Monday, July 5, 2010

Your Input is Requested

By Dennis R. lieb

The Preliminary Rendering of the Easton Inter-Modal Center

Wednesday night at 6:30pm in City Council Chambers the Planning Commission (including me) will do the first review of the Intermodal Center. This is the project on the former Perkins/Marquis Theater site that will be cleared and redeveloped into a mixed use project consisting of a three-story parking deck, a ten bay bus terminal for LANTA, Trans-Bridge, Greyhound, Susquehanna and other private carriers, a public plaza and a three story, commercial lease building fronting the street that will supposedly contain a retail space, sports restaurant and National High School Coaches Hall of Fame.

As you can see, it is still something of a landscraper. We're working on that aspect now to fit it into downtown better. If you have concerns about the accessibility of public restrooms, ADA requirements, bicycling accommodations, green design issues or just want to weigh in on what the thing should look like please join us.

The three previous public meetings were poorly attended. This is one of a dwindling number of opportunities to see the design and ask questions of the design team. I suggested that one additional public meeting be held that wasn't part of a formal approval process and that will be done sometime this summer. I believe it is a requirement of the Federal environmental review process anyway but at least it is happening. I always like to attend as many of these as possible and do my whining and complaining before things get set in stone. If you want to do your own whining and complaining, now is the time. Don't say you weren't invited.

Come on out and make my evening more interesting...I'm tired of empty rooms.


Fia said...

Wish I could be there, I can't make Wednesday nights. Just from the drawing you posted I would say less concrete more trees.

noel jones said...

Thanks for posting the sketch! I went to an earlier meeting and requested for "green" in the "green space"--hopefully they've added some actually shade trees to the plaza. I also hope that theyincorporate residents' suggestions for living walls in the back and on the side to block noise and smog from the church at the back, and for anyone who might sit at the plaza in the front.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

YIKES. Is that a PLAZA? My concern is perhaps best described by “Volguus Zildrohar,” who wrote this on a lively urban design blog in Philly:

"It seems that most cities have at least one underwhelming or just plain bad urban plaza - those windswept, delightfully misguided attempts at urban renewal that were in vogue in the 50's and 60's."

Please, PLEASE check out this link for Mr. Zildrohar’s excellent photographs of failed, misguided plazas.

God help us if the plaza faces Third Street.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Can't help myself. The proposed Inter-Modal plaza forces me to post this appraisal of a plaza named "City Hall Plaza" in Boston:

"This notorious product of late-'60s 'urban renewal' is over 30 years old - can a renovation solve its deep-rooted problems? . . . This is one of the most disappointing places in America."

PLAZAS RARELY WORK. An exception may be if the Vatican or the Kremlin is across the street.

One experience I'll never forget is how, on a trip to New Orleans, an architect friend proudly showed off the "Piazza d'Italia," a fancy name for an an urban public plaza designed by a celebrated architect. Empty. The place was empty. I thought "what good is the concept if no one wants to go there?"

I WILL MAKE A BET. Surf online for New Orleans' ""Piazza d'Italia." If you can find ONE person in any of the pictures of this famed plaza, I will buy you a beer. I'm serious. Even the official New Orleans website features a picture of an EMPTY plaza.

See the the empty plaza at the official New Orleans website, at:

Dennis R. Lieb said...


Trees are part of the traffic calming renovations for S. Third Street. They are not shown on this drawing for clarity. Expect at least thirty new trees on this block.


The plaza redesign was part of the private meeting we had with the design team last week at city hall. They know we expect better and we will continue to push the envelope. At this point it is too high above the street; grade drops seven feet at the south end of the site and I have made it clear that the plaza needs to step up in two, three-and a half foot high terraces or no one will want to use it. A forecourt allows the comfortable transition from the street to the building.

They showed photos of Paley Park in NYC on their presentation boards. I think they can go further toward that ideal with trees planted in the actual plaza space rather than just lining it architectonically, which seems like just a modernist affectation to me.


