Abandoned Quebec: Mirabel Airport & Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel

Mirabel Airport opened in 1975, just in time for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. At the time it was the largest airport in the world, and meant to solve the problems of Montreal’s (supposed) overcrowded Dorval Airport (now Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport). While Mirabel Airport was sited a fair distance (34 miles) outside of downtown Montreal, the master plan was to construct high speed rail and a highway to provide easy access for travelers. It sounded good. However, the rail was never constructed and the highway ended before the airport. Mirabel became too inconvenient for travelers and airlines, all of whom preferred Dorval Airport. Passenger numbers never reached the predictions of 20 million, and slowly declined, with passenger service ending in 2004. Since then, the terminal has sat empty, used only for the filming of a few films (The Terminal; Warm Bodies, for example). The former passenger airline runway is used for racing tracks (a brilliant adaptive reuse of all that pavement!) The airport serves only cargo planes.

However, an abandoned airport is particularly on the creepy side, when you consider that it’s a modern relic. The approach to the airport includes an empty parking garage on one side and the abandoned hotel on the other side. The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel closed in 2002 due to lack of business. The hotel has sat empty since then. For a while there was talk of rehabilitating the terminal into a conference center, but plans never materialized. As of May 2014, the demolition of the airport terminal was announced, citing that rehabilitation / adaptive reuse could cost tens of millions of dollars.

Drag racing on the runways. You can see signs of the airport taxi lanes.

Drag racing on the runways. You can see signs of the airport taxi lanes.

A portion of the terminal that you can walk up to, but not see in.

A portion of the terminal that you can walk up to, but not see in.

That same portion outside the fence.

That same portion outside the fence.

The terminal is fenced off.

The terminal is fenced off.

View of the terminal from across the runway.

View of the terminal from across the runway.

The terminal at sunset.

The terminal at sunset.

The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel.

The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel.

Broken windows, curtains hanging, some lights on... creepy in concrete. There's a Soviet Russia feel here.

Broken windows, curtains hanging, some lights on… creepy in concrete. There’s a Soviet Russia feel here.

View of the Chateau and the abandoned parking deck, with the terminal in the background.

View of the Chateau and the abandoned parking deck, with the terminal in the background.

An example of poor modern planning, perhaps? What do you think of this modern relic abandoned and demolished?

Want to read more? Mirabel Airport & Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel & interior photosAn article and videos of the hotel’s interior. And check out the video of the airport.

Freeways to Boulevards and Parks: A Brief Introduction

Transportation tells the story of our culture: how we travel, in what style, what mode and to where. Depending on the design and form of our routes, it tells our priorities and the purpose of the roads.

Consider parkways of the 1920s-1940s: scenic, winding, stone bridges and underpasses, grassy medians, low speed limits. These roads were constructed for an enjoyable ride, making the journey part of the destination. Now consider interstates of the 1950s – 1970s or later: wide lane with wide shoulders, limited access, high speeds, blasting through the landscape. These corridors were built for efficiency and speed, getting the traveling public from one place to another.

Why is there such a difference in road construction? Just as our tastes in fashion, design, food, and culture change, so do our theories and methods of planning, construction, and transportation. Theories and methods change to fit our needs and wants, as evident by the evolution of our roadways.

Take note of where major highways are located, and you’ll see that many hug the waterfront of cities. These roads divide the waterfront from the city dwellers, which seem to ignore the potential high-value real estate. Don’t the best cities embrace their waterfront? Why would we ignore that by constructing roads instead of boardwalks, beaches, and parks? There are a few important factors to understand (note these are not all-inclusive).

(1) Until the modern era, the waterfront often represented the industry of a city. Shipping ports were major transportation centers, where goods would come in or leave the city. Waterfronts were for business, not play. Even little Burlington, Vermont had  waterfront filled with railroad lines, oil tanks, the lumber industry, etc. It was much different than today.

(2) Since the waterfront was not a cherished place in cities, especially as industry changed in the United States, building a road along the shorelines seemed to make sense. Transportation was replacing industry, particularly the shipping and rail industry.

(3) Before the interstate were the low speed (relatively speaking) parkways were constructed (think early Robert Moses era), driving was recreation and leisure. A Sunday drive was leisure time to Americans, and driving on a scenic highway adjacent to the the water made for beautiful views and a lovely afternoon.

(4) Interstates often replaced parkways. And interstates caused devastation through cities across the nation. However, building the interstate along the waterfront often was a path of least resistance, as they would transport vehicles around the city at high speeds, avoiding the congestion of inner city loops. .

