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Christopher B. Gritzmacher I, _________________________________________________________,
hereby submit this work as part of the requirements for the degree of:
It is entitled:
Urban Design within the Planning Process
A Case Study of Current Practice
"Block E" in Minneapolis
This work and its defense approved by:
Jay Chatterjee Chair: _______________________________ Kiril Stanilov _______________________________ Mahyar Arefi _______________________________
Frank Russell _______________________________
URBAN DESIGN WITHIN THE PLANNING PROCESS A CASE STUDY OF CURRENT PRACTICE “BLOCK E” IN MINNEAPOLIS
A thesis submitted to Division of Research and Advanced Studies of the University of Cincinnati in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MASTER OF COMMUNITY PLANNING
in the School of Planning of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning
2004 by Christopher Gritzmacher
Thesis Committee: Chair – Jay Chatterjee Second Faculty Member – Kiril Stanilov PhD. Reader – Mahyar Arefi PhD. Reader – Frank Russell, A.I.A
B.A., University of Minnesota, 2001
This thesis examines the topic of urban design implementation by local government. The process of urban design implementation and the tools: policy, review, and regulation will be explored in detail. The study uncovered a wide body of literature pertaining to urban design; the literature however, was in many respects confusing and contradictory in regard to the nature of implementing urban design by pub lic planning officials. The literature review revealed many different approaches to defining the tools of urban design, yielding a wide variety of terminology and jargon used to describe implementation procedures. Out of this bewildering quagmire, George Varkki’s pointed criticism of the literature describing the lack of a definition of urban design offers a workable framework for analysis for academics, practitioners, and students. Varkki article gives rise to an alternative definition of urban design which relies on the processes and techniques of the practicing urban designer. This theoretical paradigm was developed to analyze the effectiveness of the literature and examine case study findings of current practice in Minneapolis, MN. A framework was subsequently constructed to further clarify the tools of urban design and examine the ways in which these tools were applied in a case study. The implementation of urban design in Block E utilized many of the tools of urban design (urban design policy, urban design review, and regulation). How urban design was enacted in this process, however, was again unclear and muddled, upholding Varkki’s claim. This study, thus confirms Varkki’s argument and advocates for increased attention of scholarly research to be focused on the procedural elements of urban design.
CONTENTS INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................... 1
Introduction................................................................................................................... 1 Statement of the Problem............................................................................................. 2 Ambiguity and Controversy: The Debate over the “Value” of Urban Design........ 5 Limitations of the Study ............................................................................................... 6 THE LITERATURE OF URBAN DESIGN ON PRACTICE ........... 9 Introduction................................................................................................................... 9 The Question of Urban Design..................................................................................... 9 Urban Design and Planning ....................................................................................... 13 Describing the Professional Practice of Urban Design by Planners ....................... 17 The Tools of Urban Design: A Framework for a Procedural Analysis ................ 27 Urban Design Review ............................................................................................... 28 Urban Design Policy................................................................................................. 29 Design Guidelines and Regulation............................................................................ 33 Plans .......................................................................................................................... 34 Programmes .............................................................................................................. 34 CASE STUDY FINDINGS................................................................................ 36 Introduction................................................................................................................. 36 Research Methodology ............................................................................................... 36 Selection and Description of the Site and Participants............................................ 38 About Block E ............................................................................................................. 39 Development Context (The Actors)........................................................................... 41 Planning Staff............................................................................................................ 41 The Planning Commission........................................................................................ 41 The Developer........................................................................................................... 42 Urban Design and Block E ......................................................................................... 42 Urban Design Policy and Block E.............................................................................. 43 The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan..................................................................... 43 Block E: Development Objectives and RFP ............................................................ 47 Urban Design Regulations and Block E.................................................................... 51 PUD........................................................................................................................... 51 Conditional Use Permit ............................................................................................. 57 Urban Design Review and Block E............................................................................ 62 Summary of Findings ................................................................................................. 66 CONCLUSIONS ..................................................................................................... 71 Conclusions .................................................................................................................. 71 REFERENCE LIST ............................................................................................... 77
APPENDICES .......................................................................................................... 81
Appendix #1: Building Elevation............................................................................... 81 Appendix #2: Building Site Plan................................................................................ 82 Appendix #3: Design Matrix ...................................................................................... 83 III
TABLE OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Figure 2: Figure 3: Figure 4: Figure 5: Figure 6: Figure 7: Figure 8: The Policy Component of Urban Design ......................................................... 31 Punter's Typology of Urban Design Policy...................................................... 32 Extract from The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan, City Form..................... 45 Extract from Block E: Development Objectives .............................................. 47 Required Findings for a PUD Permit Application ........................................... 54 Extract from Block E Staff Report, PUD Findings .......................................... 54 Extract from Block E Staff Report, CUP Findings .......................................... 59 Extract from Block E Staff Report, CUP Findings .......................................... 59
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION
This thesis examines the tools of urban design utilized by planners in local government. The thesis identifies the lack of agreement within academic writing defining the role, practice, and function of urban design as a source of confusion for the study of professional practice. Thus, this study seeks to partially alleviate some of this confusion by examining the professional use of urban design tools. The study explores in detail the different types, content, as well as application of tools available to the urban designer. To better understand these elements of professional practice, this thesis makes use of a case study approach to specifically highlight the tools of urban design. The development process of a large project can be a long, drawn out, and complicated affair involving countless people and many variables. Urban design elements, which in many cases may constitute a large consideration in the development review process, are not easily separated from the ir context. In order to account for this complexity, this thesis makes use of a descriptive case study research approach to conceptualize urban design variables in this process. My approach is similar to George Varkki who sought a definition of urban design in his paper “A Procedural Explanation for Contemporary Urban Design”. Varkki described his method as “descriptive theorizing”, which is “directed more towards making sense of contemporary urban design practice than towards postulating the characteristics of good urban design practice” (Varkki 1997). Thus this thesis does not evaluate the difference between “good” and “bad” urban design in the planning process.
The literature published on urban design policy and urban design review provides not only an acceptable model for further research (Wolfe 1970, Shirvani 1981; Varkki 1997; Punter 1999), but also operational definitions of the components of this process. This thesis makes use of this literature to examine this process on a recently completed project (2002) in downtown Minneapolis, MN. Two main research goals are pursued in this study. First, this research examines and utilizes the literature on the implementation techniques of urban design by government to construct a conceptual framework to better understand these tools. Second, this study engenders a greater understanding of the current techniques used in professional practice, an important source of information for other practitioners and further research. The outcomes of the study are numerous. Students, practitioners, and academics may use this analysis to further study the effectiveness of urban design implementation techniques, make comparisons with other localities, or use the study as a benchmark in historical evolution of urban design implementation techniques.
Statement of the Problem
There is a need to critically analyze the application of urban design by local government planners in the development process as distinct from other land use planning techniques. This study seeks the answer to the main research question of: how urban design is utilized and operationalized by professional planners in the development review process. Since it is not possible out of time and space constraints to examine each and every conceivable way that urban design may come to influence the development process, this thesis is limited to an examination of the urban design tools used to guide
development. Although much has been written defining the tools of implementing urban design by a local government such as policy, design review, or regulation (see Shirvani 1981; Scheer 1992; Punter 1999) the actual application process of these tools has largely been neglected (Wolfe and Shinn 1970; Schuster 1990; Punter & Carmona 1997; Varkki 1997; Schurch 1999). Punter and Carmona succinctly wrote of the problems they saw facing the proliferation and understanding of urban design as an independent field. The design dimension of British planning has been much neglected as a subject of both academic enquiry and professional development. In academic terms, British urban design has been slow to develop a substantive body of thought that could underpin enlightened practice, and has rarely undertaken investigations of design control in action. (Punter and Carmona 1997, 3) While the authors write from a British perspective, much of the same could be written about the American system. In this quote Punter touches upon the inadequacies of academic enquiry and how it fails to provide further assistance the professional objectives of urban design. Punter’s argument centers on the lack of focused attention concerning urban design practice by academics. This point was partially addressed by academic educators at a conference convened in 1982 to discuss pedagogy and urban design. A book was produced as a result. Many of the writers cite a lack of focus and definition when discussing the practice of teaching urban design (Pittas 1982; Robertson 1982; Lynch 1982). Pittas viewed the practice of urban design to be an ambiguous endeavour as a result of its multidisciplinary focus. Urban design was viewed not as a discipline in its own right, but a hybrid combining the attributes of many disciplines including architecture, pla nning, law, and sociology. Thus, the methods of teaching urban design became just as ambiguous as the practice urban design. Pittas states that one could feasibly become an
urban designer through any number of routes including a degree in architecture, planning, urban studies, or even geography (Pittas 1982, 11). This sentiment was captured by Weiming Lu who stated simply that “only by doing can you know what practicing urban design is like” (Lu 1982, 127). The status of urban design and urban design education was thus broadly characterized by educators as being in a state of flux or unstructured. This indistinct conception of urban design and urban design practice taught by educators was thus criticized by such as authors as Punter, who offered an alternative by studying the methodology of urban design primarily through implementation. Punter’s book the Design Dimension of Planning helps to both define urban design and urban design practice. George, R. Varkki came to the same conclusion while discussing the current problems of educating students on urban design. He wrote that urban designers should first know and understand the methodologies and techniques of urban design implementation if they are to be effective. Varkki compared the education that urban designers undertake to the training similar professionals receive and concluded there to be serious deficiencies: While urban designers do not need to know as much about construction materials as architects do, they must know about the materials with which they construct their own design product, decis ion environments. They must know how to use policies, regulations, programmes, consensus-building, and catalysts. (Varkki 1997) The author speaks clearly on the need for a better understanding of the procedural aspects of urban design for better practice. Varkki also identifies the function, which he believes differentiates the role of urban designers from the other design professionals, the creation of “decision environments”. This definition of the designer’s “design product” helps
clarify the role of the urban designer especially in the context of local government planning. This definition is, however, controversial. Schurch poses the problem in a different light. Schurch argues that the field of urban design is too new to develop its own standards of professionalism. Schurch believes urban design to lack clear and cohesive definitions regarding professional practice and academic theory. This ambiguity leads Schurch to conclude that the confusion of academics “can only mean that there is unlikely to be a clear process available for students to develop the necessary knowledge-base” (Schurch 1999) to develop the skills of an urban designer. Thus, the education of urban design has been the source of muc h controversy over the ways in which practice should be taught. Above and beyond the aspect of how urban design should be taught, the lack of a clear focus has been described as a detriment to the understanding of professional practice and the overall advancement of urban design as a specific endeavour.
Ambiguity and Controversy: The Debate over the “Value” of Urban Design
Urban design as an independent field straddling both the professions of architecture and planning is controversial (Kreditor 1990; Varkki 1997; Schurch 1999). The field is controversial because it professes to solve or mitigate the ills of the physical environment through design solutions. In John Punter and Mathew Carmona’s trenchant book titled The Design Dimension of Planning the authors describe the role of urban design to be “highly contentious”.
The site of seemingly endless conflicts among architects and planners, developers and designers, professionals and the public, councilors and officers, community groups and business leaders. It is at once a fundamental and peripheral issue in planning: fundamental in the sense that if not most of development control is directed at design matters, broadly conceived; peripheral in the sense that overall design quality can be and often is sacrificed to achieve other objectives, particularly the desire for any job development or job creation in less economically advantaged areas. (Punter and Carmona 1997, 1) Punter and Carmona succinctly describe the paradoxical situation facing planners and designers seeking to implement urban design through planning. They describe the oppositional pulls “for more sophisticated and tighter design controls” and “demands that controls be kept to an absolute minimum in the interests of individual freedom and economic competitiveness” (Punter and Carmona 1997, 1). This debate informs the basic contradictory impulse for more design control on the one hand and the ineptness of design policy on the other. The contradictory and often highly political environment in which design policy is drafted and adopted must be viewed in this light, one of serious and deep ideological positions between planners who seek to control and guide development and those who seek basic individual freedom to develop what they please. Unfortunately, a discussion of the political cultures of specific places and the resultant policy they produce is beyond the scope of this thesis, but this ideological argument should be kept in mind when considering the intentions and underlying currents of policy formation and implementation.
