From Quadrangle to Square: Connecting Culture, Art, and Public Spaces in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts
Graduate Urban Design Studio
Instructors: Michael Di Pasquale, and Frank Sleegers
Collaborators: Scott Hanson, Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development, and Karen Finn, Director, Springfield Cultural Council
Working with the City of Springfield and Springfield Cultural Council, UMass graduates students in the Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning proposed creative ways to utilize public art and placemaking to commemorate Black history in Springfield.
Transforming Downtown Springfield: The Green and Equitable City of Tomorrow
Peril and Promise: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Streetscapes of Today’s Cities and Towns and the Promise of Social Infrastructure
COVID-19 has created challenges and opportunities in cities and towns across the world. Inspired by the changes to municipal streets - such as pop-up bike lanes, open streets, and outdoor dining - this session explores how tomorrow’s streetscapes can look different, healthier, and more accessible for all community residents.
Springfield's Legacy: A Vision for A Transformative Transit- Oriented Union Station District
In The Loop
First Place Award for Springfield Design Proposal
UMass Graduate Urban Design students won first place in a statewide design competition sponsored by MassInc in May 2020. The winning proposal showcases an equitable Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project for Springfield's "Union Station District". Congratulations to Jiaqi Guo, Bryce Lloyd-Hahn, and Christopher Ramage.
Healthy Place Making - Revitalizing Springfield’s Medical District
Our goal is to propose a new vision for the North End Medical District as an exemplary model of healthy place-making.
What is Healthy Place-Making?
We believe healthy placemaking is a cr eative process that gener ates an interconnected mixture of amenities that ac tivate the public r ealm, creating a livelihood that builds upon sense of place . Urban design str ategies consider the ecological relationship between people and the en vironment in or der to pr ovide design interventions that impr ove the mental, ph ysical, social, and economic wellbeing of inhabitants. C ontextually rooted in the histor y of the ar ea, new and adapted development illustrates environmentally responsible initiatives.
- Enhance the Sense of Place
When Wason Manufacturing Company dominated the landscape of Springfield ’s North End, the ar ea manifested a str ong sense of place . After a period of disinvestment, natural disaster, and construc tion of suburban office park s, the ar ea lost much of its orig inal character. Our designs aim to r einstall a vibr ant sense of place into the medical district.
- Provide a Balance of Amenities
The urban renewal plan that emerged from 1970s planning practices created a v oid of mix ed amenities in the ar ea. Our goals focus on r eintroducing a v ariety of amenities into the urban fabric to ac tivate the str eet life while also stimulating the local economy.
- Increase Connections
The construction of interstate-91, the flood w all, and the railroad has resulted in the isolation of the neighborhood. Zoning and Urban r enewal further separated the pr oject area. In our designs, w e are focused on enhancing existing connections and find new ones wher e they are lacking.
- Green Infrastructure for Public Health
Green infrastructure and public health ar e intrinsically linked. In or der to design health y spaces, w e use green infrastructure as a framework: stormwater management, tree canopy, impervious surface co ver, and public open space .
Knitting Together Community - Designing the Heart of Six Corners and Old Hill
Knitting Together Communities – Designing the Heart of Six Corners and Old Hill provides a framework to knit together assets and opportunities for creating a strong identity and sense of coherence for a transformative urban district in Springfield, MA. The Senior Urban Design Studio 2019 created six proposals that were searching for design opportunities that enhance the aesthetic quality of the neighborhood and increase services for the wellbeing of the residents.
The two neighborhoods are characterized by strong neighborhood leadership through committed residents, community centers and active religious organizations, and a lively culture of urban agriculture (GTC) that keeps growing and fosters a positive spirit in the community. The studio analyzed the assets of the district, engaged with residents through site visits, personal interviews with community leaders and groups, and a neighborhood engagement workshop.
