Finding space on the LES

CNU has given a few awards to projects which knits new urban fabric into the leftover space around still-standing Modernist spatial objects — effectively finding underutilized “new” space for infill. (This differs from other approaches which remove the offending highway, housing project, etc.) These have included parking lots in Portland, lawns and plazas in Arlington, backyards in Takoma Park, mall ring roads in Columbia, even highway viaducts in Columbus.

I’ve wondered whether a similar approach could be used to heal the wounds that urban renewal left around me, in particular around the CHA senior housing projects that dot many lakefront neighborhoods. Many of these locations plopped open space down where there was — and could once again be — economically productive, vibrant neighborhood fabric, and yet there’s no reason to demolish the existing buildings. And such an approach could yield really big: a UMich graduate studio calculated that new development alongside NYCHA’s Lower East Side projects could accommodate up to 8,000 new apartments, or 22 million square feet of new space — two World Trade Centers or 3.6 Rockefeller Centers worth.

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