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Merit Award - DESIGN

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Northside Park
Denver, CO

Wenk Associates, Inc.

William E. Wenk, FASLA
Principal, Wenk Associates, Inc.
1035 Cherokee Street
Denver, CO 80204
Tel. 303-628-0003;
Fax 303-628-0004
bwenk@wenkla.com


Project Purpose

The park was developed on the site of the city's abandoned sanitary sewer plant to enable the redevelopment of the surrounding area and as part of a City initiative to develop a series of parks along the South Platte River Corridor. The landscape architect set out to adapt and reuse existing structures at the plant in a way that revealed the recent history of the place as well as the natural processes at work there.

Role of Landscape Architect

The landscape architect was the prime consultant and developed Concept Plans, Demolition Plans and Final Construction Plans for the Park. The landscape architect also collaborated in writing a grant proposal that funded demolition and coordinated project conformance with ongoing Superfund cleanup on the site. The landscape Architect also coordinated design and construction work at adjacent projects including the National Guard Armory, Globeville and North Areas Flood Control Project and the extension of 51st Street east from Washington Street through the site. Other participants included The City and County of Denver Parks and Recreation Department, Asset Management, and Special Projects for the Mayor's Office. The Parks and Recreation Department managed a complex set of; funding sources and coordinated the review and approvals process. Asset Management acted as the property owner prior to the site's being dedicated as a park and coordinated off-site materials storage as well. Special Projects for the Mayor's Office identified the many different project funding sources and brought all the parties involved in adjacent work together in a timely way.

Special Factors

A highly significant factor in the design and construction of Northside Park is the adaptive reuse of the abandoned sanitary sewer plant structure. Through "design by subtraction," elements of plant structure were removed or modified to function within the park's program. The reuse strategy helped to achieve a 30% reduction in estimated demolition costs. The elements that remained defined a series of bold, geometric spaces. Grading and drainage were manipulated to alternately conceal and reveal the structure and to further define park spaces. There is a kind of play in the form-making and the hope is that this process of alternating exploration and reflection will be repeated over and over again as individuals discover the park.

Another unique feature in the design is the adaptation of a regional drainageway to give form to the park and address water quality and wildlife habitat considerations. The park is located at the out-fall of a regional urban drainage basin. The existing drainage facility included a large concrete channel and a detention pond whose functions had to be maintained. The design reroutes the storm flows through a new soft bottom channel within the park, increasing the quantity of developable land adjacent to the park while supporting wetlands; providing significant water quality benefits to the regional system; and connecting the park to important habitat areas.

The Park functions as a catalyst for the renewal of the surrounding neighborhood. The treatment plant was sited on thirteen acres in the center of a larger 75-acre site owned by the City of Denver. The site was a

 

blight on the city's Globeville neighborhood and the projected expense of demolishing the derelict plant was an obstacle to redevelopment. The park design calling for partial demolition and rerouting of regional drainage, contributed directly to the successful application for a development grant from the United States Department of Commerce and allowed the city to proceed with design and construction. Construction of the park has transformed not only the landscape, but the city's perception of the site and the neighborhood. The project has been awarded the EPA's Region 8 Phoenix Award in "Recognition for Excellence in Brownfield Redevelopment" and the city is entertaining offers regarding the redevelopment of adjacent land.

Significance

Northside Park has had a significant and positive effect on the public's perception of the profession. The landscape architects played a visible and significant leadership role in shaping and expanding the park program to create a major public amenity. At the outset of the design process the City's program included two soccer fields and a parking lot, and it required the complete removal of the plant structure. The possibility of reuse of structure had previously been dismissed as too expensive and unsafe. Integration of the regional storm drainage system had not been considered. The landscape architects proposed innovative ways to reuse structure and reuse created savings in demolition costs that made proceeding with design and construction of the park possible. The landscape architects also called for integrating regional drainage into the design creating opportunities for water quality and wetlands/wildlife habitat, providing fill for park construction and adding value to the city owned land adjacent to the park.

Northside Park also presents a unique response to its context. The final form of the park is the result of an iterative design process that was focused on adding typical park program items like soccer fields to the treatment plant site while retaining a specific volume of structure. As grading concepts for the park were developed the landscape architects became aware of a strong axial form latent in the layout of the treatment plant. Soccer field layout, site drainage and internal circulation were designed to reinforce that axial form. Finish grade detail and specifications complement the plan form with a bold, constructed appearance. As a result, the park provides functional programmed space equal to a typical neighborhood park and celebrates the industrial heritage of the site and the surrounding landscape.

Northside Park occupies a place within larger regional and national contexts as well. It is a significant addition to the City of Denver's Parks system, and to the series of parks that have been constructed as part of the City's South Platte River Corridor initiative in particular. In a larger sense, the need to redevelop industrial sites is growing throughout the United States and the design for Northside Park is a model for the redevelopment and adaptive reuse of an urban industrial site. The design mediates between the demands and expectations that go with conventional park development, natural areas/ wildlife habitat development, water quality regulation, environmental reclamation regulation, storm drainage design and the design potential of adaptive reuse of structure. It provides a richer, more memorable park experience than would have been possible using a conventional approach to Park design.


2001 Award Winners
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