Existing Conditions: The Heart of Six Corners and Old Hill is a transformative district after the 2011 Tornado. The area has seen recent street improvement and realignment, new single-family homes that replaced the destroyed ones, and a major investment in education. Still, the area has underutilized and disconnected parks such as Gerrish Park at the new roundabout, Ruth Elizabeth Park in the center, and Herriet Tubman on Watershops Pond. Watershops Pond and the Mill River are not accessible, streets have a lack of aesthetic appeal, and the One Stop Plaza commercial center on Central Street is considered an undesired place for some people we talked to.
Design Objectives: The design program was developed through the engagement with stakeholders, area observations and classical analysis of the area:
- More entrances, accessibility and programming for active and passive recreation for the centrally located Ruth Elizabeth Park
- Gerrish Park near roundabout needs to be more usable for markets and events
- Historic Mill River and Watershops Pond should be connected to the larger green network
- Public art on exterior walls through education at schools and local artists
- Synergies between Springfield College neighborhood to create new student housing and provide amenities that integrate this population for mutual benefits
- Complete streets through extensive street tree plantings, widening of sidewalks and bicycle lanes
- Stormwater management strategies: bioswales along streets, green roofs, infiltration areas in new parks, porous pavement.
- Multiple housing opportunities: vacant small lots for infill, mix housing with retail and commercial on upper floors of new buildings, adaptive reuse of historic buildings as live-work spaces
- Neighborhood amenities like a grocery store and pharmacy
- Spaces for a cultural and commercial hub including all-year activities outside - One Stop Plaza would be a good place for this
The final design proposals were presented to the Six Corners and Old Hill Neighborhood Council in December 2019 and supported by the local community and city planning officials. They are part of a complete report that is handed to the city and the community to direct further decisions and search for funding opportunities. Knitting Together Communities – Designing the Heart of Six Corners and Old Hill provides significant value to a challenged community in Springfield, MA and supports becoming a more equitable neighborhood.
East-West Rail Study for Town of Palmer, Massachusetts
Feasibility study and planning report for the Town of Palmer. A collaboration with the Center for Economic Development, UMass Amherst.
Design Concept for Mixed-Use Development
Design proposal for mixed-use infill development on site of an existing parking lot (Harrison and Dwight Streets, Springfield).
Design Concept for Hotel Springfield
Design proposal for Hotel Springfield on site of existing parking garage (across from MassMutual Center).
Placemanking in Metro East Springfield - Creating a Landscape Framework
Placemaking in Metro East Springfield - Creating a Landscape Framework provides strategies to use the landscape as a framework for rebuilding community in a downtown urban area that has “good bones” but has been neglected and overlooked for decades. An important catalyst for the development of the project area is the acquisition of the historic Willys Overland building in the winter of 2017 through a private developer.
The Graduate Urban Design Studio 2018 created five proposals for urban revitalization that are centered around the landscape. This Landscape Framework is interwoven with cultural activities such as public art and education, new opportunities for small neighborhood commerce, future employment and possibilities for new housing. The Framework will expand urban greening and reduce heat island effects to mitigate the impact of climate change. These overlapping and simultaneous measures are prosposed:
- Tangible tactile interventions on streets, facades and underutilized lots that change the perception of the landscape effectively at comparatively low cost.
- New parks that create areas for recreation and contemplation.
- Greenway promenade connections that divide the long street blocks and connect to the neighboring residential areas.
- Establishment of broad range urban agriculture activities to build community, provide food security and education.
- Collaboration with existing organizations in Springfield that are actively involved with urban agriculture: Gardening the Community (GTC) Springfield, Wellspring Harvest first commercial hydroponic greenhouse, UMass Extension and U Mass Permaculture, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC).
- Walkable streets through extensive street tree plantings, widening of sidewalks, adding bicycle lanes and introducing shared multi-functional streets for community events.
- Stormwater Management through bioswales along streets, green roofs, infiltration areas in new parks, porous pavement.
- Promotion of alternative stormwater management through education and artistic interventions.
