Arbolera de Vida Redevelopment Plan
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Design Workshop, Inc.-Lead Planners and Landscape Architects
Studio E Architects, San Diego, CA-Architects
Van Der Ryn Architects, Sausalito, CA-Architects and Resource Reduction Specialists
Avid Engineering, Albuquerque, NM-Civil Engineers
Burlington Associates/Institute for Community Economics
E.P. Hamilton Associates, Pflugerville, TX-Rail Engineers
Vinyard Associates, Albuquerque, NM-Geotechnical Engineers
Keystone Environmental, Albuquerque, NM-Environmental Engineers
Sawmill Advisory Council, Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque Development Services/City of Albuquerque
Purpose of Project
The fundamental purpose of Arbolera de Vida is to create a redevelopment plan for a 27-acre former industrial infill site that will lead to a mixed-use and affordable community with associated economic development. The client for the Master Development Plan is the Sawmill Advisory Council (SAC), an activist community organization that was originally formed in 1986 in response to serious pollution problems caused by the site’s former owner, an industrial lumberyard that operated from the turn of the century until the early 1980’s.
There is an acute shortage of affordable housing within the Albuquerque city limits, the resolution of which is hampered by gentrification of older neighborhoods and an emphasis on new development in the suburbs. The Sawmill neighborhood is addressing this shortage through formation of a Community Land Trust (CLT) to acquire and hold land for the benefit of the community. Community Land Trusts (CLTs) prohibit speculation and absentee ownership, while promoting long-term affordable housing and a greater degree of community self determination.
The Arbolera de Vida Master Development Plan is unique and innovative in several respects, all of which reinforce the driving force behind the project--the creation of a long-term mixed use, affordable and sustainable housing base for this historic, culturally diverse, infill neighborhood. This site is strategically located in the City’s interior and has the potential for becoming a model for successful, innovative infill development in a semi-urban area. Most importantly, the critical ingredients for successful redevelopment are in place-- a strong interest and commitment from the public, private and community sectors.
In May of 1997, through a competitive and national proposal process, the Sawmill Advisory Council selected the landscape architect, Design Workshop, to lead a consultant team to create a Master Development Plan for the project site. Design Workshop's proposal was focused on two simple principles--a commitment to participation from community residents as “citizen planners” and an emphasis on an “eco-development” philosophy with strategies for conservation, regeneration and stewardship.
Role of Landscape Architect
Design Workshop designed and implemented a specialized planning process for creation of the Arbolera de Vida Master Plan because the client represents an emerging type of developer, an activist community organization with a participatory emphasis. A four-day workshop was held at the project site to focus the designers’ and key stakeholders’ attention on the project and to foster hands-on interaction between the designers and these “citizen planners”, as well as City staff members. The workshop week included two half-day workshops with high school and elementary school age children of the surrounding neighborhood. The landscape architects, at the beginning of this workshop, facilitated the formation of a set of economic, environmental and community goals as well as a set of guiding principles for the planning and design work.
Following the workshop, Design Workshop refined the plan, prepared graphic exhibits and perspective vignettes, assisted the SAC with a series of public meetings to develop interest in the future homes and led the process to prepare, submit and secure preliminary plat approval for the initial phase of development. The landscape architects also prepared the summary Master Development Plan and Implementation Guidelines which is included with this submission.
Design Workshop, as the prime consultants, managed a team of two architectural firms--one focused on eco-development material specifications (van Der Ryn Architects) and the other focused on building design (Studio E Architects), a civil engineer (Avid Engineering), a geotechnical engineer and an environmental engineer. The client had independently retained a consultant (Burlington Associates/ICE) to assist with the formation of the Community Land Trust once that tool for permanent affordability was selected.
As the project moves towards implementation of the initial phase, Design Workshop has provided on-going planning refinement, as well as the development of a strategy to include multiple local architectural firms in the final design of building products. The landscape architects will design all public spaces, private landscapes and edge treatments in order to weave together the elements. Design Workshop will also manage the review of final architectural designs to ensure compliance with the Implementation Guidelines and the plan’s spirit.
Special Factors and Significance
The plan is the first of its kind in Albuquerque--from the community land trust structure to the highly integrated layout of land uses. Alternatives to traditional development standards were achieved in street widths, cul-de-sac radii, and on-site stormwater management strategies. The landscape architects conducted a worksession with the City of Albuquerque’s Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) officer which led to modifications in the design of the park and street elements.
A previous plan for the property prepared by others had the site, and its land uses, bisected by an existing rail spur. The new plan has proposed the relocation of this spur to allow for the extension of the pattern of the adjacent neighborhood, to minimize noise conflicts yet retain rail-related economic development opportunities.
The Implementation Guidelines provide a framework to guide economic sustainability, community sustainability, site planning, building design and ecological planning. The ecological planning element contains great detail about energy and non-renewable resource materials conservation, regeneration of natural resource capital and stewardship in the care of people and the environment.
Many of the features and elements of the plan are the direct result of preferences from youth and adult “citizen planners”. Some examples are the lack of alleys, the street pattern which diverts new vehicular traffic to the edge of the adjacent neighborhood and the uses in the neighborhood park. The plan also responds to the cultural needs and historic traditions of the predominantly Hispanic community with a central plaza for posadas, a remnant fruit tree orchard and the re-introduction of an irrigation acequia.
The Master Development Plan contains strategies from the landscape architect for economic development and on-going community advocacy. These range from the suggestion of potential linkages to nearby cultural facilities; to the creation of new jobs and businesses; and to a series of related community improvement projects for the future.
The Arbolera de Vida Master Development Plan represents the kind of sustainable and holistic community and urban design that landscape architects can and should lead. The ability to manage and combine a wide range of constraints and factors to create a unique plan that balances economic, environmental and community forces is what makes Design Workshop's role in Arbolera de Vida so unique and valuable to the client and to the community. Though structured for affordable housing, the planning approach and community design principles utilized by Design Workshop provide a model for market rate mixed-use development as well.
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