For me, I first learned of Columbus Park in 1968. As a summer job, drafting ceiling plans for a contractor, I was also assigned lunch duty. Nearly every day, the salesmen would gather in the lunch room to play cards, while I fetched Po' Boy sandwiches and root beer at La Sala's grocery at 5th and Campbell. Little Italy was an interesting place with shops, houses close together, funeral homes, a park, etc.
In the early 70's, while working in my first architectural jobs, I admired the sketches and drawings of a renewed Columbus Park with infill houses, the renovated Don Bosco Center, urban housing and landscape throughout the neighborhood.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. Not much had changed over the years, but people had tried with small projects to re-generate a dynamically changing neighborhood. New people had moved in, many had moved out. The mob had hit its height and was gone. Yet loyal people to the neighborhood and developers, along with the city, kept trying to do something to save the beauty and urban qualities of Columbus Park. The potential of a truly mixed use neighborhood with housing, shops, parks and offices always seemed to be on the near horizon.
Our client, Columbus Park Developers was designated as the Master Developer of a large, unused, tract of the neighborhood in 2007-08. North of 5th Street was about 21 blocks of underutilized and misused land. With an infusion of housing and shops, Columbus Park would have the potential of realizing a rebirth of a great urban community.
Working very closely with the development team on the design plan, the city emerged and was built on the Columbus Park tradition. It changed and improved, but always kept an emphasis on low scale housing, environmental design features, green infrastructure, open space, and mixed use initiatives. Finally, in 2014, the first phase of construction was approved and financed. We met with the neighborhood leaders and activists to review the design direction and to engage them in the development of the rest of their community.
The construction began in 2015 with the streets and utilities construction. Then in late 2015, the first of 5 new buildings began. That phase should be completed by the end of 2016, setting the stage for additional phases to truly complete the vision of a renewed Columbus Park.
GastingerWalker& designed 4 of the new apartment and mixed use buildings being constructed. The buildings are two story, walk ups. There are 54 apartments and a community space, shops, work space on the first floor of one of the buildings on 5th Street. The buildings are set to a low scale and massing similar to the existing houses and buildings throughout the neighborhood. Balconies, outside stairs, colors and materials along with the sidewalks, hidden parking and landscape/streetscape, will integrate with the existing neighbors. This will take a little time, but we are so proud to have been a part of a plan that has finally started to be achieved.