Complementary to the Framework of the Landscape, a system of culture – art – working – living has to be established in the area. People want to connect culturally and socially. Creating a sense of place, common ownership, and connectivity are a vital part of a sustainable community. Our proposal includes:
- Complementary cultural, art, craft and education at new Maker-Spaces.
- Daycare Center and other childcare services.
- Outdoor pop-up business opportunities for food vendors such as food carts and trucks.
- Indoor pop-up business opportunities in abandoned or underutilized buildings.
- Adaptive reuse of existing architecture and infill.
- Diversification of housing market with inclusion of market-rate housing to create a more balanced economy. The City is encouraged to create a legal framework through zoning changes and permitting that supports small businesses, reduces bureaucratic burdens and secures public open green space.
Springfield Museums Cafe
This project provides a vision of cafe and market space with outdoor dining space in the residential area next to Springfield Museums district, for a more walkable and welcoming community.
Underwood Building New Look
The “Underwood Building” located in downtown Springfield has over a hundred year history, and now at a risk of demolition. There are only a handful of building with two excellent ground level facades.
This rendering saved the historic Underwood Building from demolition by demonstrating a vision of how the building suited to a walkable street regarding to historic preservation.
Market Place New Signage
This project provides different types of signage to brand "The Shops" at Market Place in downtown Springfield, in order to attract more customers and activate street.
Springfield "Dining District" New Proposal
The project is a proposed renovation to the outdoor dining area and an existing building in Springfield's "Dining District". The design includes new streetscape improvements: new awnings, pavements, street trees, infrastructures, and a new outdoor dining seating/area with new lighting and umbrellas. The project provides multiple options of fence design, to provide different experience for both people at dining, pedestrians, and drivers. The overall plan calls for additonal improvements to public spaces and restaurants in the neighborhood.
Envisioning Resilience and Revitalization in the Apremont Triangle Neighborhood
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning gradaute studio partnered with the City of Springfield to investigate the complexity of issues facing the Apremont Triangle neighborhood within the metro district and develop a range of conceptual designs. The studio is focused on developing ideas that improve the livability of the neighborhoods, walkability of streets, and improve the environmental and economic health of the neighborhood.
The Studio began by conducting an inventory and analysis of cultural, economic, and ecological factors that influence the neighborhood. A series of community engagement strategies were employed to gather input and perspective of neighborhood needs. These included an online survey, meetings with neighborhood organizations and key stakeholders, a storefront gallery display on Chestnut street, and a findings presentation to the community.
The proposed conceptual designs aim to revitalize and improve the neighborhood in a myriad of ways including, walkability and connectivity of the neighborhood, employing green stormwater management practices, expending the Apremont Triangle into a park and plaza, and increasing urban agriculture.
Springfield Parking Lot Design Plans
As the City of Springfield plans to set up a detour on Worthington Street, a new parking lot plan is needed for trucks to make turns. The project is intnded to come up with the most efficient plan for more parking spaces and the easiest way for trucks to make turns according to zoning.
A Vision for Main Street, Three Rivers
The project is a proposed renovation plan of streetscape in Three Rivers, Massachusetts. The design includes new streetscape improvements: historic building and storefront renovation and preservation, and a new outdoor dining seating/area with new lighting and umbrellas. The overall plan calls for additonal improvements to public spaces and restaurants in the neighborhood.
A New Vision for Springfield Dining District
The project is a proposed renovation to an existing building in Springfield's "Dining District". The design includes new streetscape improvements: new signage, awnings and a new outdoor dining seating/area with new lighting and umbrellas. The overall plan calls for addtional improvements to public spaces and restaurants in the neighborhood.
