harding Expressway and Junction Blvd is more than 60,000 sq ft of asphalt paved space. Solution ONE looks at the possibility of converting majority of this land into a park and public plaza. This park would be an extension to the existing NYC Park – the Lost Battalion Hall Recreation Center. The park would serve as an outdoor space for the mall across the street. Because of the location of this site, a public plaza will cater to the residents of Rego Park as well as residents of the surrounding neighborhoods (Woodhaven, Corona, Flushing). Parking space for service vehicles for the mall and surrounding stores could be provided at the back of this park. This parking space too could use sustainable paving alternatives with landscaped surfaces.
AT & T and Junction Blvd corner
One of the many ‘POP’ - Privately Owned Public Spaces in NYC
62nd Drive and its wide sidewalks.
This alternative also proposes to install landscaped medians on Queens Blvd and 62nd Drive. Medians on highways and street act as landscape buffers absorbing the traffic noise, purifying the air, and reducing the stormwater runoff from roads. Wide sidewalks on 62nd drive could have landscaped bioswales. Together with the green space at the proposed park, this system will provide a landscape corridor for the local ecology. Author
Solution ONE: Effectiveness Overall solution ONE makes smaller changes (5 small projects) and tries to achieve a bigger impact. Hence the effectiveness of this solution increases if all the projects are implemented successfully. The cost related to the projects involves the capital and maintenance costs of pervious paving, landscaping, installation of street furniture, signage & bioswales. All of the projects in this solution are easy to implement since they could be achieved by using best practices suggested by New York City agencies. Some of these projects are already a part of plaNYCâ€™s agenda at different places in the city. Hence funding for the projects would be supported by a strong political will. All projects require little amount of technical problem solving with little physical changes. Similar projects are already in place in other parts of the world. Hence they are fairly easy to implement in the study area and this quality makes them a good alternative in terms of timeliness. 3 out of the 5 projects in solution ONE could be implemented and used within 2 years. (At&T Plaza & Bioswales) Other projects joining in after a couple of years would make the time line for this alternative not more than 5 years.
Landscape Median - Park Avenue Malls, Manhattan, NYC
Solution ONE will result in a variety of recreational spaces for the public. This would act as an incentive for community activities and interaction. More attractive streets and public squares in the area would benefit local businesses, attract more businesses and enhance the real estate market of Rego Park. Increased pervious surfaces & landscaped areas will help mitigate the negative impacts of urban heat island effect and stormwater runoff. Softer landscapes in the region would help reduce the cooling loads on the mall structures and surrounding buildings. Increased number of shoppers, visitors, business owners, employees & local residents will truly turn this place from a utilitarian urban landscape to a lively, safe, attractive and cool public thoroughfare.
Another example of a ‘Shared Street’ in the Netherlands
Example of shared street in London, UK. Retreived from - http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/02/01/article-2094939-118D8BD3000005DC-96_964x849.jpg
Proposed Solutions: Solution TWO: Inside Out Solution TWO: Inside Out This alternative takes on a different approach by exclusively reusing and redesigning the two mall blocks. Hence the only client in this solution is the â€˜Rego Center Managementâ€™ office. Rego Center Mall covers 25,6031 sq ft of built space on the block facing Queens Blvd. And another 30,5550 sq ft of built structure on the block facing Horace Harding Expressway.12
Roof Garden on top of Rego Center Mall
An old photo of window shopping at 92 King Street West, Toronto, Canada.
Photo by Alexandra Studios.
Both mall structures could use multiple entrances to make it more accessible. These entrances could be provided on the current dead facades all around the blocks. In addition to the entrances, mall facades could be made more transparent (glass walls, big glass windows) to allow the street life to visually connect with the built structures. Cafes could be placed inside the mall on the ground level and made accessible to the public by ground level entrances would increase the liveliness along the streets, which appear to be lifeless with the current dead walls. 12
Proposed roof garden on top of Rego Center Mall. This space could be used as a public space for the Mall or a community garden for the Rego Park community. Additional mall entrances will activate the streets.