Limitations of the Study
This research seeks to uncover how urban design is operationalized in the professional practice. Urban design tools are identified, such as policy, design review, and regulation and these tools are examined and defined to better understand the
methodology and techniques urban design professional practice. The research is solely limited to an examination of urban design tools by public planning officials in the development review process. A more comprehensive description of these tools is given in the literature review, which outlines a framework for analysis. Thus, it does not make an attempt at describing all of the various methods and techniques available to the urban designer (e.g. streetscape design for a private firm). Further, the study only describes those urban design tools utilized in the case study (see case study findings). An exhaustive list of the many urban design related influences on the development process would exceed the scope of this thesis. Only those tools that have been identified and examined in the literature and utilized by the Minneapolis planner are examined. Also, the study does not track the results of the applied urban design tools through the various bureaucratic processes or make an attempt to evaluate these processes. This study exclusively studies urban design tools available to the planner. The research study is limited to one case study. The study therefore is not meant to be broadly representative of the practices and procedures of urban design tools and techniques by planners. It is rather a specific review of the techniques of one example, in an attempt to add to the understanding of the methods and techniques of the planner and urban designer in professional practice. Final caveats, the study does not seek to answer the question of whether or not city planning departments should engage in urban design. There is no disputing that many municipalities already implement measures designed to achieve urban design goals. It should be cautioned that the purpose of the study is not to offer lessons learned from the urban design techniques employed in Minneapolis. In the United States urban design
and development decisions are driven by the unique characteristics of the political and socio-economic cultures of their respective city. There is a unique and different solution for every American city and every situation. Successful or non-successful examples drawn from Minneapolis are not necessarily applicable to any other situation or city. Attempts to take policies, practices and procedures and graft them on to another are considered to be frequently “naive, ill- informed, or positively misleading” (Punter 1999, 3). It is rather the aim of this thesis to help define those tools that are in use, to better understand the nature of urban design itself and the practice of urban design.
CHAPTER II THE LITERATURE OF URBAN DESIGN ON PRACTICE
This section of the thesis reviews the literature on urban design implementation techniques and how this debate has evolved from a historical perspective. To begin, a brief introduction to the concept of urban design is given and the problems associated with this concept are discussed. Second, the outgrowth of urban design implementation by public sector planners is described. Third, the review turns to the beginnings of critical writing pertaining to urban design tools and finally touches upon the major contributors to the understanding of the implementation process. The review of the literature helps to place this study in context and describes the growing debate on urban design techniques and methodologies. It is also meant as an introduction to the terminology of urban design implementation techniques utilized by local government agencies. Brief operational definitions of these tools follow.
The Question of Urban Design
An appropriate place to begin the examination of the methodologies and techniques of urban design is by first viewing the discussion relating to the planning process in general. Alexander and Faludi (1989) in their attempt to evaluate the work of planning and plan implementation arrive at the problem of providing a definition for the activities of planners. Alexander and Faludi question the definitions of current practice and identified a number of different conclusions. The authors cite a continuum of definitions, which define planning in regards to varying levels of uncertainty. At one 9
extreme, Wildavsky claims that “planning is everything” (Wildavsky 1973). It follows that since planning is everything this definition regards the actions of planners as largely uncertain. Planners profess to have “control of the future, and suggested that, since uncertainty makes control of the future impossible the question of ‘what is good planning?’ is unanswerable” (Alexander and Faludi 1989, 128). Using this definition a workable and useful characterization of planning becomes problematic. On the other hand Alexander suggests a more pragmatic definition, which regards “planning as the societal activity of developing optimal strategies to attain desired goals, linked to the intention and power to implement” (Alexander and Faludi 1989, 128). Alexander’s definition is based on a definition of planning gained through an examination of planning implementation. Faludi bridges the two ideas and theorizes that planning is a “decisioncentered” practice which creates a “frame of reference for operational decisions: those decisions which represent the commitment to action by the decisionmaking agent” (Alexander and Faludi 1989, 128). This discussion of the definitions of planning identifies a few key points which help to introduce the discussion of urban design in this process. First, it must be noted the lack of a solid definition of planning has lead to a certain degree of ambiguity concerning the theoretical discourse concerning planning in general. Second, the last two definitions by Alexander and Faludi recognize the implementation of planning as a primary source of inspiration for defining professional practice. In their article Alexander and Faludi proceeded to develop a model for evaluating planning based on the processes of planning including: policy, plan, programme, and implementation techniques (Ale xander and Faludi 1989, 131).
To better understand the beginnings of urban design in the planning process, it is wise to briefly touch upon that all-encompassing term for a set of ideologies, beliefs, and activities many people ascribe to the concept of urban design. Like the definition of planning, problems are immediately apparent when one attempts a similar definition of urban design. Both Alan Kreditor and Thomas Schurch state that there is no “well developed body of theory” of urban design much less agreement as to who practices urban design (Kreditor 1990, 64; Schurch 1999). According to Schurch there is even considerable controversy over what constitutes the term “urban design” (Schurch 1999). Appleyard argued that single definition of the field never existed nor should there be (Appleyard 1982, 122). Regarding this lack of clarity, both Alan Kreditor and George Varkki come to the same conclusion regarding problems associated with the lack of a shared meaning in urban design literature. If one doubts the immaturity of urban design as a serious field of study, the search for a common definition or understanding will be instructive, for there is none. It is a telling condition. A lack of shared meaning undermines appreciation and retards development. (Kreditor 1990, 67) Both authors point to the difficulty of a “shared meaning”, which hinders the further development of urban design. Varkki demonstrated the need to clarify and further define the role of urban designer and the application of urban design in his article “A Procedural Explanation for Urban Design” which advocates for an operation definition of urban design. Varkki sought an explanation of urban design, which he believed to be critical to the training of a new generation of urban designers and for the future practice of urban design and academic research. The author looked at existing definitions and much of the jargon devoted to urban design literature and concluded the literature to be overly abstract or non-useful in providing guidance. Varkki examined writers such as Jonathan
Barnett who described urban design as: "designing cities without designing buildings" or Richard Lai who described urban design as an "invisible web" called these explanations insightful but of little use in explaining the actual tactics used by contemporary urban designers (Varkki 1997). The lack of an adequate definition is furthered explained by looking at the effects of the professional divide between architecture and planning and their claim on urban design. In this regard definitions, which attempt to explain what urban design is not through comparisons between architecture and planning often, confuse the topic. In this vacuum, Varkki sees a lack of clear definition relating to the practical knowledge and practice of urban design, leading to confusion. Instead Varkki argued for a procedural definition of urban design, which examines the roles and responsibilities of a practicing urban designer. For Varkki urban design is : Designing cities without designing buildings because the intention is to realize a desired state of the built environment, but without actually designing the components of the environment. Urban designers are not authors of the built environment, rather they create a decision environment that enables others to author the built environment. (Varkki 1997) Thus the role and actions of urban designers are different from most other designers. Varkki defines the roles of urban designers and how they differ from others in the design profession. He describes urban design as “a second-order design endeavour” that is, “the urban designer is only indirectly responsible for producing built forms and the spaces in between them” (Varkki 1997). Varkki believes that first order designers have a direct relationship with the object that is designed. Urban designers, on the other hand, have an indirect relationship to the object to be designed. In this sense urban designers are one step removed from the object in the design process. According to the author, the urban
designer works in an environment where decision making is so complex and fractured across a wide range of interests that many of the decisions are outside the designer's locus of control. The insights of Varkki and his definition of urban design and the processes of urban design add clarity to the discussion of implementing urban design. By first discussing the difficulties associated with the attempts of defining urban design, Varkki suggests the procedural examination of urban design implementation has assumed a preeminent role in the understanding of this practice. This conclusion fits well with earlier ideas concerning the educational aspects of urban design. Jon Lang advocated for the “studio method” of teaching urban design, while Jonathan Barnett looked to internships and case studies to provide the practical experience needed for an education in urban design (Lang 1982; Barnett 1982). Both of the methods were designed to convey the practical experiences of the urban designer to the student. Thus, Varkki’s argument of how urban design should be described and analyzed (i.e. through a procedural definition) befits this study and serves as a theoretical paradigm. His procedural definition looking at the methods by which urban designers practice their craft illustrates the “tactics used by contemporary urban designers” in order to provide guidance as to how an urban designer creates built forms. This procedural definition, further, serves as a measure in the following examination of literature.
Urban Design and Planning
Urban design is a relatively recent phenomenon and a new specialty or subdiscipline of the more established planning and architecture professions. Consequently,
the analysis and literature of the field of urban design is of relatively recent origin, all of it being within the last forty to fifty years. For example, San Francisco is regarded as the first city to develop, or widely publicize the creation and implementation of citywide urban design policies, around 1971 (Punter 1998, 106). Jonathan Barnett wrote one of the earliest books on the subject of urban design and policy concerning New York City. His book entitled Urban Design As Public Policy: Practical Methods For Improving Cities was published in 1974. The first important work to tackle the question of how urban design is implemented also appeared around this time. M.R. Wolfe’s and R.D. Shinn’s report titled Urban Design within the Comprehensive Planning Process published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1970 attempted to answer many of the ambiguities. Significantly, Wolfe and Shinn started with the premise that the “urban design element is an important one in the pla nning process; but the nature, scope, and importance of it are largely unknown” (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 2). The authors’ intent was to produce a document detailing the urban design component of the planning process. The authors believed that although urban design could be claimed to exist within all physical planning functions, the necessity nevertheless existed to identify those specific “components” of urban design in this process. The authors argued that the urban design component must be made visible in order to “make explicit the design and decision making process in order to examine how that process suits itself to an operational situation” (Wolfe and Shinn 1970). Their report written for educational purposes was meant to illustrate the “principal attributes” of urban design through a case study demonstration. The authors specifically explored the questions of (how urban
design affects other aspects of comprehensive planning and what may be involved by adding an urban design component to an existing comprehensive plan). The authors believed that the significance of the contribution of urban design is one that goes largely neglected and sought to provide analytical support for the ideas and methods associated with urban design. In this manner the authors sought to rationalize an urban design “model” which could be used for further study, decision making, or community participation. Wolfe and Shinn pioneered in making strong contributions to the theoretical understanding of urban design within the planning process. Similar to the later conclusions of Varkki, the authors argued persuasively that much ambiguity did exist concerning the specific role of urban design within the planning process. It is necessary to make the design cons ideratio ns of the so called completed comprehensive plan explicit, to relate them to policy decisions which may not have been explicitly identified (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 3). This quote displays the specific ties Wolfe and Shinn attempted to make between urban design and planning and their conception of the attitudes towards implementing urban design in planning practice. It is here that the authors identify the lack of a clearly articulated expression given to urban design concerning policy and policy decisions (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 3). Their study focused on the planning process and attempted to identify the urban design instruments with in it. In their discussion the authors like Varkki, single out the unique nature of the urban design process. They distinguished the “process” oriented nature of urban design as a key difference in the differentiation of urban design from “pure design” and make this point explicit when trying to identify the unique characteristics of urban design
(Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 11). The authors characterized their description of urban design as a “means” oriented definition in contrast to the majority of urban design literature which considers urban design as a “product”. These earlier sentiments compliment Varkki’s later procedural definition of urban design gained through an examination of process and techniques of urban design in professional practice. The authors acknowledge that urban design is inseparable from the planning process (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 21). Instead of accepting this idea, the authors try to extract urban design “attributes” from traditional planning techniques. The authors look at the “hidden” elements of urban design in such documents as the land use plan, the plan for facilities and services, the transportation plan, and plans for implementation, and the comprehensive plan. Wolfe and Shinn conclude that although many of the above components of the comprehensive plan embody urban design elements, these elements of urban design were not adequately articulated to provide a full range of planning alternatives (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 27). In their report the authors describe the nexus between planning goals and urban design and how urban design should play a large role in the formation of these goals. In summary, the authors see the basic problem of the planning process and urban design within it as “one of aggregating community values and expressing them in a context of potential physical environments” (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 32). The authors acknowledge that this task, however, is not easily accomplished in light of the fact that many communities do not have a specific urban design element identified in their comprehensive plans. Wolfe and Shinn advocate a number of measures, which take into account an evaluation of the process of planning and how urban design may come to fit within this context (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 32). Important
to the current discussion, Wolfe and Shinn conclude urban designers must strive to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and the overall visibility of urban design in the planning process. They recommend correcting the approach taken by planners at the outset. Wolfe and Shinn state when specifically describing a development project in urban design terms, the end result must be supplemented by the “objective setting, policy formulation, application, and payoff rationales at the same time,” (Wolfe and Shinn 1970, 4). Wolfe and Shinn make a strong case for the improvement of urban design methodologies practiced by professional planners. The fact that Wolfe and Shinn, specifically study urban design elements within the planning process and identify these specific elements as areas for improving urban design, lends authority to the argument that urban design can and should be separated from the more clearly defined planning practice. Wolfe’s and Shinn’s argument of the need for a better understanding of the techniques of urban design implementation in the planning process clearly bolsters the rationale fo r studying urban design tools in depth and gives credence to this study. As so many writers would later reiterate (Kreditor 1990; Varkki 1997; Punter 1997) it is the studying of urban design practice itself, which is so important.