I am well aware of the uselss plaza plague in NYC. It was a result of a misguided attempt by the city to facilitate "public space" in exchange for floor area ratio bonuses so buildings could be built taller. William H. Whyte exposed this mistake in his classic study of plazas and how they are used in his book "City, Redescovering the Center" - a planning classic.

I also agree that Charles Moore's Post-Modernist disaster; The Piazza d'Italia is another example of form trumping function. Public spaces, first and formost, must be programmed by the users for the activites most likely to be taking place in them. Beyond that it is the designers job to facilitate those uses as smoothly as possible without letting design statements get in the way.

By the of architectural projects, sans people is a disease of the profession. They like to cleanse the view so no nasty humans disturb the "art".


Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Yeah, I know that architects prefer that their photographs are people-less. But the official New Orleans web site?!

Outside the staged architectural context, check out Volguus Zildrohar’s photographs of empty, windswept plazas at:

Joanne said...

I'm not sure what the end result should look like but it should fit in. We have an opportunity here and need to make the best of it.

My vote is to include bicycle-friendly useability for the commuter who wants to store a bicycle and gear then catch a bus to the city.

Fia said...

Yes Joanne, I agree. What about a place to store your bike, shower and change, before catching the train/bus in to the big cities? People could pay a rental fee for use. Maybe gyms should be situated next to commuter rail and bus stations. It would fit right in with the high school sports museum!

Anonymous said...

I think this project is a real plus for the city. It takes into consideration streetscpae of an urban downtown rather than the suburban development that is currently there. With the improvements to South Third Street I think this could be a nice addition to our city. As for the plaza, my understanding is that a portion of it would also serve as an outdoor eating area for the restaurant plus public space. sounds great to me. It seems to me that we should support it but I haven't been able to find the final elevation that shows details. I will be interested in seeing them at some point.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

I went to the Planning meeting and was very impressed by the plans and the sensitivity of the architects: Spillmann Farmer. They clearly are exceptional. Conceptual. Poetic. Functional.

My fears over the plaza were largely abated. The architects have looked to successful models, and are calling this a "pocket park," not a plaza.

The difference is more than semantic. The architects' concept incorporates elements to make it an inviting space.

Kudos to all involved in choosing this architectural firm and in working toward a very exciting architectural plan.

noel jones said...

RE: plazas in NYC--I have to say that I have seen plazas used regularly in NYC, and used to use them myself on lunch breaks, especially, but only if there was SHADE. One popular one is on E. 52nd Street and it has a waterfall, which helps drown out traffic sounds. I used to go there and have trouble finding an open seat sometimes. One thing about this particular plaza--it was shielded on three sides by buildings--that fact, combined with tons of plants and trees, and the waterfall, made it a nice, cool, shady escape from the heat and noise.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

You may be referring to Paley Park. That is the model for Spillman Farmer's pocket park at the Inter-modal station.

The proposed Inter-modal pocket park is shielded on three sides, has native plantings, and a water feature -- a cistern that will collect rain water to feed the plants.

The architects clearly have thought this through.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic project that has truly been transparent. Thank you to the city administration. It is this type of open dialogue that makes successful developments. It was sorely missing in the last administration.

noel jones said...

Yes, there is a very different feel these days with regard to the city welcoming public comment--not just in comparison to the last administration, but even in comparison to the beginnings of this administration. I take it as a very positive sign that an administration is willing to shift and grow and to begin urging public input.

For instance--Julie--if the plaza sketch that you saw is sheltered on three sides, then that is already public input that has been put into play since the meeting I went to, when it was only sheltered on two sides, and one of the open sides was the side where the buses turn into the facility, so there would have been a lot of smog and noise to make the plaza a less attractive place to sit and eat, read or have a conversation. At the meeting I went to, the mayor was very supportive of the input and directed the architects to incorporate the idea of a third wall of some sort, along with the other ideas that residents were throwing out. So it's not so much that the architects have thought it through from the beginning, but rather that they are doing a good job of taking the mayor's direction to incorporate valuable public input.

Joanne and Fia--yes--bikes, bikes, bikes! This was brought up at the first meeting--does anyone who attended the second know if bike racks/storage were incorporated into the design?