A Second Opinion
For the Mayo estate in Minnesota, applying creative thinking
to a standard plan of cul-de-sacs.
By Frank Edgerton Martin
In spite of being reviled by New Urbanists and others, the cul-de-sac has shown
remarkable persistence in cookie-cutter subdivision planning. Recently,
an unconventional spin on the cul-de-sac has come out of an unlikely
quarterRochester, Minnesota, a bastion of Midwestern normalcy.
The beauty of the Rochester plan is that it responds to the natural
Image Courtesy Coen + Partners
The heirs to Mayowood, Dr. Charles Mayo's 3,000-acre essay in landscape design
and scientific agriculture near the Mayo Clinic, have generally
held on to their properties. In the late 1990s, however, six family
members who own remnants of Mayowood's outlying fields and woods
hired a local engineering firm to plot a housing development, Mayo
Woodlands, on some of the estate's wooded bluff lands. Meanwhile,
they engaged landscape architects Coen + Partners of Minneapolis
to create a reuse strategy for Mayowood's historic stone barns and
a development plan for the surrounding pasturelands.
The engineers turned out a functional, fairly typical scheme for Mayo Woodlands,
consisting of large building sites and 24-foot-wide curving roads,
many ending in cul-de-sacs. The plan was publicly approved. But
after seeing Coen + Partners' ideas for pasture planning, the Mayos
asked Shane Coen, ASLA, for a second opinion: They wanted him to
review the Mayo Woodlands plat. And when they heard his ideas, they
offered Coen the seemingly impossible charge of modifying the plan
without changing the setbacks, delineations for 120 house lots,
or the roads and right-of-ways. Though skeptical, Coen ultimately
took the job. "If we came up with something great," he says in explanation,
"we would have a model for retrofitting other existing subdivisions
to be more sustainable and regionally sensitive."
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