NYC Dept. of City Planning, zoning map. Retrieved from - http://gis.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/template?applicationName=ZOLA
Mall parking garage along 63rd road.
Solution TWO suggests the reuse of majority of the parking garage. Mallâ€™s parking structure on the ground and first level could be reused to accommodate more stores. Variety of smaller retail, commercial, and entertainment stores will add value to the Rego Center Mall. It will bring in more people & businesses supporting the economic profit of the mall. More connections between the two blocks would increase the connectivity within the space. This building redesign proposes an atrium that could act as an indoor public space. This space could be flooded with smaller stalls selling fashion jewelery, beauty products, handicrafts, food and drinks.
Glass win dows
Rego Center Mall Buildings
Central public atrium at Newport Center Mall, Newport, NJ This atrium on 3 levels provides a common public space, with many smaller retail stores, specialty stalls, kids activity zones, cafes and eateries.
Mall building redesign could include making transparent / active facades along the longer sides of building.
Solution TWO: Effectiveness In addition to the above, the new mall buildings could use a roof garden on the current parking structure as a community public space. The last level of the parking garage on both blocks, which are used very rarely, could be easily converted into a landscaped garden that could double up as a public space. Part of green roof could be converted into a community garden and amphitheater. This space would be an ideal location for community events, small scale entertainment shows and store organized events.
The ‘Inside Out’ solution tries to achieve the enhancements to the public realm by addressing only a singular change but on a bigger scale. Adaptive reuse and re-design of Rego Center’s built structure involves major architectural improvements to support the urban design development. Successful implementation of this project will make the study area - a public destination. It will attract people from all over the city and will establish itself as one of the prime shopping centers in NYC. Positive effects of this destination place will reflect on neighborhood’s real estate sales and economic development. A mall more approachable and open to the street will decease the safety issues and will make the facades more active. It will support many public activities like – window shopping and use of mall cafes & entrances. Re-design of the mall will improve the connectivity issues within different parts of the mall. A more permeable building will encourage people to explore many parts of the mall, exposing them to many more stores. The positive environmental effects of the landscaped roof garden would contribute towards reduced urban heat island effect and reduced cooling loads. The roof would become a recreation space providing an ecological habitat.
Garden on the roof of a multi-story car park in a 40 story public housing project in Singapore. Photo by ‘OffPeakClassic8’ from the Singapore forum
Rooftop community garden in Chicago.
Analysis of proposed solutions Solutions Solution ONE:
1. Junction Blvd – shared street – shared by vehicles, bikes, buses & people. Narrow street -one way one lane, reduced street parking.
-- Stronger physical connections between active zones. -- Lively urban landscape -- Recreation space – more evening use -- Environmental benefits -- More businesses, increased real estate values -- Increased revenue for the city (vendors, markets) -- Increased community interaction -- Pedestrian friendly -- Easy to implement -- Cost effective -- Fast results -- Affects a wider area – destination for people from Woodhaven and Corona
-- Reduced parking spaces -- Landscape maintenance costs -- Possible vehicular traffic congestion
-- Destination public space for Rego Park -- More retail stores – more business – more employment -- Increased revenue (taxes from additional stores) -- Increased property values -- Considerable community interaction -- Environmental benefits -- Recreation space -- Helps create active street by providing active building facades -- Improved connectivity between different parts of the mall
-- Expensive to construct a green roof -- High maintenance costs -- Feasibility of the project relies on a single stakeholder – Rego Center Management Office -- Significant reduction in parking spaces -- Lengthy project – will require massive construction, building structure changes
2. Street markets and art/food/handicraft vendors. Junction blvd – wider sidewalks with food vendors and flea market style stalls, pop up cafes, street seats, urban art on the dead facade of the mall. 3. At & T plaza - Junction and 62nd drive – corner –pedestrian plaza. 4. Lost Battalion hall & parking lot – Public park/ square. Add crosswalk in front of mall plaza. Allocate a spot for community garden. 5. Landscaped median - 62nd drive Queens blvd– Install a landscaped median. Bioswale on both side walks on 62nd Drive. Solution TWO: Inside Out
Rego Center Management Office
1. Parking garages to stores – reuse the mall’s parking garages for more retail shops and entertainment stores etc. 2. Mall facades – Add multiple mall entrances all around the blocks. Make the facades more transparent – use glass windows, and cafes inside the mall that are accessible from the street. 3. Atrium – Connect all the mall structures more effectively. Create indoor atrium with smaller stalls and vendors selling jewelery, handicrafts, food and drinks. The atrium serves as a public space. 4. Green Roof – Convert the last level of the existing parking garage into a landscaped garden that could double up as a public space. Part of the green roof could be converted into a community garden and amphitheater. This place could be an ideal location for community events, small scale entertainment shows and store organized events.