Describing the Professional Practice of Urban Design by Planners
Hamid Shirvani’s book titled Urban Design Review: A Guide for Planners published in 1981 attempted to answer many of the important questions regarding urban design review. Shirvani’s research is so close to my own in terms of the methodology (i.e. case studies, interviews) and research questions posed, that I consider his work as well as Wolfe and Shinn’s and Jon Punter’s later work in 1999 as research models for this
study. Shirvani questioned in his introduction “Do the procedures work as well as they are supposed to work?” and “Did design review provide each city and its public with a better product in each case?” (Shirvani 1981, 18). The author’s objectives were to ascertain the effectiveness of design review procedures, explore the relatio nship between design review and environmental considerations, and make conclusions about the ways in which different design review models could be applied in different environmental situations (Shirvani 1981, 17). Although my own research question is quite different from Shirvani’s I do seek a better understanding of the ways in which urban design is implemented by local government planners. Shirvani’s first objective is thus close to my objective of procedural clarification. To illustrate his research, Shirvani identified four differing typologies of urban design review methodologies in use during the late seventies and early eighties. The four different model types were derived from four cities each with their own unique approach to urban design review. From these model types Shirvani chose a development to examine as a case study in each of these cities. Shirvani described the process of implementing urban design by the government authority through interviews and contextua l research. Through this study Shirvani hoped to “identify the specific aspects of urban design review that produce desirable or undesirable results and to explain whether or not the objectives were appropriate to a particular environment” (Shirvani 1981, 17). The importance of Shirvani’s work, which differentiates it from later studies, is his desire to examine and evaluate design review in practice and determine the outcomes. Shirvani sought to show the reader: The interplay among the city government officials, profit-seeking developers, architects, and designers concerned about their creativity being stifled, and the
public whose interests must be served even though they usually are not present when design review takes place . . . Glimpses of the “actors” involved will provide the reader with a feel for the importance of the human element in design review (Shirvani 1981, 18). Shirvani attempted a description of the design review process that sought to examine and evaluate the process itself and the tangible outcomes of this process. From his case studies Shirvani made a number of observations regarding the urban design review process. The author described eighteen influential environmental factors that he saw as most important in this process. His list includes such variables as the level of political support, availability of resources, market pressures, qualifications of design review members, and clarity of goals and objectives. The author’s list of factors is comprehensive in its description of the potentialities that may arise while a planner works in the design review capacity. For example, Shirvani explains with detail that in all four of the case studies political support was crucial. He specifies that the amount of the support was important “a moderate amount of political support is desirable. Indeed, greater political support may be counterproductive; conversely, lesser political support often brings inefficiency,” (Shirvani 1981, 175). In this manner Shirvani described the process and environment, which serves to shape the proposals and decisions of private developers in the design review process. Shirvani’s insights on the influences of the procedures of urban design implementation articulate the urban design process in its context and help to shed light on this complex mechanism of city government. Shirvani also makes recommendations for further improvement of the design review process. Although the author did not believe that “existing models can be transferred to another city” he did indicate that there were “lessons to be learned” from the case studies (Shirvani 1981, 191). Shirvani again listed a number of variables that he
thought are necessary to the process. Among others, the author wrote on the necessity of: ground rules for successful design review processes, a well established program, a clear statement of purpose, a procedural description, qualified staff/review board, and citizen participation (Shirvani 1981, 193). All of the author’s recommendations point to improving the efficiency, clarity, and user friendliness of the design review process as well as the professional competence of those entrusted to administer the process. Shirvani’s study and analysis of urban design review is extremely helpful in the illustration of a complicated and often times confusing government function. The author does a good job of explicating the urban design review process and the many influences that come to bear on this process as well as offering clues to the improvement of this process. His conclusions of how to improve design review echo earlier sentiments that the process of implementing urban design should be made more clear and efficient. Shirvani’s case study research serves as a beginning for further investigations and an excellent guide for this study. With the growing recognition and popularity of a formal discipline of urban design in the United States, the nation experienced an explosive growth of urban design policy and design review since the 1970s. Local government, especially city planners and city planning commissions, crafted most of this policy in the United States. A 1992 survey showed that 83 per cent of 360 towns and cities across the country undertook some form of design review (Scheer 1994, 2). In response to the increasing number of communities who chose to publish urban design policy and establish review systems to control the design of development, the outpour of critical literature regarding these policies soon followed. It was during the late 1980s and early 90s that many publications
started to appear on the topic of urban design policy and design review. During this time a spate of articles was published that dealt specifically with the analysis of urban design within the planning process. Studies by Habe (1989), Delafons (1990), Shirvani (1990), Southworth (1990), Wakeford (1990), Abbot (1991), and Scheer (1992) critically examined urban design in this context. Reiko Habe studied 66 American cities and examined the effectiveness of what he termed “design control” by looking specifically at design guidelines and design review procedures. Habe looked at the effectiveness of design controls by seeking to evaluate the “success in communicating the concept and translating it into operational guidelines, resulting in design criteria and standards” and the “clarity, predictability, flexibility, and enforceability of the control mechanism for implementing the concept” (Habe 1989, 199). The author found that goals and objectives of design guidelines addressed broad aspects such as “public welfare” but, revealed a weak link between criteria standards which heavily emphasized aesthetics, particularly architectural design details and styles (Habe 1989, 215). Habe’s recommendations included “broadening the scope of the design criteria” to include “user oriented behavioural and criteria” and to “shift attention away from aesthetic concerns to less aesthetically deterministic criteria”. Habe emphasized the delicate balance or link between the two aspects of the successful policy/review process: namely communicating effectively the concept of design guidelines and the implementation of these concepts. Habe’s solution to better practice and policy formation was to broaden the conceptions of design, more public participation in the policy making process, and less attention to minute architectural details. Habe saw
a need to craft clear goals and objectives and believed that regulations must have legal force without making policy and guidelines over restrictive or limiting. Habe’s study makes an important contribution to the burgeoning debate over urban design policy and design review. Unlike Shirvani’s study, the author chose to critically examine the content of urban design policy in depth and evalua te the practice of implementing urban design. Habe sought to link policy phrasing with outcomes. The author critiqued the effectiveness or urban design policy in terms of clarity of expression, predictability, flexibility, and enforceability for implementing the concept. Although Habe’s conclusions for good urban design policy are up for debate, his analysis of the problems associated with urban design tools and their complexity in the planning process is important to a greater understanding of these tools. Shortly after Habe’s article appeared in the Town Planning Review, Michael Southworth published a widely cited article in 1990 in which he surveyed the contents of urban design plans. His survey of plans included an analysis of such issues as: urban design goals, environmental quality concerns, analytical content, degree of public involvement, implementation techniques, and theoretical foundations. Seventy design plans in forty cities throughout the United States between the years of 1972 and 1989 were examined in terms of subject matter. For example, he states that 70-80% of urban design plans surveyed were concerned with sense of place, while 10-20% were concerned with clearly defined routes for pedestrians (Southworth 1990). Southworth did not attempt to look at the procedural elements of plan implementation or the outcomes from urban design plans. Regarding implementation, Southworth wrote that “plans are now more practical and ‘doable’” and that “the link
between analyses and recommendations is stronger with more emphasis on implementation capabilities” (Southworth 1990, 395). He believed that urban design plans were becoming more integrated with other planning initiatives. Although helpful in discerning the popularity of general concerns of planners and to a lesser extent the content of urban design plans, few if any clues are given as to the detailed nuances of how such plans perform in actual practice. On a contradictory note Brenda Scheer, a former planner for the City of Boston, wrote a critical paper of design review in 1991. Scheer’s critique focused on the restrictive aspects of design review, which in her mind did much to hamper the creativity, flexibility, and overall capacity to accommodate the desires and vision of a diverse community. Scheer’s critique was and still is a challenge to those involved in the creation and implementation of urban design policy and guidelines to improve upon their craft. Scheer touched on many of the negative aspects of design review and implementation and opened the forum for scholars and practitioners to respond to her criticisms (Scheer 1992). One year later in 1992, Jon Punter wrote an article in the Urban Design Quarterly titled “Design Control in the United States: A Review of Recent Research”. In his article Punter reviews studies by Delafons, Southworth, Habe, Shirvani, Costonis, Schuster, and Scheer. Punter is optimistic in his appraisal of the current literature, believing that the academic discourse is essential to the improvement of policy and guidelines in the development process. He is critical, though, stating that although Reiko Habe “is one of the few researches to address all important question of the implementation of design polices . . . the results are disappointing because like Southworth she seeks only the
general evaluation of the planners/design controllers themselves” (Punter 1992, 7). In other words, many of these early studies while comprehensive in scope are overly general and do not paint an inclusive picture of the development process. In 1997, John Punter and Mathew Carmona co-authored a comprehensive and detailed analysis of urban design policy. Their book The Design Dimension of Planning is a key work in understanding the history, practice, implementation, and evaluation of urban design policy. The book explores in depth policy theory, substance, processes, and methodology. Shortly thereafter, (1999) Jon Punter also authored a book titled Design Guidelines in American Cities: A Review of Design Policies and Guidance in Five West Coast Cities. The book is largely an aggregation of Punter’s extensive research on design initiatives and policies. In this book Punter examines five American cities on the west coast and their experience with urban design guidance. The author adopted a case study approach to his research reviewing the composition, process, and procedural elements of the development review process in each of the cities. Like Shirvani’s earlier book Urban Design Review the author’s primary objective was to analyze the processes and procedures of the development review process to better understand current practice. Punter’s book illustrated best practices in the United States for an international audience. His case study methodology consisted of historical descriptions of each city and its experience with urban design implementation. Excerpts from urban design plans, policies, and guidelines were presented as well as explanations as to how each of these processes became implemented and by whom. In this manner, Punter elaborated on the contextual environment in which urban design policies were implemented. Unlike Shirvani, though, Punter is concerned with a broad approach. Instead of an examination
of one project in detail the author approached the topic through a comprehensive description of what policy and procedures would look like throughout the whole city (not just downtown). For example, for the case study of Seattle, Punter reviewed not only Seattle’s Land Use and Transportation Plan adopted in 1985, but also the policy outcomes from the State of Washington’s Growth Management Act of 1990, which helped to bring about Seattle’s urban villages growth strategy (1990). The author illustrated Seattle’s experience through a series of outtakes and exa mples of policy and implementation. Punter’s description of this process and the many other case studies throughout the book make it one of the most instructive texts concerning the different mechanisms of city administration of urban design. Punter’s book works well to alleviate much of the ambiguity regarding the content of specific policies or process Punter attempted to synthesize many of his comments and critiques of American design review into a framework, which looked at “how policies were derived, their level of precision; their basis in design theory; the extent to which they prescribe solutions; and finally the efficiency and effectiveness of the review process (Punter 1999, 195). In conclusion, Punter believed the system to be a well functioning one that had been “fully integrated in the planning process, systematized, made transparent, democratised and professionalised” (Punter 1999, 195). Although, Punter’s conclusions concerning the efficacy of American urban design tools contradict many of the previous writings, which argue the ineffectiveness and confusion surrounding the application of urban design within the planning process, Punter’s book does an excellent job of providing describing urban design policy mechanisms and content. Punter’s writings offer an excellent
opportunity for comparative case study and illustrate many of the substantive concepts and themes cities employ to enact urban design policy. Since this study makes use of George Varkki’s cogent analysis of the problems associated with the definition and study of urban design and uses his argument as a theoretical paradigm, the writers thus far discussed should be viewed in the contributions they make to a “procedural explanation” of the practice of urban design. Although, substantial improvements to the understanding of the practice of implementing urban design through government agencies is gained through this literature, three writers Shirvani, Habe, and Punter make the most insightful and important contributions. Shirvani uses the case study approach to examine specific urban design policies and procedures instituted in the design review process and from these case studies he evaluates the outcomes. In this respect, Shirvani does an excellent job of describing the tools and techniques of urban design implementation in a practical manner. Although, his descriptions of the case studies are in many respects generalized the author does make an attempt to explain through description the process of the urban design function in city administration. Habe like Punter examines the content of urban design policy through policy expression and phrasing. From this analysis Habe makes qualitative judgments on the effectiveness of these policies. Habe’s contributions therefore lie in the author’s critical and detailed analysis of policy types. Although Habe’s conclusions are questionable, his point of study offers critical information as to the content of urban design policy and the applicable uses of this policy. Punter takes this discussion and expands it. Punter’s writing concerning design policy and procedures is perhaps the most comprehensive and methodological to date. The author is exhaustive in his description of
policy and makes innumerable insights to the composition, contents, quality, function, and overall utility of urban design policy in the planning process.
