The Bloomingdale freight rail line shut down during the 1990s, leaving behind a 2.7-mile (4 km) elevated corridor running through the northwest side of Chicago. Trees and flowers sprouted through the railroad ties, and area residents began scrambling up the tall concrete embankments to hike the abandoned route. Then neighbors organized to galvanize the city’s stalled rails-to-trails project. Their efforts helped bring in federal and nonprofit resources to create a bike/pedestrian path twice the length of New York City’s High Line, with new community-serving parks alongside.
Although not all public/private partnerships involve such strong grassroots involvement, the following ten projects—all built during the past five years—showcase a variety of creative approaches to bringing the public and private sectors together to provide sorely needed infrastructure, economic revitalization, transit-oriented housing, and community resources. Projects include spaces where tech entrepreneurs can collaborate, two massive hospitals, mixed-use developments that incorporate a library and a fire station, and a theater for touring Broadway shows.
1. The 606
For years, the city of Chicago sought a way to turn the Bloomingdale Line’s former elevated rail corridor into open space for the four adjacent neighborhoods, one of which had the city’s least amount of open space per capita. Area residents formed the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail and reached out to the local office of the nonprofit organization Trust for Public Lands, which helped involve municipal agencies and civic groups, gather extensive public input on the design, and obtain federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds to convert the corridor for bicycle and pedestrian use. City agencies and private donors contributed funds as well.
Brooklyn, New York–based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates added variety to the flat, 14-foot-wide (4 m) trail by reshaping the topography, creating lower and higher points, and installing a meandering two-lane bicycle path flanked by jogging trails. Multiple wide ramps along the 2.7-mile (4 km) length enhance access, and new parks at key junctures accommodate uses such as a playground, a dog run, a garden, and an observatory. Named for the first three digits of the zip codes that the neighborhoods share, the trail opened in 2015.
2. Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building
Dudley Square, the commercial heart of Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, went into decline in the 1960s. In the late 1980s, the elevated rail line serving the square was dismantled, but Dudley Station remained a major bus transfer point. The city brought in Sasaki of Watertown, Massachusetts, and Delft, Netherlands–based Mecanoo to transform the historic Ferdinand Furniture Building across from the station. The project grew to incorporate the adjacent Curtis and Waterman buildings, also constructed in the late 19th century. The design team restored the facades and linked the three buildings with curving walls of textured brick.
Completed in 2015, the new complex houses the headquarters of Boston Public Schools, with multiple floors open to the public, including shops and restaurants on the first floor, meeting space on the sixth floor, and a roof terrace. The second floor includes a startup incubator created through a public/private partnership with the city and the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based nonprofit Venture Café Foundation. Funding came from grants from the city and from federal New Markets Tax Credits provided through a variety of sources.
3. Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) is billed as the largest public/private partnership project in Canadian history. The university-affiliated teaching hospital, a not-for-profit corporation largely funded by taxpayers, partnered with the Collectif Santé Montréal consortium to realize the complex, which spans two city blocks and incorporates universal design principles throughout. To break up the visual mass, the building is configured as two volumes—a six-story tower and a 22-story tower—connected by an aerial passage.
Below grade, the facility connects to a subway station. The campus includes large-scale public art and incorporates historic artifacts: the reconstructed steeple of an abandoned church, erected in 1865, and two walls of a house built in 1871, both of which previously occupied the site. Designed by the local offices of CannonDesign and NEUF Architect(e)s, the first phase was completed in 2017. The second phase, slated for completion in 2021, includes a conference center, offices, ambulatory care spaces, and additional parking.
4. Denizen and Dakota Outfall
The area around Denver’s Alameda Station light-rail stop consisted largely of big-box retail and associated parking. The first project in the Regional Transportation District’s transit-oriented development pilot program, Denizen, turned the station’s park-and-ride lot into a mixed-use property with multifamily housing. Before the project could be developed, however, two challenges needed addressing: existing buildings blocked the site’s access to Dakota Street, and flooding plagued the area.
The solution: the Dakota Outfall project. With funding from the city and the help of eminent domain, the developer, D4 Urban, extended Dakota Avenue to the Denizen site and installed drainage infrastructure beneath five active rail lines to deal with stormwater. The local design/build team, architecture firm Kephart with PCL Construction, divided Denizen into two buildings, one on each side of the Dakota Outfall easement. Linked by a pedestrian bridge, the buildings frame a gateway plaza facing the station. Ground-floor retail includes a coffeehouse/cocktail bar. Other amenities include large outdoor decks, a community garden, and public art. Completed in 2015, the 275 apartments range from studios to two-bedroom units, with 270 parking spaces.
5. George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater
Salt Lake City, Utah
For decades, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City saw a need for a downtown theater that could accommodate touring Broadway shows and anchor an arts district. To build it, the city’s redevelopment agency contracted with the local office of Garfield Traub Development and purchased land from another local developer, City Creek Reserve, which was developing an adjacent office tower. Sandwiched between Main and Regent streets, the theater has a 2,500-seat main stage and a 150-seat black-box theater.
