A Historic Rehab in Old North St. Louis

Mural at Crown Square / image credit: Shawn Balon
Mural at Crown Square / image credit: Shawn Balon

This February, in St. Louis, MO, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference hosted exciting tours of model projects and neighborhoods throughout the greater St. Louis region and surrounding communities. I chose to attend the tour focusing on Challenges and Successes with Implementing a Comprehensive, Community-Driven Revitalization, including Historic Rehab in Old North St. Louis; focusing on a historical neighborhood in North St. Louis that was once vibrant in the early 1900’s, left as a ghost town by the 1980’s, and soon revitalized in the early 2000’s.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the Old North St. Louis Revitalization Initiative as one of five communities to receive a national award for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth Achievement. The award supports communities that use innovation to build stronger local economies. Old North St. Louis exemplified a comprehensive approach to community development and a strong community role in setting the agenda leading to a more robust mix of businesses and organizations since the revitalization. Continue reading

Parklets 5.0 at New Partners for Smart Growth

Experience the Gateway to Trails and Forests!, sponsored by Nature Explore, U.S. Forest Service, Arbor Day Foundation, and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation image: Shawn Balon
Experience the Gateway to Trails and Forests!, sponsored by Nature Explore, U.S. Forest Service, Arbor Day Foundation, and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation
image: Shawn Balon

This February, in St. Louis, MO, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference hosted a unique set of spaces that have become a tradition of the conference. Parklets 5.0 was the fifth annual initiative to bring the urban green space movement indoors.

Parklets are parking space-sized areas used for recreational, community gathering, or beautification purposes that assist in bringing awareness to the quantity of community space that is devoted to parking rather than vibrant urban green space. These small urban parks are created by replacing a parking spot with a variety of elements (planters, trees, benches, children’s play areas, artwork, bicycle parking, and more!). Parklets evolved from an annual event where citizens, artists, and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces. Following the success of the first 2005 intervention, PARK(ing) Day has grown into a global movement. Be on the lookout later this year for information on Celebrating PARK(ing) Day with ASLA!

Led by ASLA and the Local Government Commission (LGC), the Parklets project at NPSG, once again, included interactive spaces showcasing how a parklet can transform an under-utilized parking space (or two) into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant spaces in communities. This year, six parklet installations covered the area outside conference session rooms. The parklets were sponsored by local organizations and design firms involved in designing and advocating for urban green space and active play throughout the country.

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Taking Transformed Spaces Indoors at New Partners for Smart Growth

Top: Park Your Thoughts, Sponsored by Toole Design Group and City of Portland's Urban Design Studio Bottom: Tactical Engagement, Sponsored by PlaceMatters image: Shawn Balon
Top: Park Your Thoughts, sponsored by Toole Design Group and City of Portland’s Urban Design Studio
Bottom: Tactical Engagement, sponsored by PlaceMatters
image: Shawn Balon

This February, in Portland, OR, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference hosted a unique set of communal spaces that have become a tradition of the conference. Parklets 4.0 was the fourth annual initiative to bring the urban green space movement indoors.

Parklets are parking space-sized areas used for recreational, community gathering, or beautification purposes that assist in bringing awareness to the quantity of community space that is devoted to parking rather than vibrant urban green space. These small urban parks are created by replacing a parking spot with a variety of elements (planters, trees, benches, café tables and chairs, artwork, bicycle parking, and more!). Parklets evolved from an annual event where citizens, artists, and activists collaborated to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. Following the success of the first 2005 intervention, Park(ing) Day has grown into a global movement. Now Parklets are being permanently installed in cities throughout the U.S.

Led by ASLA and the Local Government Commission (LGC), the Parklets project at NPSG, once again, included interactive spaces showcasing how a parklet can transform an under-utilized parking space (or two) into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant spaces in communities. This year, five parklet installations spanned the area outside conference session rooms. The parklets were sponsored by local organizations and design firms involved in designing and advocating for urban green space throughout the country. Plant materials were graciously donated by J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
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ASLA at the International Builders’ Show

"Ask a Landscape Architect" at ASLA's exhibit booth image: shawn balon
“Ask a Landscape Architect” at ASLA’s exhibit booth
image: shawn balon

This January, as part of Design & Construction Week® (DCW) in Las Vegas, NV, NAHB’s International Builders’ Show® (IBS) hosted their annual “mega-event” that brought together more than 110,000 builders, general contractors, remodelers, designers, flooring professionals, as well as product specifiers from around the globe. Throughout the three-day event, attendees discovered an expansive universe of products and innovative concepts designed to enhance their businesses, design thinking, and living environments.

For the twelfth year, ASLA was on hand to exhibit and advocate to create a stronger presence for landscape architecture professionals. Along with our exhibit booth, we had the opportunity to work with local ASLA chapter members from Nevada, Arizona, and San Diego to create activities throughout the show. As part of the Design Studio, we participated in specialized seminars and activities alongside single-family and custom builders, multifamily and commercial builders, remodelers, architects, interior designers, and land planners.

The following is a quick overview of the sessions in which we participated:
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Reevaluating the Hutong

image: Shawn Balon
image: Shawn Balon

The Beijing Journal’s headline “Bulldozers Meet Historic Chinese Neighborhood,” published on July 20, 2010 in the New York Times, was both a snapshot of a turning point in history, and also representative of an endemic issue of Chinese urbanism. The area specifically discussed in the article is the Gulou neighborhood located directly north of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. This 50+ acre-area hosts a pair of defining brick towers whose drums and bells have helped Beijing’s citizenry keep track of the hour since the early 1700s.

Within this historic city center lies the hutongs. The rich history of the hutongs are magnificent and tangible, filled with active street life, restaurants, music venues, andy most notably, Chinese style courtyard homes. Hutongs are a manifestation of the history of China and an integral component of the culture that is still lived today.

This post takes me back to summer 2011 when I first wrote the preceding paragraphs as I began my initial research towards my Masters Design Study (MDS) at the University of Texas at Austin. My interest in this topic was born out of personal experience with the place, and also the timely nature of the urbanistic issues as I lived and worked in Beijing in 2009.

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Career Discovery Shouldn’t Wait

image: iStock © Anantha Vardhan
image: iStock © Anantha Vardhan

Recently, I was invited by a friend to speak to two eighth grade math classes about the field of landscape architecture. DC Prep’s Edgewood Middle School Campus was adding a new element to their May curriculum by creating a ‘Career Month’ with the option for various professionals to come in and speak to the students. I must say, I have done my fair share of presentations (including teaching a high school magnet program in Fort Lauderdale, FL about landscape architecture), but I had never tackled going back into the halls of a middle school to speak to students about my career.

Thinking back…when I was in eighth grade, I wasn’t even close to thinking about what career I was interested in pursuing. Heck, there were far too many other things happening in my life during that time that kept me off course. But times have changed! My visit to DC Prep was an eye-opening experience that left me full of gratitude for what I was able to do for these students and inspiration for the future our field as landscape architects.

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