Projects and workshops conducted by the Center for Creative Solutions have addressed reuses for Brownfield sites, recovery from a natural disaster, reconnecting a town to its waterfront and adaptive reuse of an industrial complex. For these projects, the solutions embody the interests, values and sensibilities of each community, and at the same time, discover connections and interconnections between systems, which in turn broaden the community benefits.
After the Flood: Regenerative Design, Renewal, Resilience
Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 devastated many towns in rural Vermont. The town of Londonderry Vermont was inundated severely damaging properties in the heart of the town center. In August 2013 in partnership with Windham Regional Commission, the Center for Creative Solutions led a six-day workshop focused on the uses for several properties participating in a Federal buyout program. Located along Main Street these properties are in the business district and will be owned by the Town. The buyout program limits future use of these properties; they may not have any permanent structure so as to prevent future flood damage in the same locations.
The Workshop Team
CCS brought together master practitioners, CCS Fellows, and emerging professionals to work collaboratively and engage with community stakeholders. Three Londonderry residents participated fulltime in the planning workshop, and town officials and members of the Planning Commission and Conservation Commission participated in the workshop as time permitted throughout the week. The workshop team comprised artists, planners, environmental designers, engineers, historians, landscape designers and students.
CCS Core Fellows, Jonathan Fogelson and Jason Bregman, from Michael Singer Studio guided the inquiry and investigation. CCS Visiting Fellows, Liz Lerman –choreographer and educator, Richard Rabinowitz – public historian, Calen Colby – structural engineer and Jono Neiger – biologist and sustainable landscape designer spent one or two days with the project team, engaging in the inquiry and offering different ways of seeing the sites and understanding the community context.
Through the collaborative and creative process, the workshop team framed and reframed the critical issues so that the buyout properties came to be seen as an opportunity for flood control and, at the same time, a multipurpose commons with social and economic benefits for residents and visitors. The team explored and presented to the Town three approaches for addressing flood control as well as ways for the site to be a public commons (see report for more detail).
Following the workshop residents, who participated in the CCS workshop and other residents, formed a task force to continue and broaden the conversation about flood resilience and the uses for the buyout properties in this context. They created a web site, developed public information and held a community forum in November at which the discussion centered on flood control and the merits of different approaches in the best interest of the community. At the March 2014 Town Meeting, Londonderry residents unanimously approved an article to continue planning for the reuse and redesign of the buyout properties and to seek financial support for implementation.
Imagining a Riverfront Site
The Brattleboro Riverfront project had multiple phases and illuminates a process for creative problem solving through sustained community engagement. The Windham Regional Commission along with the Town of Brattleboro invited CCS to explore ways that newly acquired town properties along the Connecticut River, which include a brownfield site, could reconnect the town to its waterfront and become an economic asset and community amenity.
CCS, led by artist Michael Singer, started the project by developing an understanding of existing opportunities and constraints by facilitating a broad community process. Numerous one-on-one and small group interviews led to the development and consideration of four different options for ways to use and develop the site. These options were then presented and discussed at four community forums. Different beliefs about the benefits of growth and development to the town were a tension among community stakeholders. Through the community process stakeholders came to new understandings about the possibilities for developing the site. Some stakeholders came to recognize that features that invite public access would enhance private development, while others came to understand the importance of having private development to support public components. CCS figured out ways through a variety of semi- private and public uses the site could generate revenue to the town long-term through taxes and rent. Short-term the town would finance development through bonding and carry the debt. An important outcome was recognizing the synergy between different uses of space on the site, which in turn, will augment and increase activity in the downtown, thereby generating economic growth.
The 2010 session, Renewing the Riverfront, was conducted as a nine-day studio workshop and included professionals from a variety of disciplines, working collaboratively to identify program opportunities at the site, which resulted from the demolition of buildings along the river. Workshop participants worked with local media to create a highly public process culminating in a participatory exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. The exhibition was featured on the front page of The Design Observer.
TRL Complex and Bellows Falls Historical Society Site
CCS conducted an extensive planning study and community visioning process for the Town of Rockingham and the Bellows Falls Historical Society, owner of a former industrial complex and adjacent properties lying between the Connecticut River and the railroad tracks on the edge of the village of Bellows Falls. Adaptive reuse of the abandoned industrial complex, a brownfield site, was the primary focus of the study as well as consideration of adjacent areas and their connections to the site and the community.
CCS collaborated with business, town and cultural agencies and organizations as well as the National Park Service. Community visioning led to the recognition of the historical significance of the site and buildings as well as a resource and place for potential innovation. A number of needs were identified, such as green space, energy, housing, jobs, and most surprising food—the village is a food desert.
CCS generated several scenarios, programs and opportunities for interconnected and interactive uses between the abandoned site, neighboring properties, and the community.
One set of scenarios focused on using waste from neighboring infrastructures–a wastewater treatment facility and a hydroelectric plant—as cost effective resources to support adjacent programs such as space heating and agricultural production.
Opportunities and Programs
Four scenarios were proposed that went from no-build to high-build and considered different needs, demonstrating different programmatic directions and opportunities. Community gardens addressed food and green space needs—a no-build solution. The low-build scenario proposed an agricultural center, which generates revenue streams from year-round greenhouses, community gardens and a center for distributing locally grown food. The medium-build solution retrofitted a building into private mixed income housing, connecting it to public spaces along the waterfront, including an existing building that could house multigenerational public programs. The high-build scenario was a mixed-use structure on the edge of the village with a parking garage, public spaces and pedestrian access to the waterfront.