Greenville has an unusually vibrant downtown, active with local businesses, restaurants and entertainment. Main Street was remade by Lawrence Halprin in the 70’s and remains a handsome street with a mature canopy of Willow Oaks. The corner of Main and Washington was the home of the Woolworths lunch counter that was the site of a famous sit-in by four young black men in 1960. Since then this corner has been the center of town, even though the lunch counter went to museum and the building is gone.
One of the keys to Greenville’s revitalization was the creation in the early 80’s of the Piazza Bergamo, named after a sister city. The Piazza was home to events and concerts for 25 years but had become worn, and the concerts had devolved into weekly loud beer parties. It was time for change. Civitas was originally engaged by Hughes Development to conceive of a new role for the public space as part of a new mixed-use development on the Woolworths site.
Civitas led a community engagement process that determined that people were ready for a more restrained, comfortable and attractive plaza for daily use, with the potential for smaller occasional events. Seating, sun and shade, water, color, and plants were used to make a place to wait, meet, chat, have a meal, and enjoy the active street life that makes Greenville enjoyable.
The plaza design is themed from the history of the region as a place of weaving. Layers and folds of patterns, a long fountain and urban couch form that spine that attracts people to engage and relax.
In 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard, destroying thousands of businesses, homes, public amenities and regional infrastructure including the iconic Rockaway Boardwalks in Queens, NY, a peninsula beloved by surfers and beachcombers from around the world. To replace the boardwalk, city agencies, alongside the Army Corps of Engineers, commissioned a team to reimagine the six miles of beachfront with a resilient, creative vision. Nearly $480 million was allocated to the project through Sandy-relief funding.
The goal to achieve a resilient reconstruction of the boardwalks became the impetus to think more broadly and create an urban design framework and plan for climate change, not only for the boardwalk reconstruction but complementary plans for rebuilding the peninsula's parks and open spaces; this became the Rockaway Parks Conceptual Plan.
Based on an extensive community planning effort, a cohesive vision for the boardwalk and parks emerged featuring playgrounds, skate parks, performance spaces, and shade structures tailored to the beach environment. The reconstructed boardwalk stretches nearly five miles along the beach and features a number of new amenities.
The 40-foot wide boardwalk represents a model for innovative climate adaptation infrastructure. The design incorporates hard and soft measures to ensure the boardwalks’ longevity. Not only is the structure elevated above the 100-year floodplain on reinforced concrete piles, but the project also includes stabilization and planting of the existing sand dunes. The sand infill between the dunes is replenished and expanded and a new sand-retaining baffle wall under the boardwalk was added. A new “sand waII" minimizes sand movement off the beach but allows water flow. The two-fold goals of this reconstruction will help restore natural habitat in addition to reconnecting the residents of this barrier island.
The "dune" walk is created with wave-shaped, sand-colored and blue concrete planks, a new "kit of parts composed of bench types, stepped ramps, decks, railings, and seat walls, as well as the largest installation of the new LED City Light. The curved lines running the length of the boardwalk mirror the sinuous coastline. The blue planks create the pixels of a new supersized font that announce the identity of this beach community in giant letters visible from afar and to planes landing at JFK.
At dusk, the idea of the shore is reinforced by glow-in-the dark aggregate embedded in the blue planks, evoking the bioluminescence in the ocean.
In tandem with the park amenity structures and the Conceptual Plan, the Boardwalk Reconstruction project creates a more sustainable, resilient and active shoreline for the Rockaways.
The site situated between downtown and the new pier is envisioned as a seamless yet varied experience connecting the city with the bay. The design proposal encompasses three interlinked pedestrian experiences that encourage people to enjoy the area on foot: an urban pedestrian spine that reaches from the downtown to the pierhead, a family-oriented park, and enlivened waterfront edges. With more than 5,300 feet of water frontage, these hard and soft edges provide a variety of settings for gathering and interacting with the water. The existing condition devotes more than 60% of the 20-acre area to streets and parking; the plan for the waterfront site significantly reduces roadways and parking and increases engaging pedestrian use, shade, and vegetation and manages storm water on site.