(5) Recreation and city planning changed. Whether a parkway or an interstate, this pattern of development left the waterfront divided from city dwellers. At the time when these roads were constructed, people were moving out of cities, not living in them. The effects to a city were less noticeable than they might today. When people began living in cities as opposed to living in the suburbs, city dwellers wanted to reclaim the empty waterfronts.

Half a century later and development patterns and planning theories have indeed changed. Today cities across the country are working to remove (yes, remove!) freeways and reclaim the waterfront by turning the roads into boulevards or parks. An article 6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever (Gizmodo) is an amazing collection of examples around the world. On the east coast, you might know the Big Dig in Boston. On the west coast, Harbor Drive in Portland, OR is a well-know case study.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Harbor Drive in Portland, Oregon BEFORE freeway removal. Click for source & article.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Harbor Drive AFTER freeway removal. Click for source & article.

And there are many cities with proposals in mind such as Syracuse, New York and Niagara Falls, New York. PreserveNet keeps a website by the Preservation Institute detailing freeway removal projects. These are not minor undertakings. They are an incredible feats, requiring major design shifts. Improving quality of life within cities by giving pleasant open space to all speaks volumes to how we view and use cities today. Gone are the days when people are fleeing cities to the suburbs and need the roads to get in and out of the cities as quickly as possible. Instead, we see the value in these dense, urban environments. Quite the bold revitalization, and an example of what good a dramatic change can accomplish.

What do you think? Anything to add?

 

For the Olympic Lovers: The Olympics and Place

The Winter Olympics have been near and dear to my heart for a long time, since my sister Annie O’Shea is on the USA Skeleton team. While she is not competing in the Olympics this time around (women’s skeleton had two spots, not three), it’s still exciting to cheer on the athletes whose names and faces are familiar to me. Go Bobsled & Skeleton!

Have you been watching the Olympics yet? Have you noticed the gorgeous scenery in and around Sochi? While you’re watching the Olympics with a preservation eye (let’s face it, we never stop thinking preservation), have you considered how the Olympics alter a place? Suddenly there is an entire village constructed, inhabited and then deserted. Surely this alters its host city. Does it have the benefit of creating beautiful spaces and opportunities for these cities? Or is it just too much to handle all at once?  It seems that cities have varying results, but overwhelmingly there are venues without a purpose.

A list of the summer and winter sports (wow, there are many more winter sports!)

Toboggan runs in Yosemite National Park, 1932.

The Bobsled/Skeleton/Luge track from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

Olympic cities after the Olympics (a positive spin).

Decaying cities follow the Olympics (a negative spin).

And some eerie abandoned post Olympic venues.

Three lessons cities should learn by hosting the Olympics.

Successful changes to Barcelona due to the 1992 Olympics.

The Olympic City Project, a book documenting post Olympic cities, and the NPR interview (with photos).

The 1932 Bobsled and Skeleton track at Lake Placid, NY. The 1980 track remains in use.

What do you think? What should cities take into consideration when bidding on, planning for, and constructing the Olympic venues? And what can we do these monstrous venues following the close of each Olympics? Is there value in preservation? Planners, preservationists, everyone – what do you have to say?

Preservation ABCs: Z is for Zoning

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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Z is for Zoning

Alexandria, VA zoning. Click image and zoom in to read the map.

Zoning is a land use control and planning tool that dictates the types of buildings and their uses for a defined area. Elements under zoning control can include setback, height, density, appearance, parking, etc). There are pros and cons to zoning, as well as different types. All of this could be an entire book or an entire class, so let’s go over just a few pieces. 

A (Very Brief) History: In the late 19th century and early 20th century, American cities passed laws that governed aspects such as height and use of buildings. New York City adopted the first citywide zoning ordinance that identified residential, commercial, and unrestricted areas. The basic form for zoning began with the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act (1924/6) and the Standard City Planning Enabling Act (1926/8), both published by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  In 1926, the Supreme Court upheld that zoning was constitutional in the case Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Company (272 U.S. 365). Here the village prohibited industrial development that could change the character of the village. The parcel of land had already been divided into parcels of land with height and density requirements, which is why industry could not be developed.

There is more than one type of zoning, and how zoning is applied varies across the United States and the world. The important point to know is this: Zoning and historic preservation can be good friends or foes.

