On a visit to Flint a few years back, I was struck by the vistas that had materialized as an unintended consequence of the vast areas of land that had been cleared over the years. The hilltop prominence of the Hurley Medical Center was never more visually apparent than it has become since so many of the surrounding blocks have evolved into an expansive podium of lawn and trees. Even more surprising, was the view of the stately columns and pediment of the MSD Faye Hall, as clearly seen from the distant Kettering campus. They appear in the distance as apparition-like symbols of the community’s cultural and institutional strength, stubbornly surviving through turmoil and neglect.
Out of the wasteland resulting from a hundred thousand missing persons, there may be some unique, extremely visionary urban design opportunities that even the most attractive cities out there could never attain owing to the density and value of their built environment. The first might be the construction of grand boulevards visually connecting these places of prominence noted above, vis-a-vis the manner in which L’Enfant used the monuments, Capitol building, and White House in his plan for Washington DC. New development would be encouraged to locate along these new public esplanades in the hope of creating a series of vibrant and leafy urban links that would start, stop, and transition at the best areas the city has to offer, using abandoned lands that today sit idle.
The second idea consists of the construction of several millpond sized dams that would transform some of the worst portions of the urban wasteland into waterfront property. The creation of in-town lakes, supplemented by strategically planned parkways and the creation of inspired vistas, could be what it takes to attract the kind of urban dweller that can contribute to the vibrancy of the reinvented city.
Impractical pipedreams? You bet. But alas, with the right vision, inspiration, coordination, cooperation, (and star alignment), pipedreams sometimes can come to fruition. I once dreamed that the Durant Hotel would one day be restored and live on as an enduring monument to the great and colorful history of this ultra-challenged town. A funny thing happened on the way to oblivion, an impossible dream came true.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
From Ruins to Grand Boulevards and Striking Vistas
GaryG gets visionary about Flint's possible future: