Contact Us

Projects Create Community Spaces Out Of Cities' Derelict Sites

A revised rendering of the planned Oakland A's ballpark at Howard Terminal

The proposed new stadium for the Oakland Athletics has received a lot of attention, largely because of the way the stadium is intended to fit into the Oakland community while transforming a 58-acre Port of Oakland property.

What is happening with plans for that stadium is indicative of the current renaissance of city planning that is calling upon designers to create new visions for derelict and often contaminated city sites, Richard Kennedy said. Kennedy is a senior principal with James Corner Field Operations, a landscape architecture and urban design firm that is working on the Oakland A's stadium project as well as other projects with civic objectives around the country and the world, notably Manhattan's High Line elevated park.

Kennedy, who spoke at Bisnow's Bay Area Architecture & Design Summit last week, said cities are seeking collective spaces where people can come together for theater, fitness, recreation, nature and social delight.

"Landscape architects, architects and urban designers are being asked to look at even bigger and more challenged sites," he said. "They all start as liabilities, or even pieces of dereliction for their cities, but they've been turned around to become some of the most prized assets and spaces within each city."

He named several other projects the firm has worked on that draw on these community needs to add context to what the company is working on in Oakland. Here are some of the projects that are turning challenged sites around:

The High Line, New York City

The High Line in New York City

This project on Manhattan's West Side, which opened in late 2009, almost never happened. The 23-city-block-long track of elevated railway had been planned for teardown at the end of Rudolph Giuliani's term as mayor, but was instead turned into a public park through a public-private partnership that has spurred an interest and resurgence of parks and green space, Kennedy said.

Underline, Miami

This planned project looks below elevated rail infrastructure, reimagining the 10-mile corridor as a series of running and cycling trails, play spaces and habitat gardens. It will help draw together the surrounding neighborhoods and communities, he said.

Seattle Waterfront

With the removal of the city's Alaskan Way Viaduct and replacement of the seawall comes an opportunity to create a green, public corridor along 1.5 miles of waterfront. The project would allow visitors to move from Pike Place down to the waterfront and open up access to views of the water and public-oriented uses of the finger piers that line the waterfront.

Qianhai Water City, Shenzhen

This stretch of 4,500 acres of reclaimed land in Shenzhen, China, has been contaminated by heavy industrial uses over the years and now is being planned for a new city. Kennedy said a focus here was on the water, through the creation of new parks that would filter water as it entered the site. The city would grow around those parks, which also allow access for trails, recreation, fitness and play.

Oakland A's Stadium, Oakland

Rendering of the approach to the proposed Oakland A's stadium, which seeks to connect the community with the field

Part of the discussion about taking this piece of Oakland port property was how to make it more integrated into the surrounding community.

"What we've come up with is this notion that the ballpark should open up ... so that the game itself and the field itself is a part of the city, and not walled off and separated," he said.

That means the roof of the stadium dips down to touch the ground, which opens up the field of play to those outside the stadium and opens up a view of the bay, Jack London Square and the port cranes for those inside watching the game.

It also led to the idea of the continuous green park on the rooftop, which Kennedy said is similar in ways to Salesforce Park, which sits atop Salesforce Transit Center and is open to the public.

"On game days, you can be a fan up in the park looking out over the horizons of the bay and the surrounds watching the action as well, but on nongame days, it is a fully accessible, continuous green park for Oakland and the whole region," he said.

He said the project does more than provide a new home for the A's. It creates more open access to the ballpark and the city's waterfront.

"We see the Oakland A's as just one other example of how our whole industry is being challenged to take on these difficult sites ... and come up with solutions that achieve as much positive benefits to their surrounding communities as possible, contributing to greener, healthier and more democratic cities."