The Tools of Urban Design: A Framework for a Procedural Analysis
Utilizing Varkki’s idea of the “procedural explanation” to describe urban design a framework identifying the “tools” of urban design is constructed to better understand the process of urban design implementation in the development process. The process of urban design implementation bridges both the worlds of professional design and public government administration, the terminology and methodology of this specialized field can be identified as hybrid of both influences. This hybridization can confuse those only accustomed to that of either design or public administration. Indeed the practice of implementing urban design principles by public agencies has spawned its own new and unique language, which deserves a brief review. As Varkki explained, there is discrepancy among writers over the terminology of the process used to describe urban design implementation by local government. For example, both Habe and Delafons use the term “design control” to describe implementation techniques. Shirvani as well as Punter classify these procedural elements with slightly different terms and rank their importance to this process with differing degrees. The objective of this framework is to isolate those particular tools within the planning process, which the public urban designer utilizes most often and regularly. By doing so, a clear picture is drawn of the urban designer in action. The idea is to examine
the methodology of the urban designer and the tools at his/her discretion to develop what Varkki terms a procedural definition of urban design. Why the identification of these tools is necessary stems primarily from the lack of writing devoted not towards the products of urban design, but rather the procedures of urban design. For example, John Toon’s statement that urban design is largely contained within the planning profession is helpful by showing the importance of urban design to planning, but it has already been shown to be a source of much controversy and disagreement. The skills of an urban designer are those of an urban planner, the processes of urban designing are those of urban planning, and the mode of implementing “urban designs” is identical to that of urban plans. (Toon 1988) Confusion remains as to the exact professional role of the urban designer, despite Toon’s assertion. Thus, Toon’s statement loses much of its force when confronted by those writing from an architectural perspective arguing that architects are best equipped to be “urban designers”. The framework identifies those specific tools which urban design may claim to utilize most effectively. The recognition of these tools adds to the understanding of urban design itself, as a professional activity. Shirvani’s outline for analysis is used in this study and contributions from other writers are used to augment this description.
Urban Design Review As cited by Varkki, Hamid Shirvani’s description of the methods and techniques of urban design provide a good starting point in the discussion of procedural elements (Shirvani 1985, 144). Shirvani identified four elements of urban design: policies, plans,
guidelines, and programmes. Although he does not list “design review” as one of these terms, Shirvani considers this tool to be one of the most important. Shirvani views design review to encompass the whole range of measures aimed at achieving urban design goals. Shirvani describes design review to be the “most commonly used and practical implementation tool for urban design”; he uses the term to express “all the criteria and methods used in implementing urban design policies, including both functional and aesthetic concerns” (Shirvani 1981, 12). In designing his own study of urban design review, Schuster and colleagues come to a slightly different definition. Their definition is more concerned with the people and procedures that actually compose the review. Schuster’s definition of urban design review range from citizen participation groups to more formalized historic preservation commissions to city design boards. According to Shuster “design review encompasses many of the ways in which a public interest is taken into account and given some standing in the design process” (Schuster 1990, 3).
Urban Design Policy Varkki wrote that “policies are broad statements of collective intent that influence specific decisions made individually and collectively” (Varkki 1997). The definition of the term “urban design policy” can be a problematic endeavor, though. The term can be used to describe a number of different products or actions relating to design implementation, ranging from design review to urban design plans. The word “policy” as defined by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is:
Any plan or course of action adopted by a government, political party, business organization, or the like, designed to influence and determine decisions, actions, and other matters. (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 10th ed.) To some writers this term is used to describe specific procedures used in the development process and for others policy can simply take the form of written documents stating the municipality’s design objectives and goals. A majority of writers, though, use the term rather loosely to denote the broad range of principles, ideas, and tactics a pubic agency may use to guide urban design. Shirvani identifies this characteristic and distinguishes policy from the other “products” of urban design by stating that urban design policies are the framework for the overall design process (Shirvani 1985, 144). The description of policy as an overall framework serves as a way of conceptualizing the process of urban design implementation in the public agency. Unfortunately all too often, though, this term can be applied to the discussion of urban design implementation with little consequence and can easily be diluted by attributing many functions to the term policy. The word may often lose its meaning when it is used to denote the complicated process by which a public agency can influence developers. The description leaves out many of the finer details that policy can assume. A key point of departure is to establish exactly what is a policy and how does a policy relate to goals, objectives, principles, guidelines, advice and procedures. Regrettably, this is very much an area of confusion into which few have ventured. (Punter and Carmona 1997, 93) The task of disentangling objectives, principles, and guidelines, can be a daunting and frequently confusing mission. Punter summarizes the work of Jon Lang and Tony Hall in a flow chart, which describes how policy is operationalized in public agencies. Figure 1 illustrates Punter and Carmona’s summary of the procedural aspects of urban design implementation by public planners and isolates the policy component of this process.
Figure 1: The Policy Component of Ur ban Design
General statements of desired future for the locality district wide and/or area specific
more precise statements of what a design should achieve (measurable?) interaction of goal, forms, public pressure, local values
link between objectives and future forms
specify how to meet an objective
form an end product dimensions, layout (easy to measure)
performance of the product qualities, activities (more difficult to assess)
further guidance on how to meet objectives/interpret criteria
appraise, consult, brief, advise, illustrate, evaluate
grants, controls, agreements, codes, etc., zoning
Source: Punter and Carmona 1997, 94
The flow chart displays the role of goals, objectives, principles, and guidelines in the formation of policy as well as implementation devices and procedures utilized to bring about policies in the development process. The diagram makes clear the decision making process necessary to go from Goals to Implementation. It can readily be seen that urban design policy is a major factor in the implementation of urban design by planners. In an attempt to further clarify explicitly what “urban design policy” is the authors identify a number of characteristics, which distinguish a typology based on the level of specificity and strength the policy.
Figure 2: Punter's Typology of Urban Design Policy
Types of expression • • • • • • Motherhood policies, which refer only to the most general of objectives, i.e. ‘there shall be a high standard of design’, with no elaboration or explanation of how this might be achieved or be assessed; Encouragement policies, which encourage applicants to meet specified objectives, often very generally expressed; Consideration policies, which outline a range of factors that applicants should take into account when preparing a design, or which the planning authority will consider in evaluating a proposal; Criteria policies, which outline a more specific set of factors that applicants should take into account and, more importantly, which the planning authority will utilize in evaluating the application; Requirement policies, which set out forcefully what the local planning authority’s requirements are in design terms, although this may be very generally expressed; Standards/policies, which set a quantitative measure that is the normal, minimum or maximum quantity or dimension that would be acceptable.
Source: Punter and Carmona 1997, 102
The typological classification of policy expression is extremely useful in an examination of a given municipality’s policy. Punter and Carmona succinctly describe the differences that policies may take; some of which forcefully seek to regulate and others such as motherhood policies that outline the most general of objectives such as a “high standard
of design”. Thus, the authors describe not only the content or aim of the policy, but also its effectiveness in conveying directions to achieve goals. For example, motherhood policies as a result of being overly vague have little if any guidelines or quality standards and are deemed by the authors as “virtually meaningless” and in some instances burdensome to development controllers who must determine the definition of “high quality”. Encouragement policies on the other hand “can serve as valuable, positive promotional tools for good design”. Consideration policies can be seen as a “useful approach to design control, because they formulate the general considerations that applicants for planning permission should take into account”. The authors describe criteria policies as the most useful, because they formulate specific criteria of what the public agency will be looking for in the development process. Requirement policies are simply those policies, which require different actors to fulfill certain obligations. Finally, the authors state that the “ultimate level of precision is provided by the standards which set quantitative measures” for developments that would stipulate minimum or maximum requirements (Punter and Carmona 1997, 107).
Design Guidelines and Regulation John Delafons wrote that urban design policy and guidelines in America generally take the form of a regulatory system “in which the requirements for each type of development are specified in written regulations or ordinances” (Punter 1998, 13). In this definition there is a certain amount of overlap between policy and regulation. Indeed, Punter’s classification of policy types does identify policies that stipulate regulatory measures (i.e. requirement, standards policies). Jon Lang defines a guideline as “an
operational definition of an objective” (Lang 1996, 9). But it is Varkki, who uses the Shirvani’s framework in his own research who clarifies the current use of the term. Varkki describes states that regulations” even if as guidelines they are not mandatory, are intended to limit the range of options available when particular decisions are being made by a diverse set of private and public decision makers”. Regulatory tactics in urban design may include set back allowances or façade treatments as well as building bulk and massing.
Plans The term urban design “plan” can be used to describe the document where many of the policies may be found. Although many references will be made to the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan where much of the policy used to guide Block E was found, for the purposes of this study, the urban design plan does not readily lend itself as a category of urban design “tactics”. According to Varkki “it is commonly used to describe the document that urban designers produce. It is more a product in the strictest sense of the term, and no particular special kind of tactic appears to underlie this term” (Varkki 1997).
Programmes Shirvani uses the term “programme” to describe the “collective efforts to continually maintain and care for the built environment ” (Varkki 1997). Varkki interprets Shirvani’s definition of programmes to mean “the organized and systematic control and deployment or redeployment of collective resources so that individual decisions to add to or alter the built environment are encouraged towards a certain end ”
(Varkki 1997). Programmes may include a wide variety of techniques such as: capital improvement plans, tax increment financing districts, facade easement programmes, or transfer of development rights.
CHAPTER III CASE STUDY FINDINGS
The Minneapolis case study research comprises the findings for this study. The findings use the previously discussed literature to examine the context of the development process and the tools of urban design. Through the presentation and analysis of the Minneapolis case study, this research seeks to uncover the main research question of how urban design is operationalized by government planners in the development process.
This study examines the tools of urban design used by local government planners to shape development proposals and the decision- making process of private stakeholders in the development process. The main objective of this study is to define these tools and describe the ways in which these tools are used by a planner working for a public agency to apply urban design. As already mentioned, I have utilized to a large extent the research model and method of inquiry employed by Shirvani in his book Urban Design Review. The author’s research presents a sound model, which provides a framework (e.g. design review, policy, plan, and programme) for analysis of urban design within the planning context. I have modified this framework only slightly with additions from other writers. Like Wolfe and Shinn, Shirvani, and Punter, I have adopted the case study approach.
