Happy Thursday! Before premature Fridayitis officially kicks in (as it tends to in late August), take a moment to catch-up with a few noteworthy news items, curated by the AN editorial team. Today’s infrastructure-heavy Daily digest includes stories from cities across the country, from Boston to Atlanta to Seattle to Pittsburgh, and back to Boston again.
Atlanta is getting a small memorial park celebrating John Lewis
A towering 65-foot mural depicting the late Georgia congressman and civil right icon John Lewis in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood will soon be the site of a new pocket park featuring an expanse of grass, seating, lighting, an eternal flame, and an “interactive feature” attached to the mural, according to Urbanize Atlanta. The Savannah College of Art and Design has also been tapped to design outdoor workstations beneath the mural where visitors “can be productive while reflecting on Lewis’ legacy, as opposed to simply popping selfies in a vacant parking lot and scatting.” Located at 219 Auburn Avenue, the John Lewis HERO mural was created a decade ago by artist Sean Schwab and has served as “one of Atlanta’s most Instagrammed, free tourist destinations,” per Urbanized Atlanta. (Foot traffic no doubt increased after Lewis’ death in July 2020 at the age of 80.)
Costing an estimated $3.5 million, the parking lot-replacing public green space, dubbed Good Trouble John Lewis Memorial Park, could open as early as sometime next year. The Butler Street Community Development Corporation owns the site and is leading the project.
H/t to Urbanize Atlanta
Fenway Park bids adieu to a longtime fixture in centerfield
A plus-sized, prominently placed piece of corporate signage is retiring at historic Fenway Park in Boston. As reported by CBS News, Bay State insurance giant John Hancock has opted not to renew its longtime corporate sponsorship with the Boston Red Sox—as a result, the company’s oversized logo that has floated above the ballpark’s scoreboard in centerfield will come down at the end of the season. The impossible-to-miss sign has been in place at Fenway for 30 years. As revealed by John Hancock chief executive Marianne Harrison in a memo to employees, this isn’t the end of the line for the iconic sign: after it is removed from Fenway, it will be off to new (but likely not greener) pastures.
“We are so proud of our 30 years with the Red Sox and all the games, events, and historic moments that our iconic sign has lit up – from winning the 2004 playoff with heroics that broke the curse to unforgettable concerts by legendary artists,” she said. “We’re planning an exciting new home for the sign and will share more details with you all very soon.”
H/t to CBS Boston
Diana Fernandez Bibeau selected as Boston’s first-ever Deputy Chief of Urban Design
In other and decidedly more salient Boston news, earlier this month Mayor Michelle Wu and the city’s Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) named landscape architect Diana Fernandez Bibeau as the city’s inaugural Deputy Chief of Urban Design. Fernandez—born in the Dominican Republic, raised in New York City, and educated in Philadelphia—is the first person to serve in this new role, which, per the city, calls on her “to craft and execute a human-scale and inclusive vision for the design of the built environment across Boston.”
Under the leadership of Boston’s Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison, Fernandez will “elevate the importance of urban design, and champion the transformative power of sustainable and walkable communities for all ages and abilities,” a press announcement elaborated. A key part of her work involves partnering on the Mayor’s Green New Deal agenda with various city departments and agencies, ranging from the Office of Housing to Public Facilities to Parks.
Fernandez leaves Boston-headquartered multidisciplinary design firm Sasaki for the new position with the city; she had been at the firm for seven years, most recently as senior associate. She is also the recipient of multiple recognitions from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) as both a student and later as a professional. The ALSA praised the appointment of Fernandez, noting that it “catapults the discipline of landscape architecture and urban design to a new role within municipal governance.”
“It’s an honor to be joining Mayor Wu and Chief Arthur Jemison in charting a heterogeneous design vision for the city of Boston,”said Fernandez. “I’m excited to tap into the great diversity of experience, perspective, and creativity within this city to shape urban design strategies that will inclusively serve all Bostonians. I look forward to working collaboratively to define and realize this vision.”
StreetsLA head Greg Spotts heads north to the Emerald City
The comings and goings continue this week with news that Greg Spotts, executive officer and chief sustainability officer with the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services (now known simply as StreetsLA), has been tapped to lead Seattle’s department of transportation (SDOT). He replaces Sam Zimbabwe, whose three-year tenure as SDOT director was a challenging one to say the least.
Calling Spotts “a champion for innovative thinking, sustainable solutions, collaborative partnership building and transparent public engagement,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell noted that the bridge-heavy, light rail-expanding city “deserves a transportation system that is safe, reliable, and equitable, and our SDOT Director is instrumental in implementing that vision.”
“Greg understands that we must embed safety across all projects, view every decision through a climate lens, and build a transportation system centered on equity, quality infrastructure, and multi-modal solutions,” Harrell added.
Spotts will begin his new position in September as acting director until confirmed by Seattle City Council. “As he settles in at SDOT, Spotts will tour Seattle’s vibrant neighborhoods by riding transit, cycling, and walking with neighbors and community groups,” explained the Mayor’s Office.
“I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to lead one of the most forward-thinking transportation departments in the nation,” said Spotts. “I have visited Seattle several times in recent years and have been deeply inspired by the urban transformation taking place. I intend to draw upon my years of infrastructure experience to ensure that SDOT is an effective and responsible steward of Seattle’s streets, sidewalks, bridges and street trees.”
Pittsburgh to embark on American Rescue Plan-funded assessment of city-owned bridges
In other news relating to vital infrastructure, Pittsburgh, which like Seattle boasts challenging topography and a whole lot of (aging) bridges, is embarking on a two-year assessment of its city-owned spans. Led by WSP USA, the program will yield a comprehensive report detailing any and all recommended maintenance, repair, or rehab projects for all 150 city-owned bridges, per Construction Dive. Pittsburgh City Council approved the bridge-evaluating scheme, which was first announced in May, and related Bridge Asset Management Program Trust Fund last week. More than $2 million of American Rescue Plan money has been put into the fund.
Dubbed the City of Bridges, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city purportedly has more of them—446 within city limits to be exact—than any other city in the world. This January—ironically, just ahead of a visit to Pittsburgh by President Joe Biden to tout his bipartisan infrastructure plan—the nearly 450-foot-long Fern Hollow Bridge failed and collapsed into the ravine below, taking a small handful of cars and a city bus with it. There were fortunately no fatalities although 10 people did suffer minor injuries during the intense rescue operation that followed. The situation was also harrowing for nearby residents, some of whom had to evacuate their homes due to the rupturing of a gas line during the collapse of the snow-covered, 50-year-old bridge. Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey called the collapse “a painful reminder of the condition of our bridges and a call to action to address our aging infrastructure.”
A new Fern Hollow Bridge, which connects the Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods, is anticipated to be completed by the end of this year.
H/t to Construction Dive