Posts Tagged ‘development’

BY JARED BREY

After two rare storms inundate Ellicott City, Maryland, the town tries to sort through what can be saved.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Tiber-Hudson watershed, in Howard County, Maryland, drains three-and-a-half square miles of mostly developed land in and around Ellicott City, a historic mill town founded in 1772 on the banks of the Patapsco River. The terrain surrounding the town is steep. On the south side of lower Main Street, a series of mill buildings is packed alongside and astride the Tiber Branch, one of the watershed’s three main tributaries to the Patapsco. On the north side, old stone buildings are backed up to a hill made of granite bedrock. Rainwater flows downhill, east toward the river, and in Ellicott City, there’s nothing farther downhill than lower Main Street, the historic center of the town.

When I visited at the beginning of February, the sun was out and it was warm enough to leave my jacket in the car. Walking downhill into lower Main, where the street is narrower, the air temperature dropped and the shadows darkened. On my right, behind a row of boarded-up storefronts, I could hear the Tiber Branch rushing along parallel to Main Street. It smelled like a basement.

On the night of July 30, 2016, a storm rolled in and sat directly on top of Ellicott City, dropping 6.5 inches of rain in the watershed in just three hours. Water jumped the banks of the Hudson Branch uphill and flowed down Main Street, (more…)

Read Full Post »

Most of the time, Ellicott City, Maryland is a historic mill town with picturesque stone shops nestled next to granite hills and a boisterous, yet still peaceful, river. But more and more, it’s becoming a crucible for the cost of climate change-induced downpours and development that’s ill-placed, if intensely historic. (The town was founded in 1772.) Twice since 2016, Ellicott City has seen branches of the Patapsco River jump their banks after torrential rains, devastating its downtown with two “1,000-year floods,” a description rapidly losing its meaning in an era of increased extreme weather.

This PBS NewsHour segment from the most recent flood looked in on how one Ellicott City business fared: an antique shop where the owner doggedly pushed furniture away from the front door, where a torrent of water outside whisked cars down the street. That is, until a sudden eruption of water knocked down walls, sending display cases toppling like dominoes.

The town’s newest flood-proofing plan, developed with help from Baltimore’s Mahan Rykiel, calls for 10 buildings to be demolished downtown to widen the river canal at a cost of $50 million, as well as a new terraced river park. As explored in Jared Brey’s “Twice Bitten” (to be posted here later this month), it’s a plan that preserves Ellicott City’s future by destroying a bit of its past.

Read Full Post »

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

DurkTalsma/iStock by Getty Images.

Development as usual is not cutting it in the era of climate change. A new interdisciplinary report released this morning by the American Society of Landscape Architects calls on public officials and private interests both to transform the ways they plan, design, and build at all scales to counter climate change, and it asserts that the most fundamental and potent mitigation policies and strategies are based in landscape solutions.

ASLA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience comprised 10 professionals—five of them landscape architects—who produced a slate of recommended policies and planning solutions to guide national and local leaders, as well as private-sector decision makers as they work to address climate change in several specific development arenas. That includes the protection of (more…)

Read Full Post »

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s happening again.” That was a repeated phrase May 27 on Twitter as a deluge of water came downhill on Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, carrying cars and garbage and ruining businesses that had rebuilt after a similar flood in 2016. This time, the historic town received more than seven inches of rain within a few hours; a Maryland National Guardsman was killed as he tried to help a woman rescue her cat.

Ellicott City has known flooding since its founding, though it now comes from above the town rather than creeping up from the Patapsco River below. Our editorial in October 2016 explains the problem, which officials still, apparently, have not been able to fix.

——

Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, has reopened, its historic storefronts repaired for the moment but its bigger problems unsolved. On July 30, almost six inches of rain fell in two hours right atop the 244-year-old former mill town—now a shopping and dining destination—which is built into a tight granite valley atop a network of streams that flow into the Patapsco River. The flood was a surprise. The water came not from the river but from upland, where suburban development in recent decades has hardened the ground. Main Street turned into a torrent within minutes. Dozens of people who had gone out to shop or eat had to be rescued, and two people died. The water shoved around a couple hundred cars and gouged out the streetscape, baring the infrastructure beneath about 100 ruined businesses. (more…)

Read Full Post »

BY ZACH MORTICE

A basin and spillway near Las Vegas. Image courtesy of the Center for Land Use Interpretation Photo Archive.

On the outskirts of the parched city of Las Vegas are dozens of basins dug into the earth, connected to hundreds of miles of arterial concrete channels that weave through the city to Lake Mead, some 30 miles to the east. Begun in the mid-1980s, this $2 billion land works infrastructure project is now 80 percent complete. The full plan calls for 121 basins and 800 miles of channel.

What’s the purpose of all this megascaled trench work? Las Vegas, plopped arbitrarily in the Mojave Desert with no permanent source of surface water and annual average rainfall of four inches, is prone to flash floods. These basins, spillways, and channels collect rainwater and whisk it away just every so often.

This paradox is the subject of Desert Ramparts: Defending Las Vegas from the Flood, at the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles. Up through mid-September, its eerily steady gaze (more…)

Read Full Post »

BY ADAM MANDELMAN

Riding along the layered landscapes of Hawai‘i’s Kohala Coast.

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

For a first-time visitor flying into Kona International Airport on Hawai‘i’s Big Island, a view out the airplane window can trigger deep regret. Nowhere to be seen are the state’s trademark emerald ridges and lush valleys. A barren desert of lava spreads to the horizons. Although this landscape, like most deserts, has its own otherworldly beauty, it’s not what most people expect from their Hawaiian vacation. Driving north from the airport to the island’s Kohala Coast resort region doesn’t improve the view, as sunburnt moonscape unfolds for mile after mile.

That a tourist yearning for tropical paradise would find herself in the middle of a vast and arid volcanic plain seems like a cruel joke. But a turn off the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway to any of the region’s resorts soon dispels those anxieties. The seemingly endless basalt yields to coconut palms and bougainvillea that, although sparse at first, anticipate the verdant golf courses and parklands ahead. The parched shrubs and wild goats that adorned the highway have been replaced with ropey banyan trees and groves of ginger, heliconia, and philodendron that shade sprawling water features alive with fish, turtles, and—at one resort hotel—even dolphins.

The extravagant oases that erupt from the lava promise tens of thousands of visitors each year a genuine Hawaiian vacation amid inhospitable desert. As striking a contrast as this phenomenon presents, even more arresting are the well-preserved traces of ancient Hawai‘i that persist throughout this landscape. Over more than 50 years, resort development along leeward Hawai‘i Island (more…)

Read Full Post »

BY ZACH MORTICE

AECOM’s plan turns the riverbed into an outdoor activities park. Image courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering and AECOM.

The big conundrum of the Los Angeles River—that it is so imposing yet so divorced from the city—shows in the visions for its future proposed in early June by seven architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture firms. The occasion was the Los Angeles River Downtown Design Dialogue, a pro bono charrette that took place on the 10th anniversary of the city’s original master plan for the river. The design firms showed ways that visitors could step down to its shallow waters, although the concrete-lined waterway runs so low at times it can seem more like a quasi-natural splash pad. But the most fascinating plans marginalized the typically modest amounts of water in the river almost entirely.

There are no immediate plans to execute any of the projects. Rather, Gary Lee Moore, the city engineer of Los Angeles, described the charrette as an opportunity to (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: