Friday, September 25, 2009


I call the block north of Barry Hall a concrete haven. The only green area on the site is a 10 to 20 foot border of grass buffering the sidewalks from the street. The whole lot is barren and full of hard concrete. Besides parking places, this block offers The Northern, a gas station, and a house. I find it interesting how the neighborhood operates with a church directly east, a college building south, small businesses to the west, warehouses to the north, and family homes among it all. In my opinion, this site greatly lacks unity and reason.
After discussing the future of the 'town and gown' relationship for Fargo, I feel it is necessary to develop the 10th Street corridor, giving this unwelcoming block a new face-lift. 

I want to embrace the students of NDSU, neighborhood residents, and the homeless traffic along 3rd Avenue and provide a space for them to live, learn, work, and celebrate. It is my goal to transform and unify the existing structures on the site into new quality spaces where people can feel uplifted.

Think about:
Fargo weather. Shelter green space in summer from wind. Provide fun opportunities Fargo citizens don't already experience downtown ex. winter garden. 
Connect and Link. Brent, Matt, and Marita are working on sites either adjacent to this site or close. Design fluent circulation between these areas.
Traffic Congestion. A citizen from this neighborhood expressed concern with the 3rd Avenue one way (south side of block). The NDSU parking lots are accessed through here and people drive like maniacs through the neighborhood threatening the safety of pedestrians and destroying the peaceful ambiance. I need to figure out how to re-route these drivers or just slow them down.
Ethics.  Is it appropriate to have a men's club next door to a church, in the middle of a neighborhood? It has existed here for a while, but does it prevent businesses to anchor in this block? Should I relocate it, or just work with it? College students probably don't mind going to a bar with a strip joint in the basement; homeless people probably don't mind either. It operates during different hours than the college and the church, so these people probably don't cross paths.

Spaces to Include:
-disco/club connected to the Northern (lawn bowling)
-enclosed shelter for homeless (transition space between 3rd Avenue and courtyard)
-multiple level commercial building (office space, outreach/tech center-basic courses for homeless taught by students) 
-place to project outdoor movies? for church/neighborhood

-shared parking for church and center

-partially enclosed green way (water feature, ice skating?, outdoor study space, spaces for kiosks, walls can open to outdoor green space)
-connect gas station and house, transform into market, pharmacy, gas station, coffee shop

After Team Input
Out of the three buildings on this site, I decided the only building worth keeping is the gas station. It is highly used by the people going up 10th street, NDSU faculty, and students (also it costs a lot of money to close down gas stations.) This is a downtown mixed-use zone and I feel the church creates a buffer between the single family housing style and something new. I don't find it important to re-use the house on site.

The green represents potential buildings for this area. The whole site will tie into the dense university development Brent has proposed, as well, it continues to provide parking. The spaces proposed will still fit into these structures.


Bike and Pedestrian Path.

With the NDSU campus branching out into the downtown area, students and faculty now encounter the Fargo citizens via the road.  
My goal is to provide a safe and efficient transportation route for all downtown occupants by creating a landscaped pedestrian and bike path between the downtown NDSU buildings.
With downtown Fargo embracing sustainability issues, the need to accommodate alternative transportation methods is pertinent. I plan on incorporating a new bike sharing system throughout NDSU's campus and downtown Fargo/Moorhead.
This picture is an example of the BCN Bicycle sharing system in Barcelona, Spain. These bike stations are disbursed throughout the community for bike check-out and check-in points.   I think these stations could easily be phased into downtown Fargo and be used daily. 

green = proposed path
orange = open green space (benches/outdoor lounge/special feature)
red = parking
purple = alternative routes

The path I am proposing would work best if NP and 1st Avenue North became 2 way streets again.  I would fill in the curvy street that connects Roberts Street with 8th street to replace parking that I plan on turning into a path. If the additional parking is unnecessary, it would be a great green space. 

Quality Materials: 
-unique detail
-stamped concrete or brick
-permeable pavers whenever possible
-add vegetation for shade, weather protection, scent, aesthetic reasons too

  • After careful traffic analysis, filling in the curved street between 8th Street and Roberts Street would create a congestion of cars at the Roberts Street intersection which isn't ideal for being directly next to a school. 
  • Instead of eliminating the parking structure to create more green space, I decided to "green" up the existing parking lot using the guidelines I found.  

3 out of the 9 months during the school year it is pleasant enough to walk outside. Breaking up outdoor travel time with heat waves makes a difference when walking outside during the cold months. This plan suggests an outdoor bike/pedestrian path with periodic enclosures. At least three buildings along the route could easily shelter the path by either completely enclosing it or creating a built canopy for it. The transitions between buildings aren't able to shelter the path, so using plants that would eventually create a natural awning could provide adequate protection.
The orange blocks represent obvious places buildings could shelter the path. In addition, the buildings to the west of the Plains Art Museum and the west side of the Federal Building could also provides solutions to cover the path.
I am looking into ways of creating a sky-way system that would connect these buildings for complete protection for the downtown NDSU occupants.


