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Connecting Beechview and Brookline (updated)

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

urbanlab1

Architecture students in the Urban Lab at Carnegie Mellon University have worked this semester on transit-oriented development designs for Beechview and Brookline and connections between them, including this posit: “What might West Liberty Avenue want to be in 20 years?”

Their proposals for plazas, new stations, new bridge designs with retail, enhancing connections for biking, developing trails from unused rail lines and making better use of the Seldom Scene Greenway were inspiring.

UPDATE: You can hear them at a community presentation in January, time and place yet to be announced. The one scheduled for tonight has been cancelled.

Adjunct assistant professor  Jonathan Kline said it is hard to understand how the T has not been a catalyst for transit-oriented development along Broadway Avenue in Beechview. Similarly, the students can’t understand why there are so many unused buildings with such great access to transit, said Eve Picker. She is also an adjunct assistant professor.

It has always puzzled me, too, but Beechview and Brookline present topographical challenges. Brookline Boulevard is 113 feet above West Liberty Avenue. Neighborhoods up on hills with lots of hilly streets aren’t cut-through places. They don't run seamlessly into each other the way the flat East End neighborhoods do. Lots of traffic moving through a place is what appeals to most commercial developers.

urbanlab2Yet there’s a little buzz in both neighborhoods right now, a little more in Brookline than Beechview but each has a couple of destinations. A few more retail ventures could provide the traction to start flirting with some real change.

Not that everyone in the Bs want change or much of it. It will be interesting to see how people respond to some of the designs, one of which could be more do-able than the design sketch might suggest: a suspended transit line under the Fallowfield bridge with a linear park and vendor stalls.

Adjunct assistant professor Steve Quick said his masters students are simultaneously working on a plan to densify West Liberty Avenue by stacking development on top of car dealerships.

"We are focused on the entire corridor within the city, 1.5 miles," he said. The hub in regard to Beechview and Brookline is where Wentzel intersects West Liberty Avenue, roughly across from where Brookline Boulevard begins its ascent.

West Liberty Avenue may have sidewalks but would you ever want to use them, especially the portion that lies between the two Bs? One proposal is to literally connect the neighborhoods with a rapid bus on an overpass.

None of these design proposals has  legs... yet. They have no funding, either. But they are the creative insights and daring what-ifs of budding designers, so they have value in the public realm. One of these days, who knows what might stick?

Images courtesy of the CMU School of Architecture's Urban Lab


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