Decision Matrix Alternatives
Solution ONE: Outside In
Decision Criteria Effectiveness Successful Public Space
Social benefits Community building
Economic Effectiveness Costs
- Stronger public realm on the streets - Increased public activities - Public destination for community - Reduces the â€˜suburbanâ€™ character - Green & aesthetically pleasing streets, plazas & parks.
- Reduced heat island effect & stormwater runoff - More shade on streets - Ecological benefits of landscaped corridor - Cleaner air... - Noise reduction
-Recreation space for community - Active street life - Variety of open spaces catering all age groups in the community - Enhanced quality of life...
- Small scale projects - Reduced capital costs - Increased local businesses - Improved real estate market
- Use of best practices suggested by city agencies - Projects work within an established political agenda.
- Public destination for community - Green & aesthetically pleasing roof garden - Creation of an indoor public realm
- Reduced heat island effect & stormwater runoff to a smaller extent - Ecological benefits of landscaped roof
Solution TWO: Inside Out
3 -Recreation space for community - Active street facades - Considerable community interaction indoors and on the green roof
- Large scale project - Building construction costs - Green roof on a larger scale could be expensive - Reduced parking spots may cause significant loss of money - Increased stores - more business - more revenue for the city
2 - Project depends on a single private stakeholder
- Small scale projects with basic improvements - Easy to implement - Guidelines easily available
2 - Large scale construction project - Customized building design/ adaptation - Structural quality analysis
1 : Low 2 : Medium 3 : High
- Quick initiation - Faster installations - Results could be seen immediately
2.5 - Fairly time consuming in terms of design & re-modeling of the building - Results could be seen immidiately
Conclusion The decision matrix on pg.24 selects Solution ‘ONE: Outside In’ as the winning alternative with 18 points over the 15 points of Solution TWO: Inside Out. Both the solutions in terms of environmental, social & economic analysis fairly align with each other, however Solution ONE turns out to be more effective in recreating the public realm in its true sense. By improvements to the actual streets and outdoor open spaces, it has increased effectiveness covering a wider area in the study region. A Mile long strips of vegetated bioswales, tree cover and landscaped medians create a natural ecological corridor while cleaning out air and reducing the noise pollution. The green roof in Solution TWO would also contribute to these effects but on a much smaller scale because of its isolated location. Proposed street side markets on Junction Blvd in Solution ONE will not only enhance the public realm, but also help encourage frequent community interactions. The type and nature of the street market involves variety of users and attracts all - passerby, residents,visitors, kids, adults, senior residents and so on, making it a true outdoor public space that is easily accessible. The indoor atrium prospoed in Solution TWO would be a convenient public space specially in the inclement weather, however it will only cater to targeted customers, visiting the different stores inside the mall. Creation of an active indoor ‘street’ inside the mall will need more time and efforts by the mall owners. Easy implementation makes Solution ONE even more favorable. With best practices already established by top city agencies, guidelines to carry the smaller projects in this solution would not be a challenging task. On the other hand, large scale construction project involved in Solution TWO would need significant capital investment and building design services. 13
