April 05, 2010
Urban Redevelopment and the Existing Conditions ConstraintsBy: Stuart Toraason
Question: How do you engineer a grading plan with a cut-fill balance when designing a site around unearthed historic railroad tracks, existing active railroad tracks, existing high voltage transmission towers and two existing historic building structures?
Answer: You don’t!
When the 11-acre site of the historic Richmond Steel buildings was developed into a movie theatre with over 650 new parking spaces, existing buildings and rail tracks were highlighted to earn state and federal historic tax credits, and several thousand cubic yards of dirt had to be hauled off to effectively drain the site.
One of the greatest challenges with redevelopment is working within the constraints of the existing conditions. Rehab and infill sites are surrounded on all sides and often encompass fixed objects, where elevations and site improvements must be designed to fit into the existing framework. This is evident as you view your urban surroundings and notice sidewalks and entrances that are warped beyond belief as well as sites with unusual grade changes, retaining walls and other oddities. These items were likely retrofits and rehabs that were forced into unique configurations to meld with existing features. Storm sewer and utility connections are also limited by what existing infrastructure has to offer, providing another unique set of challenges when designing infrastructure. Including architects and engineers on your team who have the experience and expertise required to successfully deliver re-development projects helps to ensure the ultimate quality of the re-development.