Could the first fully sustainable city block in America rise out of a nondescript parking lot in downtown Dallas, Texas?
After a full year of design competitions aimed at stimulating discussion about the nature of sustainability in cities, San Francisco-based Urban Re:Vision is about to transform theory into reality in Dallas. The land is available, the city is on board and there appear to be no serious obstacles to the development of a city block that would radically redefine sustainability in the urban context.
"The goal is to create the first fully sustainable block downtown," said Brent Brown, Dallas architect and founder of the building community WORKSHOP. "And by sustainable, we mean a place that is socially, economically and environmentally healthy." Some of the unusual features to be included in the 2.5 acre block include enough garden space to feed around 300 inhabitants, 40% affordable housing, an educational element that serves all of the residents and fully renewable, off-the-grid energy.
Discussing planning principles at the charrette.
Last Friday, in an all-day design charrette held in Dallas' City Hall, urban planners, community designers and city officials hammered out some basic principles ahead of an international design competition called "Building Blocks," to be announced next month. Urban Re:Vision told TreeHugger:
Sustainability, to be frank, is just one piece of this block. The bigger story is that it is being designed from the viewpoint of strengthening human community and by extension, impacting other community and sustainability efforts in the region.
The block will have to be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable - an enormous challenge for designers and one that could influence ideas about city-building profoundly. Through its design competitions and charrettes, Urban Re:Vision aims to formulate a "Universal Conceptual Urban Framework", sort of a model sustainable city block that could be replicated in cities around the world.
The site today.
Over the past year, Urban Re:Vision held a series of design competitions, which addressed issues from transportation and materials to energy and economy in the city block. Here are some of the results of the Re:Construct competition, announced in September at West Coast Green.
The competitions were designed to catalyze provocative ideas, as well as forming the basis for the "Building Blocks" competition in January. The aim of last Friday's charrette was to take the ideas from the competitions and translate them into specific design principles for the Dallas site.
The site will contain 500 housing units, a portion of which will be "mico-lofts" with rents capped at $450. Retail and office space will be built as well, as well as a ride-share program with one car per 20 units. The site will be carbon neutral and produce zero waste, including runoff. With the site located between City Hall, a convention center and an 8-lane Interstate highway, noise and air quality are serious concerns.
The city's leadership and planning teams are completely on board. In fact, Mayor Tom Leppert was on hand to announce the location of the site and give the project his blessing. Once a design is chosen, the site will be developed by the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, a non-profit community development organization that builds affordable, diverse neighborhoods in Dallas' inner city.
Said Brent Brown, principal of the Building Community Workshop:
To build this right outside the window of local government has profound symbolic meaning, and the best part is that it is not the city building it. This project is owned by the community and will be led by a nonprofit developer.
Images courtesy of www.revision-dallas.com. For more on the project, check out www.revision-dallas.com.
More Urban Re:Vision:
Urban Re:Vision's Re:Construct Competition Winners Announced at West Coast Green 2008
Urban Re:Construct Competition Challenges Designers to Rethink the City Block
Re:Vision: Imagining the Sustainable Community