Smaller projects in Solution ONE are somewhat quick fixes. For instance - Setting up street seats, creating urban art on facades, tree planting and vendor permits are some of the effortless initiatives which are compelling in a long run as well. Collective positive benefits of all the projects are much higher than a long term, large scale project described in Solution TWO. Hence the cost effective, fast and easy to implement Solution ONE would be the ideal alternative to achieve the environmental, social and economic sustainability with an improved public realm in the Rego Park study area. Public spaces are open to all, regardless of ethnic origin, age or gender, and as such they represent a democratic forum for citizens and society. When properly designed and cared for, they bring communities together, provide meeting places and foster social ties of a kind that have been disappearing in many urban areas. These spaces shape the cultural identity of an area, are part of its unique character and provide a sense of place for local communities.13 The project of redesigning the public realm in Rego Park study area is a small step towards achieving a stronger community and a better city. If there’s a lesson in streetwatching it is that people do like basics — and as environments go, a street that is open to the sky and filled with people and life is a splendid place to be. - William H. Whyte
The Value of Public Space. Retrieved from - http://www.worldparksday.com/files/FileUpload/files/resources/the-value-of-public-space.pdf
References 1) PlaNYC a greener, greater New York, April 2011, The City of New York, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg 2) Greening the Big Apple, JoAnn Greco, Planning, The Magazine of the American Planning Association, April 2013, pg 39 3) Better Blocks, One by One, Jim Morrison, Planning, The Magazine of the American Planning Association, April 2013, pg. 8 4) The Design of Spaces (1988), William Whyte, The City Reader (4th Ed.), 2007 5) The Next American Metropolis: Ecology, Community & the American Dream, Peter Calthorpe, 1993 6) The Livable City: Revitalizing Urban Communities, McGraw-Hill,Inc.,2000 7) Place Making, Jonathan Barnett, Local Planning: Contemporary Principles & Practice, 2009, pg. 122 8) The City Image and Its Elements, Image of the City, Kevin Lynch, 1960, pg. 46 9) Public Realm Design Manual, Government of the District of Columbia, Office of Planning, District Department of Transportation, 2007. Retrieved from - http://dc.gov/DC/DDOT/Publication%20Files/Projects%20and%20Planning/Standards%20and%20Guidelines/DDOT_PublicRealmDesignManual_2011.pdf 10) The Value of Public Space,Helen Woodley, Sian Rose, Matthew Carmona, Jonathan Freedman, CABE Space Strategic Planner, University College London - Bartlett School of Planning & The University of Sheffield - Department of landscape. Retrieved from - http://www.worldparksday. com/files/FileUpload/files/resources/the-value-of-public-space.pdf 11) Public Realm Toolkit, Alan Cooper, Regeneration East Midlands, 2008. Retrieved from - http://www.architecturecentre.net/docs/content/ public_realm_toolkit_handbookcompressed.pdf 12) Streetscape Guidelines for the City of Chicago Streetscape and Urban Design Program, Chicago Department of Transportation, Bureau of Bridges and Tunnels, November 2003. Retrieved from - http://www.cityofchicago.org/dam/city/depts/cdot/Streetscape_Design_Guidelines.pdf 13) 21st century landscape design guidelienes 14) NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, NYC Environmental Protection, plaNYC, 2011. Retrieved from - http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/green_ infrastructure/gi_annual_report_2012.pdf 26
15) High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, Design Trust for Public Space, 2011. 16) Street Design Manual, NYC Department of Transportation, 2009. Retrieved from - http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nycdot_ streetdesignmanual_cover.pdf 17) Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Project, NYC Department of Transportation, Retrieved from - http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/201109_62-63_queens_slides.pdf 18) http://www.placemakingchicago.com/ 19) http://www.pps.org/ 20) http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/publicplaza.shtml 21) http://www.designtrust.org/ 22) http://helmofthepublicrealm.com/urban_designer/ 23) http://www.streetsblog.org/category/neighborhoods/forest-hills/