Revitalizing an Industrial Neighborhood Through Landscape Interventions
This studio focused on understanding the history, urban fabric, and community perception of the East Springfield neighborhood in order to develop responsible urban design solutions that address concerns related to public health and place making. The East Springfield neighborhood’s vibrant heritage of fostering industry and manufacturing resonates deeply in the community. The industrial heritage of the neighborhood has provided its residents with a sense of pride and continues to shape current redevelopment efforts. East Springfield’s rich history of industry was an instrumental component in the team’s exploration of the site through the lens of urban ecology and public health. Throughout the design process the studio researched issues such as urban soils, air and water systems to assess how the historical and active presence of industry has potentially affected the quality of life in this neighborhood.
Stitching Together The Urban Fabric
The goal of this 14-week studio is the creation of an enticing and engaging street and public space experience for residents, workers and visitors in Downtown Springfield through design and temporary interventions.
Specific design and policy objectives transform this goal into the cultural, physical and economic objectives to shape the environment of the project area:
• Develop a design that reflects the discussion and dialogue with the community members.
• Engage a residents and community members through a design charrette to discuss and develop possible future activities.
• Use surveys and informal interviews to better understand place and people.
• Envision interventions include streetscapes, parks and underutilized architecture creating a walkable and vibrant urban environment.
• Understand the current streetscape as physical and social space: Aesthetic experience, land uses, demographics at day and night, assets and opportunities.
• Improve the physical appearance on major corridors for day and nighttime. Propose design proposals that engage sitting, gathering and eating.
• Facilitate circulation for pedestrians and bicyclists.
• Search for opportunities to engage people of all age and ethnicities to encompass the cultural diversity in Springfield.
• Present and discuss the evolving design concepts with experts and stakeholders.
Turners Falls Canal District Planning
The Design Center assisted the Fall 2016 Regional Planning graduate studio with design concepts and renderings to reflect the historic character of downtown Turners Falls, MA. The main goal of the studio was to prepare a vision for a revitalized canal district.
Pre-Installation Evaluation of New Wayfinding Program in Downtown Springfield
The project entailed the installion of a "tactical" wayfinding system in downtown Springfield. The program was sponsore in part by the City of Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development and the state Department of Public Health. The temporary signs served as a test of the proposed wayfinding system. A major part of the work included a
survey created by the UMass Design Center. The survey was given to various Springfield residents and visitors during spring 2016 in help determine sign locations.
UMass Extension & MassDevelopment present Make-It Springfield, a community makerspace in downtown Springfield.
Make-It Springfield offers an accessible community space for local makers, artisans, crafters, entrepreneurs, programmers, doers and enthusiasts to share their skillsets with community members of all ages. "Make-It Springfield" hosts public workshops and events and is a collaboration between MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative [TDI], the UMASS Design Center in Springfield, and the Springfield BID. Make-It provides a platform for community members of all backgrounds to learn new skills, build relationships & inspire each other. Make-It enjoys bringing new life and energy to a previously vacant downtown storefront on Worthington Street. We also love showcasing the many creative and innovative projects and people in the City of Springfield.
Mobile Parklet Design Charrette
Parklets are sidewalk extensions built on top of existing parking spaces. They take advantage of underutilized (residual) space. They are easy to dismantle when traffic becomes too congested, or for winter weather, etc.
The design Charrette provided a fun and quick way generate a variety of creative designs, from concept to working drawings, for a parklet that was planned to be built in summer 2016 in Springfield’s Worthington Street “Dining District”.
Our community partners include: City of Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development, Springfield Building Improvement District (BID), Springfield Cultural District, Springfield Transformative Development Initiative.
Stearns Square Renovation
Stearns Square is an historic public space located in downtown Springfield. It was designed by prominent architect Stanford White and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, in 1887. Outdoor concerts and live shows take place in Stearns Square every summer. The renovation is intended as a tactical installation to “test” the proposed renovation concept.
New Visions for An Industrial Landscape
The 7-week Spring 2016 Graduate Urban Design studio collaborated with Scott Hanson at the Springfield Office of Planning and Community Development to study new visions for the East Springfield neighborhood. The studio work focused on an area adjacent to a new transit car manufacturing facility, located at the former Westinghouse Electric Company site. The students completed extensive historical research of the site and conducted a very successful public participation workshop.
