Sunday, July 7, 2013

Addison Terrace Redevelopment.

After reviewing the proposal to overhaul the Addison Terrace public housing complex in the central Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, it is apparent that the developer wants to diminish the amount of available housing as well as the overall density and urban feel of the neighborhood. It looks primarily like a small clustering of a few townhomes with the bulk of the development comprised of single-detached units. From an urban planning perspective, this is a bad move. Below, I have produced a sketch, courtesy of Google Earth, of something more appropriate for this neighborhood, or at least it's my opinion of what I think would be a better use of this large swath of land.

My sketch calls for a mix of multi-unit (outlined in orange) as well as townhouse residential units (yellow). I suggest the high-density multi-unit structures to contain a minimum of 4 or 5 stories. These buildings will primarily be located along Reed and Rose Streets, and they will also provide commercial/retail space on the lower levels. The townhouses will be located on the curvier streets built into the hilly terrain.

In addition to the mix of uses, I also suggest a few green public spaces to provide community space for the residents and visitors.  This includes at least three public squares. In addition to the green median along Bentley Drive and the one at the corner of Reed and Devilliers Streets (both present in the current plan), I suggest one behind a multi-unit structure along Reed Street which would provide a more centrally located public space and serve as a town square.

There is at least one pro of the existing proposal. They do want to restore the street grid, providing a continuous traffic flow with multiple entrance and exit points for this neighborhood. While I have preserved much of that in my sketch, I would also call for a redesign of Kirkpatrick Street.  I also suggest a realignment with Fifth Avenue and the Birmingham Bridge to allow for improved access to this neighborhood. I think widening this street to include a grass medial would go a long way to not only improve traffic flow, but it would also add to the aesthetics and make this neighborhood all the more attractive and inviting to the outsiders.

Lessons from Cabrini Green in Chicago

Cabrini Green was a public housing complex built in the 1960s to provide adequate housing for lower income residents in Chicago. Over the years, the highrise units fell into a state of disrepair and were eventually demolished to make way for better housing.  The newer housing, however, was designed to better accommodate people from a mix of income levels; a household earning $30,000 per year would live next door to one earning over $100,000 per year. 

The issue, however, was the overall decrease in available units. Cabrini Green contained over a thousand residential units, if I recall. The new development would contain only a fraction of this amount, displacing some of the residents from the former public housing complex. With regard to the new Addison Terrace community, I see a potential repeat of the Cabrini Green revamp.

Goals and objectives

I want to incorporate some TND, or traditional neighborhood development characteristics. These physical characteristics include ground-level office and retail opportunities in the multi-unit high-rise buildings, townhouses with garages built in the rear with the main entry-ways opening right up to the sidewalks, a centrally-located public square and other open community spaces, and some architectural accents that would give off a turn-of-the-century feel of the neighborhood.  In addition to all of the above, I would also recommend bus shelters since at least one Port Authority bus route provides public transportation service to this neighborhood. Having all of the above in place will:
  • Improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood and make this an overall attractive place to live, work, and play.
  • Turn a blighted relic into an asset to the city.
  • Improve and enhance transit use.
  • Improve traffic flow in and around the area