The downtown fire station is currently situated in between two busy one ways, which can be very congested and inconvenient. I think fire trucks could get to the accident scene faster, if they were out of the Renaissance Zone.
My mission is to relocate these redeemers, renovate their existing building, infill north and east on the site, and create a space to promote wellness for young professionals & students.
WHY? Downtown Fargo has many social hubs during the evening...How do we generate a way for these people to interact during the day? A wellness center.
Demanding lives and professions drive people to neglect personal wellness. There must be a work out facility located near where one dwells in order for that person to take advantage of it. Incentives in the Renaissance Zone have led to restoration and renovation projects. These projects are new spaces that create business & liveliness, improve human interaction, and incourage young and older people to move into renovated lofts or apartments. Also, with NDSU students now attending classes downtown, it's more common to occupy downtown apartments. 
Where there are people, there should be a wellness center. Downtown is no exception.
The nearest work-out facility is the family oriented YMCA located 5 or 6 blocks south from this site. Even though this is relatively close to my proposed wellness center, like I said, it's mostly about the family. I think as a young professional I would be more comfortable approaching a work-out place geared towards people like me. This new fitness center will provide food, a lounge or study space, equipment for physical wellness, and a good reason for young professionals or other downtown occupants to interact. 
In the long run, I think the YMCA could also benefit from this new club. The YMCA may loose business from the young professionals downtown, but I think they could take advantage of this shift.They could explore focusing on their main customer, the family, generate a new marketing strategy, bring in new 'family' equipment (whatever that is), and overall attract new families.

Spaces to Include:
~50'x84' gym (basketball, volleyball, badminton, indoor game space)
~studio (dance space, aerobics classes, yoga, etc.)
~free weight space
~cardio equipment space
~6'x10'x7' sauna
~locker rooms (male & female including toilets, showers, dressing space)
~cafe/lounge (indoor & outdoor space, with computers indoors)
~administration/trainer offices
~toilet for reception/admin./offices
~custodian room
~mechanical room
~prominent entry & circulation 

No need to worry! Who are the main customers and how do they operate?
1. The Student. Off campus students (not living downtown) drive to campus everyday and have a parking spot either at the T lot or at the Fargo Dome. The campus circulator buses are free transportation that run during most of the day and drive right by my proposed fitness center. On campus students can take the same free buses downtown! Downtown students can walk here. Everyone can bike here!
2. The Young Professional. Usually these people work 8 to 5, but there are exceptions! So, downtown occupants can either walk or ride a bicycle to the fitness center for free during the day. If they work downtown and want to work out afterwards, they can just leave their car at work and return to it after their wellness boost.
3. Immigrants. I can't speak for this customer because I'm definately a Fargo native. Although, I can make a few assumptions. Americans are lazy and think they need to drive places, many other cultures don't use cars regularly, and in most immigrants' cities and villages, walking is a normal commuting method.

SIDENOTE: There is a pay parking lot located directly south of my proposed site. During regular business hours if people are too lazy, they could park here and pay a couple dollars. After 5 and on weekends, this lot is free to park in.  Young professionals and students who want to work out anyday after 5 and on weekends can park here for FREE!

A positivist outlook on people today would say humans want to live life to its fullest. People want to live long, have money and job security, have friends and family, be confident, and achieve goals. Currently this is what the downtown offers in the different wellness sectors:
Spiritual -----We have multiple churches downtown Fargo.
Intellectual-----The university provides education.
Social-----Businesses downtown mix work and play for social interaction.
Environmental-----"Green" solutions for transportation.
Emotional-----Families and friends live downtown and provide this support for one another.
Physical-----Other than the YMCA, we have sidewalks to encourage pedestrian traffic. 
Each element of wellness acts as an ingredient or part of a whole.  I see this idea relating to the human body because we are one whole made of many systems. A person can operate without one system, but in order to accomplish optimal wellness all systems must be working.  How do we keep these systems working? We strengthen them and stretch them so they can withstand more, we properly fuel them, and maintain them. This fitness/wellness center sustains physical wellness while encouraging the other wellness elements. My parti is the human body.


The Woodrow Wilson School is currently being used as a continuing education facility, but with the Fargo community expanding, another school is being built in South Fargo. This new building will shift the uses of existing schools leaving the Woodrow Wilson school vacant. To ultimately enhance $ for the community it is important create tools for people who want to occupy downtown spaces.  Diverse property types, affordable housing for all people, and cultural sensitive businesses offer endless opportunities for downtown occupants.

