by Philip Norton Loheed
As the process of cultural change continues into the 21st century, the role of innovation and creativity, combined with scientific inquiry, has particular importance. Exponential population growth has made humanity a force of nature that is having profound effects on the planet and its lifestyles.
Urban incubator programs catalyze creativity, new economy initiatives, and successful new lifestyles in existing cities. As an initial form of incubator, Live-work units can contribute in effective ways when they are combined with shared spaces and active collaboration.
Artists, young professionals, agriculturalists, naturalists, teachers, students, and other creative social groups – including children and senior citizens – are critical to maintaining vibrancy and competitiveness in our cities. In America, many cities have become uncompetitive through their inability to adapt to changes in lifestyles.
Urban design strategies that encourage development of new products in the “sustainable economy,” that enable bioremediation, and defend biodiversity within the city, can have dramatically positive effects. Therefore, our cities need optimum creativity and “toolboxes of talent,” including urban agriculture, slow food, and sustainable green jobs. What will our creative responses be?
In live-work zones – new to many cities – ordinances dealing with noise, traffic, toxic substances, staff parking, operating hours, and other concerns are typical. This creates the need for specialized incubator programs that organize all aspects of residential and work needs, including day care. In turn, associations, coops, and similar entities can provide management and oversight. Neighborhoods of this type have a complex pattern of owner-occupied and rental spaces.
Design Partnership Plus recently completed 48 residential units of the Harding Green Project in the Canal District of Worcester. The units, on three floors, surround a courtyard with community room, shared laundry, and conversation spaces. The Worcester Public Market, a regional food hub on the ground floor will be completed in the next few months. Some of the exterior improvements are part of the re-design of Kelley Square, in anticipation of the new stadium for the Worcester Red Sox farm team nearby.
The units incorporate flex-use areas, storage spaces, fully fireproofed non-combustible construction, highly efficient heating and cooling systems, and high ceilings to permit a wide variety of uses by tenants. Formerly industrial, the Canal District is seeing a renaissance of destinations of all kinds in a walkable environment close to Union Station and downtown. The Harding Green Project will contribute a source of new creativity and innovation for the region.
Philip Norton Loheed, AIA, NCARB, is principal at Design Partnership Plus.