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Tucked between two office buildings at 55 Water Street is a hard-to-find escalator which whisks you up to The Elevated Acre. Don’t be daunted though, this transformed public plaza well worth the hunt.

The Elevated Acre at 55 Water Street was actually completed in the early 1970s. After new zoning regulations for skyscrapers were passed in 1961, developers could add an additional six and a half stories to a building’s height if it included a public plaza on the property. So, while this outdoor space was always there, the current design was just completed in 2005 by Rogers Marvel Architects, designers of other public spaces including Bronx’s Mill Pond Park, Washington DC’s Constitution Gardens, and Jersey City’s Berry Lane Park. The firm won an international competition to transform this one acre from a barren deck to a vibrant public park which hosts numerous programs – outdoor movies, weddings, and dance performances as part of the River to River Festival. For most though, the Elevated Acre remains a favorite lunch spot for weekday commuters.

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Retail Concourse connecting to the Transit Hub
Retail Concourse connecting to the Transit Hub designed by Santiago Calatrava at the World Trade Center

On June 20th, a few lucky members of the NY Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association got a rare behind-the-scenes tour of New York’s tallest building and the World Trade Center Complex before it opens to the public in 2015. The private tour was courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who led us–30 hard-hat-wearing urban planners–through the massive 16-acre construction site.

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Looking north towards Midtown Manhattan from  the 90th floor of One World Trade Center

Continued from our behind-the-scenes look at World Trade Center construction in 4 WTC and the Santiago Calatrava Transit Hub with the NY Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

From the transit hub, we navigate around heavy construction equipment and walk balconies that will one day be lined with luxury boutiques. We eventually emerge on the future Fulton Street, directly below the 1,776-foot tall One World Trade Center, nicknamed the Freedom Tower. The imposing 185-foot base of the tower is made of concrete for security reasons. Looking up from directly below, the tower’s tapering glass facade above gives the illusion that it goes on forever.

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Brooklyn Tech Triangle-Strategic Plan-Map

In Brooklyn, Dumbo’s turnaround in the 1980s was propelled by the determined effort of developer Jed Walentas, now the founder of Two Trees Management, the firm overseeing the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory. Walentas’ strategy for Dumbo has been replicated as a model elsewhere: create a mixed-use residential and commercial district, transform industrial building stock, and attract unique, local retailers and restaurants via subsidized rents.

DUMBO continues to move forward, in new ways too, as part of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. Just days after Mayor Bloomberg’s speech on planning for resiliency along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Strategic Plan was unveiled, which includes plans to bolster an already growing tech hub encompassing not only DUMBO, but also Downtown Brooklyn and the Navy Yard.

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Team 8's proposal for the Empire Stores Warehouses

Team 8’s proposal for the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Empire Stores Warehouses

The plans for Brooklyn today leave no space undeveloped. Luckily, the borough often does redevelopment correctly – with proper homage to the history of the place where the redevelopment occurs.

For years, the seven Empire Stores coffee warehouses, dating back to 1869, have been falling into disrepair along the 1.3-mile waterfront expanse of the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Rather than demolish these historic warehouses, the park and Empire State Development Corporation sought proposals to restore and makeover the warehouses and reappropriate them as a mixed-use development. They required that the proposals “respect the architectural and historical significance of the resource” in their plans to redesign and reappropriate its approximately 327,000 square feet of space.

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Pier 57, abandoned for almost a decade, will be revived by 2015. Source: Blouin Artinfo.

Just a few months ago Pier 57 was a floating concrete box that sat abandoned on the Hudson River at the end of 15th Street on the West Side Highway. But with the approval of the city council this past April, the renovated three-acre complex will be built from repurposed shipping containers and promises to be a lively junction of art, fashion, film and food. Plans call for a number of retail shops and restaurants and over 100,000 feet of outdoor public space, to be completed in 2015.  (more…)