Grain belt park: urban integration through downtown ballpark develoment

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Hirota, Aaron Thomas
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The goal of this practicum is to promote urban integration through the design of a ballpark development in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The project focuses on baseball’s wide appeal and status in American culture as a catalyst to provide new development and meaningful places in the downtown. The new ballpark and supporting new development are then tested in an urban and site design scheme. The methodology for this project takes place in two stages: creating a conceptual framework followed by planning and design. The conceptual framework looks at the city and its corresponding spatial components to derive the key tools needed to promote urban integration. These include continuous built form, mixed and intensive land use and sustained and diversified activity. The conceptual framework also seeks to understand the game’s stature in America and its influence in American culture. The next phase is to look at the characteristics of the game and at how they could influence the design and development of a downtown through urban and site design. The design uses these characteristics to generate meaningful places in the downtown. The planning and design section of the practicum takes place in three stages. The first is the selection of the site and to pursue an inventory and analysis of its immediate context. The second stage is to create an urban design masterplan that addresses the opportunities and constraints revealed in the analysis. The masterplan uses a new ballpark together with new built form, land uses and activity to strengthen the urban integration of downtown Minneapolis. The final stage is an illustrative site design of the ballpark, public open space and a lighting element that displays the influence of baseball upon making new places in the downtown. The site selection examines actual potential ballpark sites identified by the Minnesota Twins. The objective is to choose a site where a ballpark would have the greatest positive impact on the downtown. The site selection process evaluates three sites in Minneapolis. The sites are judged based on their proximity to the downtown core, their surrounding building ensities, and the pedestrian and vehicular activity. The process leads to the selection of a site on the northwest edge of the downtown in an area with high built density. The project uses a framework based on Lynch’s (1960) spatial components (districts, paths, nodes, landmarks and edges)to reveal and understand the spatial fabric of downtown Minneapolis. The major obstacle that is addressed in the design is the lack of connectivity between the ballpark site and the downtown. The study area is composed of 4 different districts; each with their own set of land uses, building densities, and character. The 3 major paths in the downtown with the heaviest pedestrian and vehicular traffic do not connect to the site of the new ballpark. The transit systems (bus and light rail) are extensive but do not run to the new ballpark site. Baseball laid the conceptual framework for an urban design concept that promoted urban integration...
Urban Design, Landscape Architecture