Friday, August 7, 2009

A look at Hargreaves Associates

Earlier this week, the OKC City Council approved a $480,000 (half a million dollars) contract with Hargreaves Associates for design and construction models of a new downtown park. The item on the City Council meeting agenda passed unanimously with very little discussion. In fact, on the docket I believe it was referred to as "landscape services for a prospective downtown park." This, ladies and gentlemen, will be the architects of our new downtown park. Hargreaves Associates is a prominent architecture firm at the forefront of landscape architecture with offices in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and London. They've been commissioned for landmark green spaces in cities across America, from San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, to Portland and Seattle, to Chicago and Louisville, to Dallas, Houston, and Oklahoma City, to New York City and Hartford, to name a few of the cities they've done projects in.

What Oklahoma City projects am I speaking about? I am glad you asked. I'm talking about two new exciting parks being developed along the Oklahoma River that the City of OKC has had very little (so far) to do with. One is the AICC, the other is the Waterfront Park proposed as a part of Grant Humphreys' Downtown Airpark redevelopment.

Here are some renderings of the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum project, on the south banks of the Oklahoma River where I-35 crosses it. The site is a 280-acre former oilfield, land that has now been reclaimed by the Native American tribes. The AICC is a Smithsonian-affiliated institution that features a museum, extensive landscaping, as well as hotels and a conference center. It is under construction at the moment.

Waterfront Park, the vital centerpiece of Grant Humphreys' Downtown Airpark redevelopment project known as The Waterfront, was also a Hargreaves project. The 15 acre park serves as the front lawn for the large scale mixed-use development, and will be anchored by the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel that Grant Humphreys recently bought off eBay.

The South Waterfront Neighborhood Park in Portland, Ore is a 2-acre, tightly-knit civic space in the heart of a growing mixed-use area south of Downtown, surrounded by residences, businesses, and the Oregon Health Sciences Center. The park also provides scenic views of the Willamette River corridor. This project is on a $2.8 million budget, set to open October of this year. More information on City of Portland's website.

The southern half of Lake Union Park (Phase 2, final phase) in Seattle is a planned park taking advantage of an area with an industrial past, and a lot of maritime heritage. The park is actually a conservation project, restoring some wetlands, and reclaiming land that was formerly a landfill. According to, construction began September 2008 with a $15.6 million budget for both phases (they weren't just moping about the Sonics at the time).

Parkview West is a 1.75-acre green space recently completed at the base of the Navy Pier, and one block away from Lake Michigan. The park is designed to resemble Origami, actually, and was built as part of a development, with a 48-story condo tower at one end, and a 24-story one at the other, like bookends.

Hargreaves also did the framework for the revitalization of Grant Park, including Millennium Park. Grant Park is a 320-acre waterfront park, wedged between the Loop and Lake Michigan. Planning on Grant Park's main attraction, the smaller Millennium Park, began in 1998 and construction was finished in July 2004, $475 million later($270 mil of which was paid by the city). It should be noted however that Hargreaves merely did the framework, or the masterplan.. the Jay Pritzker Pavillion was designed by none other than Frank Gehry. The Cloud Gate was designed by World-renowned artist Anish Kapoor. And so on. In 2006 Forbes named ZIP Code 60602, which surrounds Millennium Park, the hottest ZIP code in the nation in terms of property appreciation. You can read more about the park here.

The Discovery Green is the nation's 4th largest city's answer to Millennium Park. The Discovery Green is a very busy park bordered on one side by Houston's huge convention center, the Hilton Americas, and opening up into Downtown Houston on the other. The park manages to say "Tejas" and "urbanism" at the same time, for example, the Crawford Promenade serves as the pedestrian spine of the park, and is shaded from the skyline and the sun by massive live oak trees, lined with cafe dining. The completion of the $81 million park has prompted several new residential high-rise towers along the park edge.

Belo Garden is Texas' 2nd largest city's response to the Discovery Green. In Downtown Dallas green space is something that is sorely missing. This 1.5-acre park provides a small amount of green space to break up the concrete jungle. The namesake is from the company that donated half of the cost of the $6 million park.

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