September 3, 2012 Leave a comment
3BLOCK1BLOCK is a proposed program in Istanbul which came about due to concerns about earthquake readiness. it proposes encouraging the private sector to redevelop blocks full of non-earthquake-proof buildings by offering density bonuses for doing certain things while redeveloping. Some of these make sense to me, while others don’t so much.
Merging bonus: This proposes taking as many as three blocks and merging them into one superblock. Now, especially in areas with informal developments, you can merge small blocks and still have something walkable. What I’m hoping is that there is some sort of guideline saying that “merged blocks shall be no longer than 200 meters on a side” or something like that, because otherwise, superblocks become unwalkable real fast. Many of the proposed projects on the website feature secondary pedestrian circulation within the blocks, but unless there are shops or really nice parks there, people won’t be encouraged to go there, and they could develop neglect or crime problems. Also, this sort of large-scale demolition threatens historically significant structures. There should be options for retrofit rather than demolition only.
Street widening bonus: Certain streets probably do need to be widened, both for emergency vehicle access and for evacuation routes, but I think the project, if it doesn’t have one, needs a master plan outlining which streets should be widened and not having a blanket bonus for wide streets. This is the best way to kill an area’s walkability. You need access roads every 400 feet or so that are wide enough for emergency vehicles, and then the evacuation routes should be highway capacity, and that’s it. If a small road is serving its community, leave it small.
Public space bonus: This is great. Many cities lack sufficient public space, and open spaces can help mitigate stormwater and pollution. Just make sure that there is some sort of revue mechanism to make sure that they are good public spaces, and not just grass.
Parking bonus: The website says that this is for both underground parking and surface parking. