Architectural Firm Shares New Vision for Brooklyn Strand

WXY Architecture + Urban Design, the main player behind the recent Brooklyn Strand Urban Design Action Plan, shares details regarding the game-changing project.
Brooklyn Strand, Columbus Park rendering

Brooklyn Strand, Columbus Park rendering

New York–A lot can happen in two years. In July 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a list of initiatives designed to further revitalize Downtown Brooklyn and now the centerpiece of that plan, the restructuring of the 21-acre Brooklyn Strand, has the spotlight with the recent release of the WXY Architecture + Urban Design-produced Brooklyn Strand Urban Design Action Plan.

The Brooklyn Strand project took shape as part of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Plan, a team endeavor spearheaded by WXY to craft a guideline for achieving the Mayor’s growth plan for the increasingly popular borough. WXY was attracted to the initiative like bees to honey. “Reimagining this series of disconnected parks, plazas, and greenways, by connecting Downtown Brooklyn to its waterfront was a major urban design challenge we were excited to develop,” Claire Weisz, architect and cofounder, WXY Architecture + Urban Design, told Commercial Property Executive.  “Our firm is focused on innovative and lasting solutions to major urban challenges, which makes this an ideal commission for our highly creative, multidisciplinary team of architects and planners.”

The two years since the Mayor’s announcement have been well spent. The Downtown Brooklyn community, consisting of 40 stakeholder groups in this case, worked together to outline the new vision for the Strand, which calls for projects from Borough Hall to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“The process of working closely with all stakeholders to achieve an Action Plan was the most rewarding aspect.  We led over 50 walkthroughs and meetings involving over 250 stakeholders, often uncovering spaces which were fenced off or underutilized,” said Weisz.

The resulting Action Plan offers heavily researched and well-thought-out recommendations to the city of New York for making the reinvention of the Brooklyn Strand a reality. It will be no simple feat, as the team isn’t precisely starting from scratch; it will be working with infrastructure originally developed in the 1950s, but WXY has found a way to make it happen. “The Brooklyn Strand plan transforms leftover spaces from expressway plans that cut off neighborhoods, turning them into public spaces that connect people. At the core of this is an initiative we are calling the ‘Gateway to Brooklyn,’ where a series of Parks and DOT spaces can work together and unlock a highway interchange into a place for people, complete with expanded parks, a new market space, and seamless access to the Brooklyn Bridge,” Weisz noted.

Brooklyn Strand, Brooklyn War Memorial rendering

Brooklyn Strand, Brooklyn War Memorial rendering

The Action Plan provides roughly ten specific recommendations. Among the suggestions is the transformation of a 36-space parking area in Columbus Park into a public space featuring an elevated plaza, destination restaurant, reinforced path to MetroTech and welcoming access for pedestrians and vehicles. Another recommendation involves Cadman Plaza Park and the reopening of the 10,000-square-foot Brooklyn War Memorial, which has been closed to the public for the last 25 years, and opening and regrading the surrounding landscape to accommodate passive and active uses. And of course, an actual bridge is also part of the plan. The new illuminated and elevated access bridge will serve as both a visual and physical link between Downtown Brooklyn and the waterfront.

“From the highest levels of our local government, there’s a vision for a series of initiatives to further the successful growth of Downtown Brooklyn into a thriving, 21st Century urban core,” Weisz added. “Taken together, the result will have enormous potential to become the great promenade and gateway to Brooklyn.“

WXY was joined in the production of the Action Plan by Sam Schwartz Engineering; Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects; architectural lighting firm Domingo Gonzalez Associates; multidisciplinary design and engineering firm Arup; and artists’ group Superflex.

Renderings courtesy of WXY