This study readily lends itself to the case study research format. The case study format works well because it highlights what is an otherwise difficult process to examine, especially in the local government planning context. As Yin notes “observing a social phenomenon” and examining its attributes is not always easy (Yin 2003, 6). The development process associated with a large project, indeed, could be called a social phenomenon. The process involved a large number and wide variety of people with varying viewpoints and perspectives, from the building architect to the neighborhood activist to the director of community deve lopment. The project also took place in a highly visible and politicized context. The project also had a huge economic impact and ramification for the city. The overall project and its many effects lend itself well to Yin’s idea of the “social phenomenon”. Because case study research can describe many of the qualitative and contextual issues of a particular research topic, which are not easily quantifiable, it is often used in examining topics, such as Block E that exhibit the following characteristics. A unit of activity embedded in the real world; Which can only be studied or understood in context Which exists in the here and now That merges in with its context so that precise boundaries are hard to draw (Gillham 2000, 1) The interplay between government officials, developers, architects, designers, and the public is not easily computed into manageable statistics. The boundaries separating urban design in the development process are in Yin’s words “hard to draw”. I have further adapted the case study methodology to fit the unique characteristics of studying urban design implementation techniques through the adoption of a “descriptive approach”
to case study research; whereby the purpose of the study is largely used to describe or to define the current practice of implementing urban design by public planners. Information is gathered primarily through the revie w of official documents and records (e.g. the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan, developer’s completed proposal) as well a telephone interview. The interview was informal and brief around twenty minutes in duration and provided basic background information. It was not a rigorously structured or detailed interview. In addition, a number of informal questions were submitted to the project planner via email correspondence. A copy of these materials may be found in the appendix of this study in their complete form. Like Shirvani’s research the use of the interview technique provided “the reader with a feel for the importance of the human element in design review” (Shirva ni 1981, 18). The study adds an important piece to the puzzle of understanding the varied landscape of urban design implementation techniques utilized in the United States today. By looking at the work of others who examine similar topics comparisons from this work can be drawn and made with other case studies. Conclusions can be made regarding overall trends in the field. Thus this study adds to the dialogue of current research in the field, builds on past research, and offers opportunity for further research.
Selection and Description of the Site and Participants
The choice to study a site in the City of Minneapolis originated from a number of factors. The City of Minneapolis unlike many cities has widely accessible and published urban design policy available to the public. This fact alone makes the city a good choice to study. A second reason is the city’s also long history of urban design implementation,
the wealth of background information from which to draw, and the existing research already undertaken on this city’s design process (Shirvani). The city was also chosen because my own previous experience studying the particular project and familiarity with the city’s planning officials. The actual site in Minneapolis was chosen because of its prominence in the City of Minneapolis. The study focuses on the urban redevelopment of “Block E” in the heart of the Minneapolis CBD. Block E is a particularly relevant site to study urban design tools because it was a high profile project located directly next to the CBD. The block was historically used for entertainment purposes and lies in the midst of the most visible and well-known entertainment district of downtown Minneapolis, surrounded by the Target Center (professional basketball), First Avenue (music club), and the City Center (retail shopping).
About Block E
Block E, “E” for entertainment, was the label applied by the City of Minneapolis to a solid block of land in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, which underwent a decade-long wait for redevelopment. Block E lies in a pivotal position between the emerging warehouse district and the retail and office core of downtown Minneapolis. Block E is bound by Hennepin Avenue and First Avenue North, between Sixth and Seventh Streets, placing it in the center of the entertainment district along Hennepin Avenue on the west side of downtown. Block E is surrounded by such large scale capital assets as the Target Center, the State and Orpheum theaters, the historic warehouse
district, the Mississippi Mile, the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Hilton Hotel and Towers, and Nicollet Mall. Before the block was labeled blighted and subsequently razed around 1987, Block E was filled with a variety of entertainment businesses: including two newsstands, a steak house, bars, a comedy club, and the historic Schubert Theater. A 1995 Request for Proposals by the Minneapolis Community Development Agency and the Minneapolis Planning Department yielded a diverse array of proposals. These schemes ranged from the “Garden of Courage” a park development complete with an outdoor amphitheater, ice-skating rink, and glass conservatory to the “Hennepin Crescent” an ambitious proposal that conceptualized a regional entertainment center encompassing 3.5 blocks; similar in ambition to Times Square in New York. The property, however, remained a parking lot while development projects were considered and then shelved. On June 25th 1999 the Minneapolis City Council and the Board of Commissioners authorized a redevelopment contract with McCaffery Interests and on March 3rd, 2000 the City Council approved a development agreement with McCaffery for a mixed – use commercial project including over 210,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment. The completed application and development proposal by McCaffery interests was submitted to the City of Minneapolis April 21, 2000 (Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, 2000 2000).
Development Context (The Actors)
Planning Staff The Minneapolis City Planning Department worked to guide the Block E development to its eventual fruition. Jack Byers of the City’s planning staff was the project planner for Block E and worked most closely on urban design related issues. Charles Ballantine, the director of the planning department also contributed to the planning of Block E.
The Planning Commission The Minneapolis Planning Commission consists of ten members: the mayor (or designee), representatives from the School Board, Library Board, Park Board, Hennepin County, and the City Council and four mayoral appointments. The planning commission is responsible for the long-range planning for the city and serves in an advisory role to the City Council on matters of development, zoning, and capital improvements. The planning commission performs a number of important tasks including preparation of the City's comprehensive plan and the review and recommendations on area or issue-specific plans consistent with the comprehensive plan. Most important to the case of Block E was the formal review of development applications including application for conditional use permit, variance, site plan review, expansion/change of nonconforming use, and land subdivision. The planning commission, “a citizen's committee” worked with the staff of the Planning Department on the development of plans and the review of the development application in Block E. The planning commission reviewed the Block E development
proposal in light of the planning department’s recommendations concerning policy and zoning regulations (City of Minneapolis 2004).
The Developer The developer, Dan McCaffrey of McCaffery Interests Incorporated put forward the final development proposal for Block E. McCaffery’s proposal titled “The Minneapolis Lifestyle Center” would eventually be approved by the Mayor of Minneapolis as well as the Minneapolis City Council initiating the process of development on Block E. The developer’s building architect Joe Antunovich crafted a majority of the design work for the project and played the lead role in negotiating design details with Minneapolis’s planning staff.
Urban Design and Block E
Unlike Shirvani’s description of Minneapolis’s urban design review procedure called “Concept Plan Review” of the late 1970s, the City of Minneapolis utilized a different strategy in its review for Block E in the 2000. Minneapolis primarily relied on the Comprehensive plan to guide the Block E development. According to Jack Byers, the Minneapolis planner who worked on the Block E development project, the development was guided by two primary tools : policy and regulation. Policies were used to critique, analyze, and direct the development while regulation was used to implement policy. Policies used in Block E were primarily taken from three documents: (a.) The City’s comprehensive plan, (b.) Minneapolis 2010: Continuing the Vision into the 21st Century (a specific component of the City’s comprehensive plan drafted in 1996 relating to
downtown) and (c.) Block E: Development Objectives (a set of policies crafted for Block E adopted in 1995). Policy documents formed the groundwork from which the city planner as well as the Minneapolis Planning Commission would base their decisions during the public hearing and review process. The Minneapolis Zoning Code provided the regulation, which served as the vehicle for policy implementation and review by the planning commissioners and the general public (Byers 2004). Those parts of the zoning code that directly governed the Block E development proposal and significantly illustrate the application of urban design were the Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.) and Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P). The evaluation process of the developer’s proposal was complex and involved many parties. The process was guided from beginning to end by the City’s planning department. A more formal “review” was undertaken by the City Planning Commission and the general public concerning the developer’s completed application proposal.
Urban Design Policy and Block E
The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan, an official public record, explicitly lays out the directions and goals the City seeks to achieve through development. The comprehe nsive plan is the first layer of policy governing development in the City. The plan is general and non-specific in its policy phrasing in most instances meant to respond to a myriad of issues throughout the city over an extended period of time. It can however be a powerful tool, defining the parameters of the development process. For example, the
plan sets the stage for development s such as Block E by stipulating that master planning and regulatory techniques for new developments over 100,000 square feet must be utilized. In this way, The Minneapolis Comprehensive plan provides an overall framework for new development through general policy guidelines. Examples of the composition of this policy and the type of policies by which Block E was directly guided are found in Chapter 9 of the comprehensive plan titled “City Form”. This chapter of the comprehensive plan is devoted exclusively to urban design policy. The policy is presented in hierarchical manner by first listing a goal or objective to be met and then suggesting the ways to comply with this goal. Figure 3 gives a good indication to what urban design policy looks like in the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan. Notice the formatting considerations and structure as well as the content and wording of the policy. The extract typifies the approach taken by planners and government officials in Minneapolis to create urban design policy. The objective stresses the need for “traditional urban form in commercial areas” and suggests that this goal may be accomplished through improvement in such areas as: the pedestrian environment, traditional form standards and preservation objectives, building orientation, plan review, and the construction and placement of billboards. The “implementation steps” assume an encouraging tone in language and content. They suggest standards for development without specifically stipulating measures by which these standards should be met. The policy types found in the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan range from Punter’s Motherhood policies (referring to the most general objectives) to Consideration policies, (which outline a range of factors that applicants should take into account when preparing a design, or which the planning authority will consider in evaluating a
Figure 3: Extract from The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan, City Form
9.11 Minneapolis will support urban design standards that emphasize a traditional urban form in commercial areas. Implementation Steps Enhance unique characteristics of the city's commercial districts by encouraging appropriate building forms and designs, historic preservation objectives, site plans that enhance the pedestrian environment, and by maintaining high quality public spaces and infrastructure. Identify commercial areas in the city that reflect traditional urban form and develop appropriate standards and preservation objectives for these areas. Enhance pedestrian and transit-oriented commercial districts with street furniture, tree planting, and improved transit amenities. Orient new buildings to the street to foster safe and successful commercial nodes and corridors. Expand the scope of site plan review to include most types of commercial development. Limit the construction and visual impact of billboards in neighborhood commercial nodes. Require storefront transparency to assure both natural surveillance and an inviting pedestrian experience. The role of the automobile in areas that maintain traditional urban form is a complex one. On one hand, most patrons will arrive by car to these centers, and they must think of the district as accessible and convenient for their travel and parking needs. However, the appeal of window shopping and sidewalk cafe hopping is quickly spoiled by an inundation of automobile traffic. Some of the Activity Center and Neighborhood Commercial Nodes designated In the Plan will generate interest far beyond their immediate boundaries, and will need to accommodate significant automobile traffic through the provision of parking facilities. Responding to the demands of traditional urban form requires design solutions that prioritize the appeal of the pedestrian environment, emphasize diversity in form and materials, and promote a distinctive identity for an area.
Source: The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan.
proposal). The objective of policy 9.11 illustrates the use of a motherhood policy, stating that new development should take the form of “traditional neighborhood form”, which stresses pedestrian comfort, building scale and massing, and “high quality public spaces”. Other policy objectives in the plan however favor a “consideration” type policy, citing specific examples of what builders should consider in their projects. For example, implementation steps taken from policy 9.16 suggest that “new development in downtown avoid creating negative impacts at sidewalk level and in public open spaces in terms of wind, lack of light penetration and other microclimate effects” (City of Minneapolis 1996). In this case the implementation steps point towards directed goals, which with the planner and or planning commission will take into consideration when reviewing the development proposal. Examples of how urban design is used to advocate for a more livable city through policy abound in chapter nine. Such issues as fit and massing are raised. Subsequent examples of policy “objectives” and “implementation steps” suggest that structures should relate to their surroundings and integrate with their surroundings in an architecturally congruent manner. The development proposal by McCaffery Interests was further guided by Minneapolis 2010: Continuing the Vision into the 21st Century a component of the City’s comprehensive plan adopted in 1996. This separate policy document would eventually constitute the majority of policy used to craft the City’s planning staff recommendations in its critique of the McCaffery Proposal. I will discuss the policies found within Minneapolis 2010 and their use in more detail as they relate to policy implementation through zoning regulation.
Block E: Development Objectives and RFP The roots of the City’s involvement of guiding Block E through urban design policy can be traced back to policy document created by the Minneapolis Planning Department titled Block E: Development Objectives. The Block E: Development Objectives was one of the first attempts to produce a formalized set of policies directly aimed at shaping the physical character of Block E. The Development Objectives: for Block E created by the Minneapolis Planning Department illustrates in depth the vision and concept of the desired development by the city. This document heavily relies on urban design based policies to create a picture of the desired development. The development objectives describe everything from visual excitement and public space to pedestrian activity and parking.