How are they linked? A zoning plan divides an areas into different sections/zones. A zoning overlay is often a historic preservation district overlay that can cover more than one zone. In other words, the residential, commercial, and  industrial zones might all have some parts in the historic district, which is the historic preservation overlay.

How can they be friends or foes? Zoning can help historic preservation by aiding in controlling and directing growth to the appropriate areas. This has the benefit of protecting density and character of an area. Consider the Urban Growth Boundary of Portland, OR. However, zoning and preservation can interfere with one another. Zoning might restrict the rehabilitation of a building. In that case, zoning would need to be revisited for revisions or amendments or a special permit (conditional use) requested.

A lack of zoning will can harm historic preservation. Perhaps the National Register Historic District has not been expanded, therefore the historic district overlay not expanded. (Districts that were listed decades ago are often smaller than districts we would list today.) Inappropriate development could be  a threat because retail/commercial could be allowed in an area where it shouldn’t be. Consider a Dollar General built within an eligible historic district, simply because zoning has not been revisited in decades.

Despite changes that might be required, having a zoning ordinance is a better place to start than no zoning ordinance. If your community does not have zoning, it is a necessity. It is easier and better to be proactive than reactive. Check your town’s zoning districts, historic districts, and ask preservationists (check with your State Historic Preservation Office) if the districts could be increased). And preservation planners, feel free to add advice in the comments.

An excellent, easy-to-understand booklet from the NPS about Historic Preservation and Zoning. Alexandria, VA map found here.

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And just like that, we’ve made it all the way from A to Z. Thanks for following along with this series. If there are letters that you would change, please share. 

Flamingos in NYC: The High Line

The flamingo crowd spent a September weekend in New York City, this year’s edition of our annual get together and oh! the sightseeing we did. One of the highlights of the trip was definitely The High Line.

What is The High Line? It’s an elevated railroad on the West Side of New York City converted to a public park. Check out maps here for a better idea of its location. Yes, a landscaped park above city streets. It’s unlike any park most of us have seen (one exists in Paris, but otherwise none have been created yet). This elevated rail line operated as a freight train from 1934 to 1980, serving the meatpacking industry on the West Side, as well as the post office. Portions of The High Line were demolished between the 1960s and 1990s, but 1.45 miles remain and 1 mile is open to visitors.

Mr. Stilts was along for the ride, of course.

Mr. Stilts was along for the ride, of course, just observing people strolling on the High Line.

Here’s a brief history of the creation of High Line from the Friends of the High Line website:

Founded in 1999 by community residents, Friends of the High Line fought for the High Line’s preservation and transformation at a time when the historic structure was under the threat of demolition. It is now the nonprofit conservancy working with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to make sure the High Line is maintained as an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy. In addition to overseeing maintenance, operations, and public programming for the park, Friends of the High Line works to raise the essential private funds to support more than 90 percent of the park’s annual operating budget, and to advocate for the preservation and transformation of the High Line at the Rail Yards, the third and final section of the historic structure, which runs between West 30th and West 34th Streets.

The High Line is located on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. The first section of the High Line opened on June 9, 2009. It runs from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street. The second section, which runs between West 20th and West 30th Streets, opened June 8, 2011.

Simply put, The High Line is a unique, amazing part of New York City. It is landscaped with plants and seating areas, self watered, rail lines are incorporated into design. Some areas are narrow, some wide enough for cafe areas. Sections pass under buildings, between buildings, all with interesting views and a captivating landscape. Historic preservation, landscape design, rehabilitation, urban planning, and community efforts all come together for one big win! Tae a self guided tour and check out some photographs from our flamingo adventure.

View on The High Line.

View on The High Line., near the southern entrance.

Some areas of The High Line are narrow like this and traverse under buildings.

Some areas of The High Line are narrow like this and traverse under buildings.

On The High Line.

On The High Line.

Other areas of The High Line are wide and have grassy areas like this one where visitors can relax and enjoy the scenery, like in any park.

Other areas of The High Line are wide and have grassy areas like this one where visitors can relax and enjoy the scenery, like in any park.

View from The High Line.

View from The High Line.

On a September Saturday afternoon, it was a very crowded spot!

On a September Saturday afternoon, it was a very crowded spot!

More surface and landscape.

More surface and landscape.

Permeable surfaces and plantings throughout the park.

Permeable surfaces and plantings throughout the park.

Laurel and me on The High Line, fellow flamingos.

Laurel and me on The High Line, fellow flamingos.