I plan on transforming the Woodrow Wilson structure into a diverse housing unit, add businesses and entertainment to suit the needs of the neighborhood, and provide more new housing on the same site.  
A new mixed used cultural building will ground the new arc thrift store, day care, food, more housing, and a small tech center, while leaving a protected 'green' zone giving the families of the neighborhood a safe place to escape to. 
This neighborhood has great potential because of its prime location. Situated on the corner of University Avenue and 4th Avenue N, the public transportation routes constantly run by (see map below).  Also, it's a mid-point between the NDSU main campus and downtown campus attracting traffic throughout the day. Providing more housing and businesses through renovations downtown will help create density (relying less on cars), fight urban sprawl, and utilize wasted space.

Desgin begins very basic. What makes sense? 

yellow = diverse housing
green = mixed use with housing on uppermost level
pink = single family housing
blue = green space

Spaces to Include:
mixed use- 
-daycare (toilet rooms, kitchen, play area, nap area)
-clothing store
-restaurant (kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining)
-hostel for travelers above (4 kitchens/4 living spaces/ 1 common rec area with computers/ 8 sleeping rooms/ 4 sets of bathing spaces)
mixed housing-
-36 total units (1 br, 2 br, & 3 br variety)
bus stop/warming house
bike racks
underground parking garage
indoor common area (pool and hot tub)
community gardens
single family housing-
contains typical living spaces

Mixed use parking: None is required, customers can park on the street in diagonal parking spots. The travelers who have cars can also park on the street. Business owners and employee's can park in the proposed parking garage.
Renovated WW: A drop off area is necessary on the west side of the building because of the busy traffic on University. An underground parking structure will be built beneath the green space for residents of the WW complex. 
Single family housing: These people can either park in diagonal spots on the street side of their house, or park below grade and share the parking garage. 

I think it is important to think about how these spaces and surrounding spaces will be used in the future. The form I will push further to design, is option #1. Having built structures on the west, north, and east side of this block will take advantage of natural sunlight, protect the inner courtyard from nasty weather, and allow for expansion going south. This area of downtown Fargo is full of dense housing units. I think it would be great if they had a large green space to share. My idea is to merge the two blocks, build around the west and south side, then leave the space in the middle for permeable pavement parking and more green space for outdoor entertainment.




Friday, September 18, 2009

A Reoccurring Theme!

These a a few of the many pictures I took of the common arch or dome element in the Renaissance Neighborhood. 

Digital Modeling

The City of Fargo website provided our class with an AutoCad map of the Renaissance Zone. It gave us a lot of valuable information to start a 3D model of this area in SketchUp. Unfortunately, this AutoCad file did not have the streets and alleys in place, so the past week I spent scaling and matching pictures from Bing Maps with the City's file. Over the past week, I was able to distinguish the streets and bridges from the property and building lines to make the base of our SketchUp model. I have yet to push or pull the planes of the blocks to add proper depth. Hopefully, this next task is less persnickety/time consuming!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Guest Speakers

This past week we have had a few guest lectures, each emphasizing a different element in future development of the downtown area. Key issues brought to our area are as follows:

1. Location is everything.
2. Lots downtown are much smaller than lots on the outskirts of town. Developers want larger lots.
3. The market and money drive every design. Sometimes quality is lost because it costs more.
4. Developing and planning jobs are given to those design professionals in our area. This may hinder big city dreams.
5. We need to create a diverse downtown, embracing all of Fargo's habitants.
6. Mix-use zones do not require parking.
7. Parking ramp may be out of the picture.
8. We must strengthen the corridor between NDSU's main campus and the downtown campus via 10th street.

I am interested to hear from other influential design personel from our area.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Questions for a Possible Survey

Non-College Student Residents...
1. Do you enjoy walking the streets of downtown Fargo? Why or Why not?
2. Do you feel safe living downtown?
3. Where do you go shopping for groceries? clothes? drugs? home decore?

NDSU Students
1. How do you feel about moving the Business Department downtown?
2. Do you feel secluted from campus life?
3. What would you like to see downtown?
4. Do you want to live downtown? Why or Why not?

More Ideas

1. Every structure must have creative, crafty, &/or artistic elements.
2. The interior of a building must visually connect with the exterior in some way.
3. Put necessary parking lots underground and turn the ground level into a plaza or dog park with some main feature. Band shell? Water feature?
4. Cluster dumpsters and screen them with vegetation to open up and preserve alley ways behind buildings.
5. Add a bike lane and/or trails throughout the whole community, not just the downtown area. We have a beautiful river so we need to take advantage of it.