Figure 4: Extract from Block E: Development Objectives
4.2 Maximizing the Visual Excitement of the Project The overall design of the project needs to be visually exciting. It should be designed to be highly transparent, so that indoor activities are visible and energize surrounding areas. Under no circumstances should the project be conceived or designed as a totally enclosed, inward – oriented center with blank walls facing the street. 4.3 Providing Public Space A public space shall be developed as part of the project to provide a local point for a variety of activities. It is to be located along the Hennepin Avenue side of the project with a focus at either the corner of 6th or 7th Streets, and shall be directly accessible and visible from the street and shall be designed to accommodate outdoor dining, sitting and small events. The public space could be developed as an indoor space that is converted to an open-air plaza during the summer months similar to techniques used with the open space component of IBM/Bloomingdale’s building in New York City. However, if the public space is developed as an indoor space it shall be designed to serve as more than the foyer and lobby for the building.
Source: Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, 1995.
Using Punter’s typological classification of policy, these “development objectives” most resemble the more restrictive “standards” policy type.
Examples of this policy type can be seen in policy phrasing describing policy objective 4.2. Although, the policy objective is broad and general seeking to maximize the “visual excitement of the project”, the policy strengthens this general sentiment with stringent encouraging and standards type statements. The policy stipulates that the development should be “designed to be highly transparent, so that indoor activities are visible and energize surrounding areas” and requires that “under no circumstances should the project be conceived or designed as a totally enclosed, inward – oriented center with blank walls facing the street” (Minneapolis Pla nning Department 1995). The policy begins by stating in general terms what type of development is desired, encourages the developer “to meet specified objectives” and outlines the factors that the developer should take into account when preparing the design. Further, policy describing the provis ion of public space is quite detailed and explicit in its directives. Examples of the type of this direction can be found in the objective of creating public space. The objective states that “a public space shall be developed as part of the project to provide a local point for a variety of activities. It is to be located along the Hennepin Avenue side of the project with a focus at either the corner of 6th or 7th Streets, and shall be directly accessible and visible from the street and shall be designed to accommodate outdoor dining, sitting and small events” (Minneapolis Planning Department 1995). In summary, the urban design policy used to guide the development in Block E largely came from three sources, the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan, Downtown 2010, and Block E: Development Objectives. The policy varied in its degrees of specificity. Many policies were broad and non-specific clearly illustrating Punter’s
“motherhood” policy type, while other policies made specific recommendations by outlining “criteria” or “standards” by which development proposals would be judged. Policies found within the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan as well as Downtown 2010 were generally more vague and wide-ranging in tone, while policies found within the planning department’s Block E: Development Objectives were more detailed and oriented to the specific site. Overall the language of the urban design policies was clear and readily understandable. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the policies found in both the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan and Downtown 2010 was lack of detail and the “encouraging” tone taken. This encouraging tone suggests how the future environment should take form; justifying these statements by referencing the broad social needs of the population “for environments that are different and more meaningful” (Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development 1996). The policies also serve an educational role through the suggestion of the potential for city improvement s. For example, policies found within Downtown 2010 state that “even though downtown’s streets lack the scale and activity often associated with European cities and many pre-automobile cities of the United States, downtown has the potential to become very walkable” (Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development 1996, 14). It is this basic quality of readability and familiarity, which makes these policies easily digestible for mass consumption. This non-technical aspect also serves to make rather ambiguous and far-ranging statements with little or no indication of how to achieve such goals. Thus, the policies found in the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan generally fit Reiko Habe’s solution to better policy formation by providing broad conceptions of design, more public participation in the policy making
process, and less attention to minute architectural details. Habe’s answer to effective policy was clear goals and objectives and the necessary regulation to legally enforce policy without making policy and guidelines over restrictive or limiting. The policies found in the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan and Downtown 2010 accomplished Habe’s goals pertaining to composition, legibility, and content. The second major example of policy type found within the Block E: Development Objectives; were written on the other hand for more specific and direct purposes. The set of policies within this document were created for technical use to guide development in a desired manner. For example, policies within the development objectives stipulated that the development should address pedestrian and street level activities. The policies state forcefully that the development should be highly transparent and “under no circumstances” be inwardly designed. The important characteristic about these policies drafted six full years before the construction of the project was the specificity with which they did dictate the design details of the development. These policies went beyond the policies of the Comprehensive Plan and Downtown 2010 by doing more than encourage; the policies in Downtown 2010 dictated the form of the development through the suggestion of spatial arrangement of public space. Thus the general differences in policy type can be distinguished by looking at the policies used to guide Block E. The differences can simply be highlighted by looking at the level of detail and specificity with which they advocate for the form of new development; more general policy was found within the comp rehensive plan and more specific policy was exemplified in the Development Objectives. The utilization of both
types of policy by the planner through enforcement of zoning regulation also showed marked differences, as will be shown later.
Urban Design Regulations and Block E
The Minneapolis zoning code was the primary vehicle used to guide the Block E development proposal through the development process. Zoning techniques used to implement urban design consisted of Planned Unit Development (PUD) and a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). On May 9th , 2000 a staff report was prepared by the project planner for Block E, three weeks after the completed application was submitted by McCaffrey Interests. The report represents the efforts of the planner in the use of zoning techniques including the PUD and CUP to critique, analyze, and make recommendations to the City Planning Commission after an assessment of the developer’s proposal. The staff report was the main tool used to advance the position of the City Planning Department during a public hearing and review before the city planning commission.
PUD The PUD is widely considered to provide greater design flexibility by allowing deviations from the typical development standards required by the Zoning Code. As one source states, “The intent is to encourage better designed projects than can sometimes be accomplished through compliance with all development requirements, in exchange for providing greater benefits to the community (City of Milpitas 2004).
To apply for a PUD in the City of Minneapolis, the developer must submit a completed application to the Planning Division of the City. The application must include a development plan consisting of a statement of the proposed land use, a master sign plan, a site plan, parking areas, vehicular and pedestrian access, open space, drainage, sewerage, fire protection, building elevations, landscaping, screening, as well as the location of existing public facilities and services (City of Minneapolis 2004). In Minneapolis, a planner (Jack Byers) was assigned to the project after preliminary application procedures were completed. Important consultations were then made with the developer before and after the submittal of the developer’s application. In the case of Block E, these consultations involved the project planner and the building architect in substantive negotiations concerning urban design issues. After the application had been submitted, the project planner reviewed the application and referred the developer’s proposal to various departments (Public Works, Fire, Building, etc.) and scheduled public hearings before the Planning Commission. Understanding the application of the code through the use of a PUD and how the PUD was used as a mechanism to implement urban design is an important key to the comprehension of this process. Based on McCaffery’s development proposal Minneapolis’s planner made significant findings and recommendations through the use of PUD regulations. The regulatory technique of the PUD requires the project planner to make findings relating to goals and objectives stated in the zoning code as well as other applicable policy sources such as the comprehensive plan. These findings ranged from the location and function of open space to building scale and massing. According to Minneapolis’s PUD regulations a number of considerations must be heeded by the
planner making in the making of recommendations (see figure 5); these design related “considerations” are written in the broadest of terms and offer little precise direction. As a consequence, the PUD regulations themselves while requiring that certain considerations be taken into account in the permitting process offer little direct prescriptions. What they do however offer is a framework by which policy may become utilized. The “considerations” compose the basic structure of the planning staff report. Each of the considerations is evaluated through the use of policy, thus interpretation of the code is possible by utilizing the policies found within the comprehensive plan and the Development Objectives. Since the PUD is primarily a master planning technique and the wording of the zoning regulation is quite general, much discretion was left to the planner in the formulation of findings based on policy. Urban design considerations were given full consideration in the determination of the findings. Examples of urban design principles in the recommendations clearly illustrate the application of urban design through zoning regulation (see figure 6). In the first example taken directly from the staff report Byers looks at directive “c” of the PUD regulation, which directs the planner to evaluate the development in terms of its relation to open space, preservation of the natural environment, and protection of historic features. In the staff report, Byers makes in depth and detailed recommendations concerning the ways in which the developer’s proposal relates to these criteria. Byers’s comments on both the beneficial characteristics as well as detrimental characteristics of the proposal’s configuration of public space, with a main public plaza on the northwest corner of the site at 6th Street and First Avenue
Figure 5: Required Findings for a PUD Permit Application
The character of the uses in the proposed planned unit development, including in the case of a planned residential development the variety of housing types and their relationship to other site elements and to surrounding development. The traffic generation characteristics of the proposed planned unit development in relation to street capacity, provision of vehicle access, parking and loading areas, pedestrian access and availability of transit alternatives. The site amenities of the proposed planned unit development, including the location and functions of open space and the preservation or restoration of the natural environment or historic features. The appearance and compatibility of individual buildings and parking areas in the proposed planned unit development to other site elements and to surrounding development, including but not limited to building scale and massing, microclimate effects of the development, and protection of views and corridors. The relation of the proposed planned unit development to existing and proposed public facilities, including but not limited to provision for stormwater runoff and storage, and temporary and permanent erosion control.
Source: Extract from Staff Report, Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development 2000
Figure 6: Extract from Block E Staff Report, PUD Findings
The site amenities of the proposed planned unit development, including the location and functions of open space and the preservation or restoration of the natural environment or historic features. Location and function of open space Drawing A-10, Street level Plan calls for an open pub lic space located at the intersection of North 6th Street and First Avenue North (on the northwest corner of the site) and a smaller less – defined open public space at the corner of First Avenue North and North 7th Street. Though the Environmental Assessment Worksheet completed in 1998 was based on provision of public open space at
Hennepin Avenue and North 7th Street, no such space is allocated in this drawing. Beneficial characteristics: • This location of public open space at First and 6th is appropriate for accommodating large pedestrian volumes at this intersection. • Direct vertical circulation between ground- level public space and skyway level circulation space will allow for convenient, visually accessible interchange between street and skyway level environments in the Downtown Entertainment District. • The location for a significant art/water feature is proposed. The sitting of this feature will help pedestrians along the northern reaches of First Avenue North to identify and locate the complex. Detrimental Characteristics • The public open space at First Avenue north and north 6th Street is currently the only location where sidewalk cafes are indicated in the project. • It will be likely in the shadow of the new building on the block for most, if not all days of the year. Findings: • Direct vertical connection between ground – level public space and skyway level circulation space is in compliance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan for Downtown (Downtown 2010) as well as the Development Objectives for Block E. • The location of public open space at First and 6th as the sole open public space on this block does not comply with the Site Plan Review Chapter of the Zoning Code (530.360b) Site context: Shadowing which states, “Buildings shall be located and arranged to minimize shadowing of public spaces and adjacent properties.” • Open space at Hennepin Avenue North 7th Street: The Environmental Assessment Worksheet was based on the design for a previous redevelopment proposal which also included public open space at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and North 7th Street (on the southeast corner of the site). Providing public open space at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and North 7th Street could be designed to accommodate the following: • Alleviate sidewalk congestion • Maintain the building wall along Hennepin Avenue at the upper floors of the retail/theater portion of the complex. • Allowing for sidewalk café’s along North 7th .
Source: Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development 2000.
North and a smaller less – defined open public space at the corner of First Avenue North and North 7th Street. Significantly, Byers challenges the developer’s proposed arrangement of public space (see Figure 6). Byers cites the many benefits that this arrangement may bring such as: the adequacy of the space for accommodating large pedestrian volumes, a convenient and visually accessible vertical circulation link between ground- level public space and the skyway level, and the sitting of a significant art/water feature that will help pedestrians identify the complex. Even though the planner wrote in his findings that the direct vertical connection between the ground – level public space and skyway level circulation space was “in compliance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan for Downtown (Downtown 2010) as well as the Development Objectives for Block E” the beneficial characteristics were outweighed by the plan’s detrimental characteristics. These detrimental characteristics indicated that the development proposal would only provide outdoor seating accommodations at the Sixth Street and First Avenue plaza. This arrangement however was found to be unattractive because of the likeliness that the plaza would be covered perpetually in shadow. Byers wrote that this arrangement would conflict with the Site Plan Review Chapter of the Zoning Code which states that new development should seek to minimize shadowing of public spaces. This example exemplifies the complexity of how recommendations are made utilizing policy. It is also an indication of how policy may be used to inform and guide decisions regarding regulation. Although, Byers found the arrangement of the plaza on 6th Street North and First Avenue to comply with policies found in the comprehensive plan as well as the Development Objectives, he nevertheless found against this
arrangement because it conflicted with the conditions of the Site Plan Review zoning regulation as well as the results of a prior study. This study found that a public plaza on 7th Street and Hennepin could accomplish many of the similar goals as the developer’s scheme, without being in shadow most of the year. Thus, in this situation we find that policy and regulation (Site Plan Review) serve to complicate the decision making environment for the planner seeking to implement urban design. The decision made on the findings reflects a primary concern for the placement of the plaza in the most favorable exterior conditions for the public patron.
