By Kellie Patrick Gates
Six Cornell University students won the 4th annual Ed Bacon Student Design Competition with a proposal to turn the Grays Ferry Crescent brownfield site into a neighborhood with homes, green jobs, and classrooms that is tied both to nearby communities and the Schuylkill River.
Soil contaminated by the area's industrial past would be cleaned and re-used on site. A learning center would rise on stilts above the floodplain so that people could learn about brownfield remediation and the effects of soil contamination on communities. The Crescent's past would also be honored with an Industrial Heritage Museum.
High-rise office buildings and residences would take advantage of river views. Some buildings would have green roofs. Others have blue ones – they collect water and feed it to cisterns, so that it can be used in the buildings' plumbing and for irrigation.
The paved surfaces connecting buildings would be permeable. And the new neighborhood would be connected to the Schuylkill River Trail by a green swath that would serve both as a public promenade and a natural storm-water filtration system.
The students' plan calls for the next generation of jobs in the Crescent to be much greener: They propose building a waste management research and development facility.
The contest was open to teams from any North American University. The 23 entries were judged by Elinor Bacon, President, E.R. Bacon Development, LLC; Anthony Bracali, Friday Architects/Planners, Inc.; Gerard H. Sweeney, President and CEO, Brandywine Realty Trust; and Joseph Syrnick, President and CEO, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Acting Chairman, Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
What put the Cornell team over the top was the inter-disciplinary approach the team took, Heller said. Not only was there strong planning and urban design aspects to the proposal, but team members from other disciplines, including real estate, provided information about project feasibility.
Judge Elinor Bacon, a developer and daughter of the competition's namesake, said her dad would have liked the multi-disciplinary approach the Cornell team brought to the competition, the strong connections their project made with the river, the density of the development and the large public park and bike/walking trail.
Ed Bacon would be pleased to see the design includes housing for people with various incomes, his daughter said. “You may not know this, but he was against the idea of low-income developments that concentrated low-income people in one place,” she said.
The judges did not know the competitors' names or which schools the entries arrived from until after they selected the winner. But Elinor Bacon also imagined her father would be pleased “that students from his alma mater won.”
Full implementation of the Cornell team's plan would cost an estimated $820 million. They will share a $2,000 prize. A team from Notre Dame took second place and won $1,500; students from McGill University in Montreal took third and $1,000. Teams from Florida State, The University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Toronto/Ryerson University each received $500.
It's all about long-term impact, he said. “It's very much in keeping with the competition’s name sake, Ed Bacon, who did think long term. I'm hoping that if we keep this up, in a number of years, the visions from the students will start to impact the dialogue as we rethink important civic spaces.”
ON THE WEB: 4th Ed Bacon Student Design Competition
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