10 Things I Want to See Downtown

1. More pedestrian friendly. Trolley? Covered walk? 
2. Entertainment for a broader group of people. Country bar? Disco? Modern Movie Theatre? All connected?
3. Regulate paved areas. For every _______square feet of concrete there will be this much vegetation. 
4. Interior Design Department of NDSU
5. Wellness center and Downtown Campus Hub. 
6. Affordable general store. 
7. Greenway connecting NDSU main campus with downtown campus. 
8. Smarter parking. Underground? Shared lots? Hidden lots? 
9. Move industrial businesses out to industrial park by 45th street to encourage future mix-use or residential development. 
10. Restore and preserve what we have, embrace it while filling in, and create the unifying design quality throughout the downtown district.

Case Study Business

#1 Des Moines

The first example I would like to draw attention to is for the city of Des Moines, Iowa. The layout and depth of the downtown district plan is very well organized, and I feel we can use it as an example for many reasons. Follow the link for District Planning & Design Guidelines. This study reveals how a conservative area needs to learn how to take risks and try something everyone may not be comfortable doing. It stresses the need to build a culture of public life, require (urban) design quality, preserve streets & alleys, pay attention to scale and landscape, integrate parking, embrace authenticity, and create higher density while mixing the uses of space and evoling sustainably. 

#2 Greater East Wenatchee Urban Growth in Washington

 I admire this case study for solving subjective issues with objective solutions. It creates general guidelines for the whole area and addresses specific areas like small lot residential, commercial, mix-use development, and multi-family development in a more detailed manner. /pdf/GEWA_UGA_Design_Guidelines_11-30-06.pdf
Some key issues this plan outlines are as follows:
1. It regulates parking and pedestrian connections.
2. Screens utility areas with architectural features or landforms.
3. Wants prominent pedestrian entrances.
4. Controls massing of buildings to provide a sense of "base", "middle", and "top."
5. It respects existing development.
6. Encourages public plazas and parks with an attractive feature.
7. Regulates a visual connection between inside and outside of buildings.
8. Touches designing for pedestrians keeping in mind the climate.
9. Encourages creativity, craft, & artistic elements.
10. Supports public trails.
11. Single family residential units are to have front porches for conversation areas and to define the entry. 

Let's Figure this Out.

The collective observations made between peers, the knowledgeable, and I address the downtown area's lack of unified direction. Many different people inhabit these spaces for many different reasons creating a variety of views on how these spaces are/should be developed and used. It is necessary to identify the intentions of the area first and foremost.

After the walking tour Sept. 1st I realized who really represents downtown Fargo: high-end condo dwellers, business owners, the college, college students occupying student housing, apartment renters/owners, single-family housing dwellers, and the designers! These people all deserve an equal opportunity for input because they will be affected by the result. (Whatever that may be.) How can we involve them besides surveys? How can we involve other Fargo residents in their own Rennaissance Zone? 

How can we accommodate the downtown inhabitants? Particularly students? The current NDSU situation is a little goofy.  Recent expansion brought the Architecture, Art, Landscape Architecture, and Business Departments away from the main campus. Many people feel this destroys the strong campus community. I think we architecture students are extremely fortunate to be able to experience college immersed in downtown life.  Do these downtown students "miss out"? I don't know? I don't think I'm missing too much because I spent 4 years devoting time to a sorority which required me to stay involved with most campus activities. Student who don't join anything probably don't share my opinion. I think one solution for students to feel included is to get involved in more than one student is possible to budget time appropriately. Other solutions could be design opportunities that reinforce the connection and create common ground between main campus and downtown campus students. HOW? Maybe are a disco, more coffee shops, a market, affordable student housing, a wellness facility, and student union. We need anything to create social interaction between students. 

To help identify our intentions, I found some Case Studies.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm Still Chewing

Downtown Tour!
My attention while touring the downtown area was primarily focused on absorbing elements like:
-material relationships
-void areas
-what's missing
-pedestrian involvement
-existing structure with potential
-space character
-depth in design
-edges, landmarks, nodes, paths, and districts (thank you Mr. Lynch)

One sensitive issue in the downtown area is PARKING! There is never enough parking. Isn't that why we have the bus? Public transportation has become more convenient for the NDSU students, however, what about parking for visitors? Density will only bring more cars!

Another element downtown is detail and relationship with material. A common material used in this area is masonry. Maybe one way to create a better designed Renaissance Zone would be to use material pallets that work well together. On the other hand, if everyone uses similar materials wouldn't that limit creativity and get boring? See images below.
The picture above shows a building we discovered with mucho potential! Its location is directly off of 10th Street North and NP, it's currently For Sale, it would balance the west end of NP for housing, it has exceptional character, a huge surrounding lot (for downtown), many existing openings for natural light...the list goes on!
My brief initial reaction to the existing downtown area only touches the surface of my observations and analysis. It is more appropriate to express these issues through images and plans.