Conditional Use Permit McCaffrey Interests was also required to acquire a Conditional Use Permit as part of the development process. In Minneapolis, the CUP is required if an application for a PUD is made. Both zoning regulations work together (the PUD and CUP), but address slightly different issues. According to City of Minneapolis zoning regulation, a CUP allows the City to review uses, which because of their unique characteristics are not permitted in a particular zoning dis trict. Conditional use permits require a number of findings concerning the overall viability of the development including such factors as the health and safety of the development as well as adequate access and utility coverage. The findings relate to the overall viability of the project in meeting the City’s development expectations. The city planning commission reviews the CUP and holds a public hearing on applications for conditional use permits. This hearing usually reviews the PUD and CUP concurrently.
The CUP was an important tool in the process of implementing urban design policy for the Block E project. The CUP was used more than any other zoning regulation to directly apply urban design policy in the review process. The required findings by the planner cons isted of six general categories. The findings most salient to the study of urban design implementation and used most extensively through this regulation stipulated that the development proposal be consistent with the applicable policies of the comprehensive plan and Minneapolis Downtown 2010. In this manner urban design policy was directly applied through the recommendations of the project planner. An extract of the relevant findings and recommendations from the City Planning Staff Report displays how this regulation was used (Figure7). The extract conveys important information on the methodology and techniques used to implement urban design through the use of zoning regulations and policy. A number of important recommendations are made by the planner in the evaluation of the developer’s proposal. It should be noted that the policy the planner quotes was taken from Downtown 2010. The planner’s citation of this policy is largely broad and general in nature. The policies closely approximate a range of Punter’s policy types including Motherhood and Consideration types. The use of this general policy type allows for a generous interpretation by the planner in the development of recommendations. Indeed, the discretion left the planner allowed for recommendations which often contained detailed and specific directives. Thus in the case of Block E policy was used by the planner to formulate and validate specific directives. Such policy did not explicitly state a desired outcome. The influence of the planner in decision making regarding design details is substantial (see the policy findings for 7 in figure 7). Byers considered a number of
Figure 7: Extract from Block E Staff Report, CUP Findings
Is consistent with the applicable policies of the comprehensive plan. Current inconsistencies with the applicable policies of Downtown 2010: Physical Settings: Physical Settings: Policy 7: Promote building heights and designs that protect image and form of the downtown skyline, that provide transition to the edges of downtown and that protect the scale and qualities in area of distinctive physical or historical character. According to Downtown 2010, “The height of buildings conveys a sense of the type and intensity of use of the building or area, and it also symbolizes the importance of the use within the broader community. With respect to downtown, the height of buildings contributes to an understanding of how downtown is organized and the importance of its various functions. The downtown skyline also is a source of civic pride. As such, it should be considered a community asset.” As mentioned, discussions are underway between the Building Architect and Planning Staff concerning the building form and mass of The Project. The intent of these discussions is to achieve compliance with Downtown 2010 concerning the presence of the project on the city skyline.
Source: Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development 2000.
Figure 8: Extract from Block E Staff Report, CUP Findings
Physical Settings: Policy14: Emphasize good open space design: According to Downtown 2010, “There is a special affection for parks and plazas among citizens of Minneapolis. The northern climate makes the time spent outdoors during warmer months particularly precious . . .” Because the location of the public open space in The Project is located on the shades side of the building, the design of this open space is not in compliance with the policies of Downtown 2010 (nor is it in compliance with the Zoning Code’s Site Plan Review Chapter).
Source: Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development 2000.
significant design issues concerning the development proposal. The recommendations included design details such as: the building scale and massing, the functioning and position of the skyway system, the quality of open space design, the quality of architectural detailing, fenestration, street level pedestrian environment, and the location of the main entrance. The planner’s recommendations range from general suggestions that the developer should reconsider certain issues such as the architectural design character of building height and massing to fairly specific design criteria such as the detailed placement of skyways, their housings, and connection to street level pedestrian circulation. In the case of Block E, the workings of urban design implementation through policy and regulation are most clearly revealed through the planner’s recommendations. The connection between policy and regulation is unmistakably articulated in the CUP findings. Again, the issue of open space at the corner of Sixth Street and First Avenue is raised to better illustrate the differences between the two approaches taken by the PUD and CUP. According to the planner’s findings concerning Downtown 2010, it is the City’s desire to create and maintain quality open space. Policy 14 emphasizes good open space design. The planner’s recommendations simply state that “the public open space in The Project is located on the shades side of the building; the design of this open space is not in compliance with the policies of Downtown 2010” (Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development. 2000). In this example a straightforward policy statement “emphasize good open space design” is used to recommend significant changes to the building structure and design. The planner suggests that since the design proposal includes open space on a particular space that
does not receive much sunlight, the proposal does not comply with policy and as a result zoning regulation. It is significant to note that the project planner primarily relies on the policies found within the comprehensive plan and the Development Objectives in the most direct application of policy through regulation. The broad and general composition of these policies does not in this case hinder their effectiveness. They are used consistently and regularly in the CUP zoning regulations to apply a high level of policy adherence. Since most of the discretion is left to the planner to compose these findings, it must be concluded the policies due to their high level of manipulability, may best be utilized by an experienced and competent planner. This situation necessarily places the onus and responsibility of the success of policy implementation on the planner in the formulation of recommendations and findings. The recommendations also give a clue as to the process of negotiation that has taken place between the planner and building architect. The planner’s recommendations in a number of instances indicate the substantial time and effort that has been undertaken to negotiate specific design related details of the project (see Figure 7). The importance of the negotiations between the planner and building architect cannot be underestimated in the final assessment of this process. In the preliminary phases of this project both before and after the completed development proposal and application for PUD and CUP permits were submitted significant negotiations between the planner and the building architect took place. According to Byers these negotiations were “not a committee process” but rather an informal procedure to clarify the positions of both the City and the developer (Byers 2004). The negotiations were also used to further refine the
development proposal before the actual completed application was submitted. In preparation Byers constructed what he considered a “tool” for use in the City’s negotiations with the building architect; a Matrix of Design Considerations (see appendix #3). This process indicates that the planner had an important influence over design considerations even before the actual completed application was submitted to the City Planning Commission and public review.
Urban Design Review and Block E
Urban design review played a major role in the guidance of McCaffrey’s development proposal through the city’s permitting process. To briefly review, the guidance of the McCaffrey development proposal through the city’s bureaucratic permitting process follows a standardized formula: the developer submits an application for development, negotiations concerning the proposal take place between city officials and the developer, and a final application for a permit is made. This permit request is accompanied by the planning department’s recommendations for approval concerning this request. Both the request for permit and the planning department’s recommendations are reviewed and revised by the Minneapolis Planning Commission. Shirvani’s description of design review accurately depicts the Minneapolis mechanism. His portrayal of design review, which encompasses the whole range of measures aimed at achieving urban design goals including all of the methods used to implement urban design policies (Shirvani 1981, 12); paints a picture of this process from beginning to end.
According to Shirvani’s definition, the entire development review process itself could be termed design review. Although Shirvani’s definition may seem like a simple rewording of the phrase “development review”, significant differences of perspective result when one views this process as “design review” (I take Shirvani’s use of the phrase “design review” to be synonymous with “urban design review” and use the terms interchangeably). Therefore, many of actions performed by the planner included in the creation of the staff report, which led to the eventual hearing before the Minneapolis City Planning Commission, could be described as part of the urban design review process. Even though this perspective tends to over exaggerate the importance of urban design throughout this process, the definition does help to clarify the process and place this process in a workable context. For example, it makes perfect sense to term the negotiations with the building architect as part of an urban design review of the proposal, as well as the overall creation of the staff report, which was an in depth and detailed evaluation of the proposal or urban design review. Shuster’s definition of urban design review limits Shirvani’s definition by defining this process. Schuster views urban design review to be practiced by a panel or commission dedicated specifically to this function, from citizen participation groups to city design review boards (Schuster 1990, 3). The procedural review undertaken by the City of Minneapolis was not characterized by Minneapolis’s city pla nner as an “urban design review” (Byers, 2004), the evaluation of the development did, however, as has already been shown to represent a significant application of urban design principles through policy and regulation in an official evaluation process. Both Shirvani’s and Schuster’s definitions of the “urban design review” process could be applied to define the procedure used in Minneapolis.
The planning department received the developer’s development proposal, subsequently made recommendations for the approval, disapproval, or conditional approval of the proposal to the Minneapolis Planning Commission a self described “citizen committee”, and finally the Minneapolis Planning Commission itself held its final review on the development submission. The fact that the planner who worked on Block E did not characterize this procedure as an “urban design review” process is significant. In a phone interview; the city planner could not or did not clearly articulate the ways in which urban design had an impact in the development process when questioned. Instead, Byers described the application of urban design policy and its subsequent review in his own staff report and the city planning commission as being something difficult to define and embedded in bureaucracy. His comments on the difficulty of identifying specific urban design related procedures in the development process for Block E plainly illustrate the confusion of design professionals over what constitutes the procedural mechanisms of implementing urban design. These comments reinforce and confirm the conclusions already discussed on the difficulty of describing the ways in which urban design is implemented by government officials (Schuster 1990; Punter & Carmona 1997; Varkki 1997; Schurch 1999). A full exposition of the Minneapolis Planning Commission’s actions regarding the Block E development proposal is not necessary to ascertaining how the evaluation constituted a tool for the urban designer. This hearing before the planning commission represents the culmination of efforts aimed at guiding the development proposal by the city and the final efforts of the urban designer to craft a favorable decision making environment for the application of urban design. During the public hearing the
Minneapolis Planning first reviewed the development submission by McCaffery Interests for zoning permits, and then reviewed the project planner’s recommendations concerning the developer’s application for zoning permits. The developer with his team of architects and lawyers then had a chance to debate the merits and demerits of the planning department’s recommendations with the planning department as well as the Planning Commission and various other city officials (e.g. city counsel, public works, etc.). Although, the review of the development proposal by the planning commission does represent a significant tool for the urban designer, it is the staff report and the planner’s own participation and testimony in the hearings themselves which makes this tool a significant aspect of what Varkki termed the “decision environment” of the urban designer. During the hearing Byers advocated for the findings contained within the staff report, given the length of the staff report and the urgency with which a preliminary decision had to be made, the Planning Commission recommended conditional approval of the application pending compliance with many of the planner’s recommendations and findings concerning the proposal. The result was inconclusive, but somewhat typical of this process. The hearing did offer, however, a chance to air many of the concerns by the planner before the commission and the public at large. Along with citizen comments from the public at large, the planner’s recommendations constituted the primary means of implementing urban design and advocacy for the “public good”. Thus, the creation of the decision making environment, which Varkki wrote of as being the main concern of urban designers working as public sector planners, has been clearly identified with the examination of the urban design review process.
