Tuesday, May 13, 2008

pocket parks in "the pearl"

Sometimes a city has the opportunity to do something creative with large tracts of land, turning the space of vacated properties into a prime asset.

Youngstown is building a mixed-used residential/commercial neighborhood adjacent to the univeristy and downtown in Smoky Hollow, but many design elements and construction have yet to be accomplished. What places can they emulate as the project moves forward?

Atlanta created the uninspiring Atlantic Station on the grounds of an old steel mill, a tacky collection of disneyland-esque buildings, a destination adjacent to the interstate north of Midtown with an "in and out, but not staying" existence.

Portland's emerging Pearl District, anchored by many LEED certified buildings and free wi-fi throughout, is a nice mix of old and new, livable and walkable designs of which Youngstown may learn from.

The rest of this post shows photos from three separate smaller "pocket" parks in the Pearl, possible role models for downtown youngstown, wick park, and the smoky hollow. The Pearl's wikipedia article has a good aerial photo of what the railroad yards used to look like.

The Pearl's Tanner Springs Park is located between the light rail lines on 10th and 11th avenues. The space is fascinating, in that this small space (less than an acre) retains an almost rural quality although it is located right in the heart of the neighborhood. Here we have some decorative stone patterns, with a water element flowing from it:

Further down the path, the manicured portion of the park decends into marshy, unmowed wetlands. Large steps from the sides of the park provide a place for people to read books and relax.

The path set away from street level then flows into small pond, filled with orange fish.

The floating path also follows this wonderful serpentine metal wall on the east boundary of the park.

Check out this up-close photo of this textured element:

Further south, Jamison Park, provides a more family-friendly atmosphere, heavily used by children and people walking their dogs. The high sculptures around the perimeter help to anchor the streetcar power lines.

The wonderful central element of this park is a fountain that has the effect of a tidal pool, with its waterfalls filling in and draining a bricked-in area for children to play in.

As the water fills in and empty, people relax and the place has the feeling of a clean urban beach.

Finally, tucked in between three buildings are these concrete columns, left exposed after a previous demolition and wrapped with art. I love how the rebar is sticking out of the top:

Lots to consider and learn as Youngstown goes about planning its park spaces in the future.

Perhaps the next City Parks Commissioner, whenever that position is filled, can lead the charge on similar types of projects in city parks.

In the meantime, it's up to the public to brainstorm and help push the city and stakeholders along to this level of quality for future design.

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