Claiming Market Place: Revitalizing Market Place Through Tactical Urbanism and Long-term Visions
This 14-week project had one major goal: Claiming Market Place as a destination for residents, employees, and visitors through creation of an active and diverse space that contributes to the positive future of the City of Springfield.
Providing elegant and pleasant walking connections to Main Street and downtown assets while creating attractive and legible entrances to Market Street. Creating short-term interventions to raise publicity for Market Place. Creating long-term design and programmatic solutions that respect place and people while creating new and meaningful layers through landscape media.
Revitalizing Residual Space in Legacy Cities: Tactical Urbanism in Springfield
The 14-week studio emphasized the role that tactical urbanism (small-scale, urban design interventions) can play in the revitalization of public space. Particular attention was paid to the reuse of “residual space”, the underused and vacant spaces found in the downtowns of many legacy cities. The semester culminated in the installation of several short term, site specific interventions throughout downtown Springfield. Each short-term project was designed to be the basis for a longer-term vision for successful public space in the city’s downtown.
Redefining America's Postwar Urban Renewal at the Northgate of Springfield, MA
The study area, hard to characterize and considered by most people a ”no-man’s land”, was named “NORTHGATE” due to its role as the northern gateway to downtown Springfield. Its unique location and specific assets of the City of Springfield as well as future projects like the rehabilitation of Union Station and other city initiatives could make the area poised for yet another transformation: Redefining America’s Postwar Urban Renewal at the Northgate. The report presents visionary design proposals showing possible future scenarios to re-imagine and revitalize a unique urban district close to the heart of the City.
Reconnecting Springfield's Downtown to the Riverfront
The goal of this studio project was to design visions along downtown Springfield’s I-91 highway reconstruction area to improve accessibility to the riverfront. The design scenarios will be beneficial to Springfield’s downtown development plans which include the reconstruction of I-91/291 and the construction of an MGM Casino. The six design alternatives are based on three different scenarios concerning the future elevation of the highway.
Revitalization of the Lower Worthington Street District (Springfield, MA)
The Regional Planning Studio Team of nine MRP students was tasked to deliver well-researched suggestions for initial strategies that could revive this area into a 24-hour, trendy, market-rate neighborhood that would attract young professionals seeking both residential amenities and a walkable, urban lifestyle. Also important to the authors of this report are methods to preserve diversity and include the current residents within aspects of our approaches, specifically to provide opportunities to join in the economic benefits of revitalization and to avoid the typical trade-off of displacement as growth increases. The client for this project was Develop Springfield. View the report.
A Vision for the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club
The Regional Planning Studio Team of six MRP graduate students was tasked with helping the newly invigorated nonprofit rowing club write a plan that implements their vision and expands their programs the next five years. Historically, the rowing club was an organization with a small budget and devoted following. Recently, the organization experienced an influx of revenue in the form of a public health grant. This new budget presents opportunities for organizational prosperity and sustainability and the Studio Team provides strategies to sustain the organization. The client was Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club. View the report.
The Revitalization of Springfield's North End
The studio focus area is located around a proposed 50-60 unit market-rate housing project seen as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. The economic goal is the diversification of the income structure in the area with a positive effect on neighborhood commerce and further investments. Which other interventions would make the area more livable and create an incentive for comprehensive renewal? What are the priorities to initialize this change?
Springfield's "X" from Crossroads to Center
“Springfield’s “X” - From Crossroads to Center” received the Boston Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award 2014.
The goal was to shape this vision for the “X” and the Forest Park Neighborhood, famous for its affluent and beautiful historic homes and Forest Park - one of America’s largest urban parks. The studios proposed the designs that encourage walking, bicycling and serving neighborhood services, as a way to empower the local community and create a paradigm shift in the city.