An excellent adventure on the High Line! If you are New York City, it’s definitely worth a visit, and it’s worth strolling the entire mile, though there are many access points.

Nice Ride Minnesota

Many cities have a bike share program; Minneapolis and St. Paul have Nice Ride Minnesota. What’s the purpose?

Nice Ride bikes are designed for one job, short trips in the city by people wearing regular clothes and carrying ordinary stuff. All Nice Ride bikes are the same size, the only thing you may have to adjust is the seat, and it’s easy!

Mr. Stilts came along for the ride, obviously.

Mr. Stilts came along for the ride, obviously.

Commuting to work? A quick trip to the store? In need of a ride across the city? Grab a bicycle at one of the many, many stations throughout the Twin Cities. You can rent a bike for $6 for 24 hours or $65 for a year. What a bargain! The bikes are available November – April, 24/7.

Station across from the Minneapolis Public Library.

Station across from the Minneapolis Public Library. See, they are quite popular.

At each station you get a code, which you then type into the bike stand to unlock the bike. Every time you get a new bike, you get a new code.

At each station you get a code, which you then type into the bike stand to unlock the bike. Every time you get a new bike, you get a new code.

And, Nice Ride also works well for tourists. Touring Minneapolis by bike was the perfect way to see great parts of the city.  The catch? You have 30 minutes to get between stations, otherwise you pay fees on top of your 24 hour or year subscription. With all of the stations, it’s easy. And then you can immediately take out another bicycle to continue on your journey.

All you have to do is (1) find a station, (2) insert a credit card, (3) select your subscription, (4) get a code, (5) punch in the code in the bike stand, (6) remove the bike, (7) ride and repeat within 30 minutes. You do have to enter your card at each station, but if you haven’t gone over 30 minutes, you will not be charged extra. And you can rent more than one bike at once and get more than one code.

These bikes have adjustable seats for all heights and were very easy to ride around the city. The green makes them easy to spot, and they’re fun looking bikes for cruising!

Each station has a map showing other stations so you can plan your trip.

Each station has a map showing other stations so you can plan your trip.

Hello transportation nerd, checking out the funding and yes, there is FHWA funding.

Hello transportation nerd, checking out the funding and yes, there is FHWA funding.Warms my heart.

Now, there were a couple of times when I didn’t think I’d made it to a bike rack. The $1.50 wouldn’t have ruined my day, but, hello, the challenge! That’s when the iphone app called Spotcycle (it’s free!) was incredibly helpful. Spotcycle identifies your location and shows you closest bicycle docks, how many bikes are at that station, gives you routes, timers, and more. It has cities all over the world. Check it out on your phone or on the website. Using the Spotcycle app as a tourist and doing my best to reach each station before the 30 minute limit made exploring quite the fun urban bicycle adventure.

Biking around a city was a great alternative to walking because you could cover more ground, and was definitely better than driving because it removes the need for parking and is slow enough to feel like you’re exploring. And with a bicycle I rode along the river. If you’re in a city with a bike share program, I’d highly recommend it, even just for cruising along a bike path.

What are the disadvantages of a bike share program? Safety, considering not everyone knows how to cycle in a city or knows the rules of the road; bike maintenance and security on the municipality; and usage. All of these are obstacles that can be overcome, by education and outreach. For cold weather climates, it’s a great way to get people to see their city in a new way. And for warm weather climates, it’s good all year long. And for everyone, it’s environmentally friendly and takes up less space than parking lots, garages or spaces.

Have you tried a bike share? What do you think?

Riding around Minneapolis on a Nice Ride bike. Mr. Stilts is there, too. The bikes have brackets and a bungee cord (as opposed to a basket) so you can secure whatever you need to. In my case, it was a flamingo, a pocketbook, and a water bottle.

Riding around Minneapolis on a Nice Ride bike. Mr. Stilts is there, too. The bikes have brackets and a bungee cord (as opposed to a basket) so you can secure whatever you need to. In my case, it was a flamingo, a pocketbook, and a water bottle.

Photos of Minneapolis by bike coming soon! 

Preservation Photos #187

A preservationist never tires of looking up! This view includes one of the many skyways in St. Paul, MN. Skyways link the buildings across city streets to protect people from the harsh winters. However, they also remove people from the street, changing the city itself.

A preservationist never tires of looking up! This view includes one of the many skyways in St. Paul, MN. Skyways link the buildings across city streets to protect people from the harsh winters. However, they also remove people from the street, changing the city and the way people interact. 