Glazed to reveal the activities within to the street, a six-story winter garden lobby connects to the future office tower’s lobby and incorporates a galleria linking Regent and Main streets. The redevelopment agency also revitalized the block along Regent Street with new pavement, walkways, street trees, infrastructure, and signage. Completed in 2016, the theater was designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut, and the local office of HKS Architects. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County jointly own the facility.
6. La Kretz Innovation Campus
Los Angeles, California
To attract clean-technology companies and revitalize Los Angeles’s declining industrial core, the city’s redevelopment agency declared a four-mile (6 km) stretch of downtown a clean-tech corridor and partnered with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to develop the La Kretz Innovation Campus. The facility provides a place for entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, and policy makers to work on developing clean technologies and support sustainability.
Local architecture firm John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects renovated a 61,000-square-foot (5,700 sq m) masonry warehouse, built in 1903, to accommodate offices, conference rooms, laboratories, prototyping workshops, and event space, as well as laboratories for the LADWP. Completed in 2016, the facility offers open, semi-open, and closed workspaces. A main event space can seat up to 120 people. Sustainable elements include skylights, solar tubes that redirect daylight deep into the building, photovoltaic-shaded parking, graywater filtration, and a microgrid power system. Funding sources for the project included federal and city grants, New Markets Tax Credits, and local philanthropist Morton La Kretz.
7. New Lab
Brooklyn, New York
A century ago, steel workers built ships in Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Building 128. Now, entrepreneurs in robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, energy, life sciences, and similar disciplines work and collaborate under the structure’s high ceilings. New York City–based developer David Belt and his friend Scott Cohen established New Lab by drawing on a variety of public and private partners, including the city, the New York City Regional Economic Development Council, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group helped obtain historic tax credit equity.
Belt’s development company, Macro Sea, with Macro Sea’s management company DBI and New York City–based Marvel Architects, gutted the manufacturing facility and inserted meeting rooms, translucent office pods, prototyping laboratories, design studios, a café, a kitchen, and a lounge, connected with a central circulation spine that preserves end-to-end views through the structure. Industrial cranes hang from the ceiling as a reminder of the past. Completed in 2016, the 84,000-square-foot (7,800 sq m) New Lab houses 50 companies and 350 workers.
8. Sunshine Coast University Hospital
Kawana, Queensland, Australia
Opened with 450 beds in 2017 and expanding to 738 beds by 2021, the Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) represents Queensland’s first public hospital public/private partnership. The inpatient wards provide views of the ocean, and landscaped courtyards offer connections to nature and help patients and visitors orient themselves. The design draws on materials found in the local architectural vernacular, such as tin and timber. At the point where vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian routes converge, a large, semi-enclosed “outdoor room” serves as a gathering space. Shaded by timber battens and fritted glass, this main courtyard includes dining spaces, play areas, and public art.
Exemplar Health, a consortium comprising Lendlease and Capella Capital (both headquartered in Barangaroo, New South Wales), First State Super (headquartered in Melbourne), and Siemens Project Ventures (headquartered in Munich, Germany), with partners Spotless Facilities Services (headquartered in Melbourne), designed, constructed, partially financed, commissioned, and will maintain the hospital buildings, parking structures, and grounds for 25 years. HDR’s office in Sydney and the Brisbane office of Architectus served as the architecture firms.
9. Uptown District
In 2005, the Cleveland Foundation launched an initiative to revitalize the University Circle neighborhood and the six surrounding low-income neighborhoods. The foundation collaborated with the city of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals to transform the area. As part of the effort, Case Western brought in local developer MRN Ltd. to turn eight acres (3 ha) of underused and empty land into the Uptown District.
Designed by Stanley Saitowitz of San Francisco–based Natoma Architects, the Uptown District’s four new buildings incorporate commercial, retail, and entertainment uses, with housing above. At the heart of the complex is the “Wall,” two buildings that line both sides of Euclid Avenue and incorporate ground-floor retail space. Apartments range from one to three bedrooms and include affordable, market-rate, and student housing. Midblock passages enhance pedestrian connectivity, while common-area courtyards provide open space. Completed in 2015, the project drew on a variety of funding sources, including New Markets Tax Credits, grants, and the municipality.
10. West End 37
In D.C.’s West End neighborhood, both the fire station and library branch facilities had long grown obsolete, but the District of Columbia government lacked funds to modernize or replace them. The District chose EastBanc to redevelop both sites and incorporate a new branch library into one and a new fire station into the other.
West End 37 combines ground-floor shops, a café, and a new 21,000-square-foot (2,000 sq m) library beneath two adjoining towers, one with 71 condominiums and the other with 93 apartments. The building has a cantilevered glass facade with some sections that step out to capture more square footage and other sections that step in to preserve neighbors’ views and minimize the structure’s bulk in the streetscape. West End 50, located on a nearby block, consists of a two-story squash club, 55 affordable apartments, six market-rate apartments, and a new fire station. Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos of New York City and Mexico City and the local office of WDG designed both buildings, completed in 2017.