Creating a Vision for Indian Orchard, Springfield, MA
The primary goal of the project is to unveil the unique assets and character of Indian Orchard. Crucial steps consisted of acknowledging the strong industrial heritage and improving connectivity to existing public open space system, which should not stop at municipal boundaries. It has to be developed with a sense for regional connectivity along rivers and streams and considering potential connections like old railroad corridors.
POPULATION 7 started as an experiment in the fall of 2011 as an Urban Art Laboratory “Art – Place – Tour” with the vision to make a tangible impact to the culture of public art in Springfield. At first sight art seems to be not existent in the public realm. We are searching for an organic, sustainable concept with the potential to grow from inside to outside. Our goal is to invite to a discussion about public art and art in general that is introduced through minimal but diverse, economical eventually temporary, site-responsive interventions. Video
Creating Livable Neighborhoods in Old Hill and Six Corners
The Old Hill and Six Corners neighborhoods are located 1 mile from the heart of downtown with approximately 12,000 inhabitants. Both neighborhoods are challenged by a very low average household income, housing foreclosures, lots vacancies, lack of substantial home ownership, high traffic volumes, poor quality of open space. As part of the vision to renew the area, this studio seeks to build a stronger sense of place throughout the neighborhood by improving connectivity to existing public open spaces.
Reconnecting People to Springfield's Riverfront: from the South End to Forest Park
The primary goal of the project is to develop a vision to connect the neighborhoods of the South End and Forest Park to the Connecticut River and find imaginative ways to engage the southern waterfront of Springfield as a place for people and as a landscape where water-ecology has both a functional and a visual-aesthetic value. What is Springfield’s Riverfront of tomorrow?
From the Quadrangle to the River: Revitalizing the Heart of Downtown Springfield
The graduate Urban Design Studio developed a master plan for the core area of downtown Springfield as a visual planning and design framework with focus on the revitalization of open space and the connection from the Quadrangle, or “Quad” to the Connecticut River. The effort is made to develop a hierarchy of design objectives as a guideline for the City. The primary goal of the project was to develop green design and policy strategies to improve the livability of the heart of downtown Springfield for employers, employees, residents, and visitors.
Springfield's Upper Lyman Warehouse District Visions for Revitalization
This studio proposed land uses and creative incentives that encourage mixed land use on architecturally defined street edges. Use strategies such as adaptive reuse for significant historic buildings, and urban infill that shares urban infrastructure. Respond to the prevalent housing market in downtown Springfield that offers little owner occupied and market rate housing.
Making Connections – Envisioning Springfield's North End
The primary goal of this project was to stimulate a conversation in the neighborhoods of the North End, to develop green design strategies, to improve services and businesses for residents and the employees of local businesses, and to foster cultural engagement and interaction in the North End that will enhance the vibrancy, resilience, and quality of life of this urban community.
Revitalizing the South End – The Gateway for Downtown Springfield
In 2006, Springfield invited the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to the city, to help map an immediate course of action for economic development. The recommendations of the ULI identified the South End as the number one priority neighborhood project in Springfield, and jump-started the City’s South End Revitalization Project: a series of connected public and private initiatives designed to systematically improve the condition of housing, open space, infrastructure and retail in the South End. There are ten initiatives in total. The studio purpose was to design the South End as the future gateway for downtown Springfield that will help to transform it into a vibrant urban community.
Designing the Arc of Recreation
The graduate Urban Design Studio, spring 2008 worked out preliminary visions for the Mason Square Community, constituted of four urban neighborhoods (McKnight, Bay, Old Hill and Upper Hill). The Senior Urban Design Studio, set up a first planning and design framework, wrote up a report and further developed these ideas in the McKnight neighborhood to refine strategies and to create design drawings. The plans may help the City of Springfield and the Mason Square Community to reinforce and accelerate the realization of the first part of a recreational trail north of State Street. Therefore the design proposals focusses on the northern part of the abandoned Highland Division Railroad corridor, called the “Arc of Recreation”.