Small Versions of Big Boxes

asmallbigbox.jpg

A new Walmart Express in the southeastern United States.

Many of us are familiar with the debates of new Walmart stores (other big box chains apply here, too) and the effects that such development and business will have on existing business and surrounding communities. And then there is the dollar store debate as well, such as the example in Chester, VT. Relatively new to the mainstream discussion are smaller versions of these big box stores. Previously, they’ve been smaller versions in order to fit into the urban markets, such as the Walmart Neighborhood Market and the Walmart Express. A bit of information about the two from a USA Today article:

In the U.S., Simon said, Wal-Mart’s small stores, which range from 10,000 square feet to about 55,000 square feet, compete well with a broad variety of merchants.

Neighborhood Market store have generated a 5% increase in revenue at stores open at least a year for the first half of this year. That’s more than double the growth rate of the Wal-Mart’s average store.

Express stores are less than one-tenth the size of Wal-Mart supercenters and offer groceries, general merchandise like tools, and pharmacies. Neighborhood Markets are more than twice the size of Express stores and offer perishable food, household supplies and beauty aids as well as a pharmacy.

According to another article, 40% of new Walmart openings will be these smaller scale stores.

Clearly, these Walmart Express stores sound like many dollar stores and chain pharmacies. Is this just another name to the mix of such stores? Or is this something new to which community planners, preservationists, citizens, etc. should pay attention on a different level?

Will these stores be considered for historic downtown locations, rather than sprawl? The store in the image above demonstrates that some are a part of the chain store sprawl. And design review doesn’t seem to be in effect in that example. If a Walmart Express (or any similar store) were willing to fit into an existing building block, would you be more favorable to it than if it were simply sprawl? Or do you think that would simply be empowering these big box chains, creating a monopoly, and hurting Main Street and small business owners?

What would you do in your community?

Preservation ABCs: M is for Main Street

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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M is for Main Street

misformainstreet.jpg

Marion, VA

Main Street is a common idea, phrase, and referenced place in historic preservation because it incorporates so much of what historic preservation believes. Main Street (whether or not yours is named Main Street) historically included prominent building blocks, local businesses, a mix of retail and residential, a variety of services for the community, gathering places, human scale buildings, transportation nexuses, and a sense of place. Over the centuries and decades, main street as a hub for all of this faded; populations moved to the suburbs and strip malls and large indoor shopping malls and big box retailers took the place of main street.

And now, people are realizing once again the economic and community value of a main street. The National Trust Main Street Center focuses on revitalizing main streets to viable, sustainable communities. Main Streets can reinvent themselves. Some become more artsy or food oriented. Others retain basic services like pharmacies and stationery stores. Each community will have different needs and interests. The key is finding what works for each one, and having willing, passionate people involved.

Does your town have a main street? Or did you grow up in suburban developments (like me)? Has your main street changed over the years? How?

Talking Chain Stores & Big Boxes

Let’s talk about chain stores & big box stores. Let’s begin with a bunch of questions for thought about the location of chains & big boxes.

Chain establishments are sometimes inevitable. We all know that. We see that as we travel the country (and world). And most of us cannot avoid chains completely. (If you do, please share your secrets). When we accept that fact on some level, we are left with the next step: how to make chain stores work with our communities, specifically the built environment.

Remember this Dollar General found in historic Fair Haven, VT? Would you shop here? Why or why not?

Maybe proper location is one answer. That goes hand-in-hand with proper zoning and a community master plan. Does the location of a chain store or big box store matter to you? In other words, if you do shop or eat at chain establishments (and most of us do, however infrequently), are you more likely to patronize one in a downtown/village/neighborhood setting or one in a strip mall or in its own structure? And are you more likely to be a customer if you feel the building fits with the built environment? Or less likely if you find the building to be intrusive and inappropriate?

Smaller chains might be a better example for this question, those such as Starbucks or Subway or hardware stores like Ace or Aubuchon. If you see one of those businesses in a downtown, would you be inclined to shop there? Are you then more likely to ease up a bit and shop at one that is outside of downtown or in a less than ideal location?

Do you have a pet peeve for a particular chain? For instance, I am perturbed entirely when giant drug stores insist on having their own building and parking lots. If you have a particular big box that you always avoid, at what lengths do you have to go to do so?

If you’d like to contribute to this discussion, one question or all, please answer in the comments.