Friday, July 26, 2013

Waterfront Square is Back On

With David Grasso assuming control of Waterfront Square, it looks like the long idle project is back on track. Although the remaining towers will not likely meet up to the original, somewhat grand proposal.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Grasso has accurately pointed out that Waterfront Square appeals to empty nesters and urban newbies who like suburban amenities and gated communities but hold a curiosity for city living. Waterfront Square succeeds at this.

But to most urbanites, Waterfront Square is a fortressed, suburban complex that just happens to be really tall. The architecture also leaves very little to critique, and in any art, the worst statement one can make is one that isn't interesting enough to look bad.

It's not bad. It's not good. It's boring.

It's also massive in terms of city living. Communal complexes look out of place in urban settings, especially one so close to Center City and adjacent to a very eclectic neighborhood.

Developers love to toss around the term "master plan," and Waterfront Square is as close as we've come to a privately funded "master plan" that would leave such an impact on the city.

The problem with these master plans in an inner city is they lack any integration with their settings. Waterfront Square is impressive, but it not only disengages its inhabitants from the city by refusing to interact with it, it scars the skyline the way the Renaissance Center scars Detroit's.

Under new management Waterfront Square has an opportunity to fix this. Instead of forging ahead with stunted incarnations of its two originally proposed towers, Grasso could use his capital to integrate the remaining property with Columbus Boulevard.

Throw out the blueprints.

Align scaled townhouses with the existing grid, including space for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Consolidate the remaining towers into one impressive high rise that defies the existing mediocre design. This won't only attract the eye, but the juxtaposition of design will make the current towers look less alien to the city scape.

In all likelihood Grasso will continue with the plan as designed, and decapitate the remaining towers. That's okay. It's what the current residents bought and it's a fine project. But with SugarHouse suburbanizing the northern end of Columbus Boulevard, Grasso is in the position to responsibly bring its residents to its sidewalks, not only making his project more pleasing to the eye and more successful, but encouraging new develop along the corridor thus making his property even more valuable.

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