Deck Parks are more and more popular, but are they still suitable?

Deck Parks are more and more popular, but are they still suitable?

“Terrace parks are increasingly popular in southwestern downtown areas, but not suitable for El Paso,” writes Sito Negron. Recently, many cities around the world have redesigned urban spaces dedicated to transport, introducing public spaces above highways while expanding the vehicular domain. In this week’s reprint of Journal de l’Architecte, the author explores the limits of this trend and questions its implementation in some cases.

Courtesy of TXdot
Courtesy of TXdot

About two years ago, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) toured El Paso civic groups with a presentation touting the benefits of widening Interstate 10 through downtown. and the addition of frontage roads along a four-mile stretch of highway. TxDOT, driven in part by an expected increase in road freight, focuses on widening highways in central urban areas.

Part of the pitch was the typical traffic modeling that drives most of these capacity building exercises. The other, more original part promised to provide the city with increasingly popular urban equipment across the country – a ceiling creating a green public space above the highway. This iteration of El Paso would cover the trench, a depressed 6-block section of I-10 bordering downtown. Immediately north of the trench are mainly commercial buildings.


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The land continued: The El Paso Bridge Park would be modeled after Dallas’ 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park, which has spurred development in its immediate vicinity. It turned out that the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, which formed a group to promote transportation projects, had coordinated a visit to Klyde Warren for some elected officials and business leaders. This was done to some extent with TxDOT, whose rep had shopped the concept around town.

The problem with all of this – even now, two years later – was that the project was based on widening the highway and creating new front roads, which would take away the strip of mostly commercial property just north of the center. -ville, as well as properties adjacent to the highway east of downtown. These properties include two apartment buildings, one of which is historic.

Courtesy of TXdot
Courtesy of TXdot

In addition to wiping out ownership, the freeway project would eliminate at least three existing crossings that are used by cars, bicycles and pedestrians and that help maintain a classic grid system that distributes traffic. The bridge park would not reestablish these connections. Finally, although there are intact neighborhoods to the northeast and northwest of the city center, what lies directly north of the city center consists mostly of vacant lots and commercial buildings.

Disturbingly, the language used by proponents of deck parks is that of “fairness”, “environmental justice” and “connectivity”. The first two are downright incorrect. This is an economic development project promoted by downtown developers. It may be an amenity, perhaps able to attract new private investment, as happened in Dallas, but it falls short of its stated goals.

In fact, if you search for Klyde Warren Park, you won’t find any articles on equity, the environment, or connectivity. You will find articles with headlines like “How Klyde Warren Park Changed Real Estate in Dallas” (D Magazine, September 2015).

It undermines the very concepts of equity and connectivity when those terms are co-opted for economic development projects, and it undermines the purpose of federal funding when programs aimed at correcting years of highway destruction are instead used to cover up or distract from further destruction. .

Change up

Courtesy of TXdot
Courtesy of TXdot

“Now is the time to finally tackle major inequalities, including those caused by highways built through black and brown communities, decades of divestment that have left small towns and rural main streets stranded, and the burden of disproportionate pollution from trucks, ports and other facilities, ”Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, testifying before the House Transportation Committee on March 25. The national conversation on this topic has been growing for decades, but the secretary’s words were louder than those defenders are used to.

The scenario he described is exactly what happened in El Paso, which once had one of the best urban cores in the southwest, if not the country. As established by the 1925 City Plan, a well-designed grid, crisscrossed by streetcars, produced a beautiful city of neighborhoods. The urban fabric was the very definition of what cities now seek to replicate, with local businesses, parks and schools all within walking distance, and clusters for larger businesses, with the city center being the centerpiece. .

Nonetheless, El Paso’s political leaders and developers squandered this strong urban heritage and chose to follow the lead of Southern California’s post-war urban sprawl. And when the freeway came, it’s no surprise where it went and what it took with it.

One of the victims was Lincoln Park, which is home to a black and brown community in northeast El Paso. The highway devastated the community and created a dividing line between north and south, in the form of I-10, which remains to this day. Additionally, there is the Chamizal Port of Entry just south of Lincoln Park, creating a tangle of viaducts, ramps and roads, interspersed with industrial facilities and warehouses woven throughout the community.

Courtesy of TXdot
Courtesy of TXdot

The example of El Paso

El Paso is a port city, where trucking and transportation logistics are big business, but it’s also a verdant valley in the desert. It is increasingly gray, encased in concrete, with rising temperatures. Political leaders and developers who control the built environment have given very little thought to the fairness of conducting national and international trade in the heart of the city and in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Courtesy of TXdot
Courtesy of TXdot

TxDOT is proposing to make the situation worse, and the city and downtown developers are not backing down. Instead, they are prepared to support the widening of the freeway and front roads to achieve a desirable downtown amenity. It may be a very nice convenience and should be based or fall on that merit, but when it comes to equity and mitigation, urban improvements should be made east of downtown, in Lincoln instead. Park, Five Points West and Chamizal, among others. , and west of downtown in the Sunset Heights and San Francisco neighborhoods.

Deck park concepts are increasingly in vogue, and in many, maybe even most cases, they can promote fairness or connectivity. But that’s not the case in El Paso, where the language of justice is used to cover up or justify a bad proposition.

This is something that should be of concern to policy makers if they really mean what they say.

This article originally appeared in The Architect’s Newspaper.


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