Summary of Findings
In summary, the findings thus far discussed on the Block E case study in Minneapolis, MN have provided a good description of the techniques and tools used by planners to implement urban design in current practice. This summary of the findings is meant to be brief overview or synopsis of urban design tools used in guiding the Block E development. The purpose is to highlight the “decision environment”, which the urban designer created as a planner to effectuate the goals and objectives of urban design. The effort to focus on the tools of urban design implementation in the case of Block E in Minneapolis represents like Wolfe’s and Shinn’s earlier report an attempt to extract urban design from the embedded bureaucratic procedure of development review in Minneapolis. The first urban design tool examined was urban design policy. Policy documents such as the Block E: Development Objectives, The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan as well as Downtown 2010: Continuing the Vision into the 21st Century clearly show the extent to which Minneapolis is committed to urban design policy. Byers used a mixture of policy types and sources from all three sources with varying degrees of incidence to guide development. The policies could in a large part be grouped together by the level of specificity with which they sought to shape the environment. Policy found within the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan as well as Minneapolis Downtown 2010 (a supplement to the comprehensive plan) was found to be broad and general in nature closely approximating Punter’s “motherhood” and “encouragement” policy types. The policy used in the 1996 Planning Department’s Block E: Development Objectives on the other hand took a more detailed and technical approach, characterized by Punter’s
“standards/criteria” policy type. It is important to note that the motherhood policy types were used far more extensively than the more restrictive policy type phraseology, supporting Habe’s claim concerning well crafted policies. Reasons for the usage of the more general policy type over another may simply boil down to the amount of discretion given to the planner in this particular circumstance. The interpretation of policy by the planner through zoning regulation comprised the second tool of urban design. Byers relied predominantly on two zoning code regulations to enforce policy the Planned Unit Development and the Conditional Use Permit. The PUD and the CUP were both shown to be effective mechanisms for articulating policies contained within the three policy documents. The PUD was distinct and differed from the CUP in its method of analysis. Since the PUD required the developer to development plans consisting of a master sign plan, a site plan, parking areas, vehicular and pedestrian access, open space, drainage, sewerage, fire protection, building elevations, landscaping, screening, as well as the location of existing public facilities and services; the application for this permit constituted a majority of the materials from which the project planner would base negotiations with the developer and his final recommendations to the planning commission. The PUD also stipulated the project planner make a series of findings. These findings such as those discussed in relation to directive “c”, directed the planner to evaluate the development in terms of its relation to open space, preservation of the natural environment, and protection of historic features. Using this incredibly broad and open ended directive as a beginning point, the planner proceeded to make detailed recommendations concerning the placement of open space related to policies found in both the Comprehensive Plan as well as the
Development Objectives. Highlighting the complexity of making such recommendations was the fact that the proposed plaza would be covered in shadow for most of the time, placing it in conflict with site plan review zoning regulations. The application for PUD allowed the planner to carefully review the development proposal with a generous amount of discretion. The CUP findings on the other hand were more explicitly tied to policy. Directive 5 of the CUP permit requires that the planner make findings concerning the development proposal consistency with the applicable policies of the comprehensive plan. As has been discussed above, Byers used policies to recommend significant changes to design related details such as: the building scale and massing, the functioning and position of the skyway system. The CUP findings also address the provision of public space proposed in the development proposal. In this instance, the planner used specific policy phrasing drawn from Downtown 2010 “Emphasize good open space design” to argue against the positio n of the space. Although the policy statement is incredibly broad and vague and could arguably be applied in any situation, this example clearly shows how zoning regulation is used to enforce policy. The focus on the provision of a public plaza at the corner of Sixth Street and First Avenue also addresses the differences in regulatory techniques between the PUD and CUP. The PUD assumes that the analysis of a set of broadly worded directives and goals such as directive “c” will yield policy considerations. The CUP on the other hand begins with policy and directs the planner to consult policy in making findings. Since an application for PUD permit requires the supplemental application for CUP permit, the regulations presented represent a formidable layer of analysis and review of development submissions.
The third urban design tool to be examined was urban design review. This discussion sheds light on a complicated process by redefining the activities of the planner and planning commission through Shirvani’s and Shuster’s definition of urban design review. The Block E development proposal by McCaffrey underwent a complex bureaucratic planning procedure in which urban design played a significant role. Although, the planner’s reactions to my questions concerning the application of urban design in the development process reflected bemusement, urban design has been shown to be a strong and consistent consideration. This confusion concerning the role of urban design does not necessarily mean that the Minneapolis planner undervalued the importance of urban design. Quite the contrary the planner’s vociferous advocacy of urban design principles throughout the process from early negotiations to the planning commission hearing demonstrates his commitment to urban design. The confusion serves rather as a confirmation of Varkki’s argument concerning the lack of clear articulation of the procedures of urban design implementation. Evidence of this confusion is most clearly represented by the fact that the City of Minneapolis utilized a form of urban design review to evaluate the development proposal by McCaffrey Interests. Although as previously stated, the City of Minneapolis Planning Department does not characterize this process as an “urban design review” it has been shown to clearly exhibit the major characteristics many writers would ascribe to this process. The review of the McCaffrey development proposal involved the City Planning Commission, “a citizen committee” as well as the general public. The City Planning Commission made significant recommendations on design related issues shaping the eventual product constructed by McCaffrey. Thus, Shirvani’s definition of design review
which encompasses the whole range of measures aimed at achieving urban design goals offers an excellent perspective by refocus ing attention on the integral aspects of urban design in the development review process. This view does not waver in the level of importance ascribed to them throughout the process. Although, it is certainly evident that not all of the recommendations made by the planner can be ascribed to urban design related concepts or ideas, it has been shown that many do directly relate to urban design principles.
CHAPTER IV CONCLUSIONS
The tools used in implementing urban design in the Block E development were in many respects difficult to discern without extensive study. Urban design tools and the techniques of their implementation were lost in a sea of technical jargon, which rarely referenced urban design as a specific goal. Similar to Wolfe’s and Shinn’s earlier study, it was necessary to extract the urban design from this process. The fragmentary nature of implementation including the various policy documents and types, regulations, and review procedures highlights the difficulty found in characterizing the methodology of urban design implementation. The embedded and overwhelming presence of urban design principles found in the development process, however, demonstrates their continued relevance and importance, which professionals give to these ideals. The creation of the “decision environment”, argued by George Varkki to be the actual “product” of urban design, was almost ignored by the planner when questioned as to how urban design became implemented. This system primarily relying on the city planner to gather and organize a multitude of policy and zoning regulations into a workable format, in preparation for the City Planning Commission hearing, produced a fragmentary system of urban design application. Instead of a clear and well articulated “decision environment” for the application of urban design, the result was a confusing mixture of policy and regulation. In spite of this confusion, this study provides the reader with a means to untangle this knot through an increased understanding of the tools available to urban design and
how they are used. Through the exploration in detail of the different types, content, and application of urban design tools, a “procedural explanation” of urban design was made, adding to the understanding of the role of urban design in professional practice. Thus, the answer to the main research question posed at the beginning of this thesis: how urban design is utilized and operationalized by professional planners in the development review process has been addressed through the findings of the Minneapolis Case study. The findings from the case study reflect a conscious effort by planning officials to apply urban design as part of the planning process. The success of the efforts to integrate urban design with planning have produced a process which does recognize the contributions of urban design, but fails to articulate how urban design is to be recognized as a significant element within this process. Practitioners such as the planner with Block E (Byers) assume that urban design has become so intermingled with the practice of planning; the separation of the two is inconceivable. If those involved in professional practice (supposedly those who know and espouse urban design principles the best), do so in a way that that dilutes the full force and potential of these ideas, the result is significant. This lack of separation is arguably one of the main culprits in the fa ilure of urban design to rise above the confusion and argument concerning its identity, professional role, and ability to establish its own history of practice. This lack of separation can also be seen to hinder the advancement of academic literature examining exclusively the role of urban design in shaping the environment. Therefore, this thesis identifies the lack of separation of urban design in the planning process from other more traditional land use planning techniques as a one source of confusion regarding the practice of urban design. The other source concerns the role of academic writing, which
in many respects neglects the examination of professional practice and fails to clearly define the practice and function of urban design for students and practitioners. Although, the literature published covers extensive areas such as urban design policy and urban design review, gaps remain in the detailed description of professional practice. Thus, the continuing confusion regarding urban design in the planning process can partially be alleviated by focusing efforts on identifying clearly the role of urban design in the planning process by practitioners as well as academics. Strategies both of these groups may take are presented briefly. As Wolfe and Shinn advocated thirty years ago, the wording and phraseology of urban design should be articulated from the outset. Such changes in the approach taken in such procedures as urban design review may have tremendous impacts on effectiveness. Practitioners may recast the whole development process according to Shirvani’s definition of design review. This perspective would add to the level of clarity of urban design elements within the process and identify those elements most in need of a more thorough exp lanation. Although urban design principles are well established throughout the development review process, the separation of policy from the regulatory means of enforcement, arguably leads to a dilution of the process and effectiveness of articulating clear and understandable urban design goals. A more cohesive policy and regulatory framework may increase the simplicity and ease with which urban design principles are effectively communicated. In terms of academic research, the first glimpse of academic enquiry into this subject over thirty years ago by Wolfe and Shinn gives us a clue as to how far the practice of urban design has come. Even though writers are still bewildered as to the
description of urban design in professional practice, the advancement of urban design within the planning process has been significant. The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan serves as testament to this; now there are whole chapters of plans devoted to the advocacy of urban design. No longer is it necessary to try and distill urban design principles from a land use plan. Thus, for academics it must be acknowledged that urban design has been firmly ensconced within the planning process. What is needed then is a more carefully crafted approach for the study of urban design within planning practice. A procedural explanation of this process would aid in the problems with defining the role of urban design and illustration of the methodology of the professional urban designer. To combat this confusion Varkki’s definition which describes a “procedural explanation” of urban design based on the tools, techniques, and practice of urban design, does an excellent job of clarifying questions concerning the professional role of the urban designer, the practice of urban design, and the ambiguous nature of urban design itself. The definition is extremely helpful in the description and analysis of urban design in terms which not only academics utilize, but practitioners as well. This definition shifts the focus of urban design onto practice in an attempt to better understand and improve a specific professional agenda for urban design. A procedural definition works well to lay the groundwork for further research and education in professional field of urban design. Although such a definition leaves out the “typical” definition of urban design, which advocates a physical product (in Varkki’s case the decision environment), it does however, lead to a cleaner and sharper definition of the ways in which urban designers operate; as distinct from planners and architects. I believe then that Varkki’s definition is
the most useful for a detailed analysis of urban design for future studies, whether they are professional or academic. Thus I would disagree with Dagenhart and Sawiki’s claim that the study of urban design in academia is dead. The authors state their concerns with the ability of urban design to flourish in the academic setting. This collaborative field of architecture and planning has remained prescriptive rather than descriptive; anecdotal rather than based on academic scholarship and research . . . To survive and prosper within academe, architecture and planning must build their individual strengths, recognize their divergence, and seek new ground upon which to build a relationship. Urban design, as it has been constituted in the university, is dead. (Dagenhart and Sawicki 1994, 147-148) Counteracting this claim are Varkki’s definition of urban design as well as Jon Punter’s significant contribution (also see Carmona 2001). Punter gives an indication as to the future of urban design literature. The author has written extensively on the composition, use, and effectiveness of policy. By isolating one component of the urban designer’s tool box, Punter provided a structured examination of urban design policy, which can be evaluated in both qualitative and quantitative terms. In a number of works Punter has evaluated the effectiveness and quality of urban design policy using a well structured analytical framework (Punter 1997; 1999). Thus through his work Punter continues this research by further advocating such measures as monitoring of policy effectiveness. These efforts make pointed attempts at clarifying much of the confusion concerning the practice of urban design, but the issue remains unresolved, as evidenced by Block E. Increasingly detailed and articulate literature pertaining to the procedural aspects of urban design will only help to strengthen the professional goals of planners and architects already practicing in the field and offer a standard from which urban designers may begin to work. Also, research detailing the procedural aspects of urban design is
necessary to the educational enrichment of those students desiring to enter the field. Urban design as a specific pursuit must do more to clearly express the methods and techniques of implementation, rather than focus so highly on urban design goals and products. The impacts of the study are numerous. A greater understanding of the literature and its limitations, on how it may be used to explain urban design and the implementation of urban design was gained. The tools of urban design were examined in detail and how these tools were utilized in practice was discussed relative to a case study. The ways in which urban design policy, regulation, and review were utilized in the Minneapolis case study adds to the overall understanding of the implementation techniques of urban design and aids in a procedural definition of urban design. Students, practitioners, and academics may use this analysis to further study the effectiveness of urban design implementation techniques, make comparisons with other localities, or use the study as a benchmark in historical evolution of urban design implementation techniques.
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Appendix #1: Building Elevation
Source: Minneapolis Lifestyle Center,; Antunovich Associates, and McCaffery Interests, 2000.
Appendix #2: Building Site Plan
Source: Minneapolis Lifestyle Center; Antunovich Associates, and McCaffery Interests, 2000.
Appendix #3: Design Matrix
Source: Staff Report, Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development 2000.
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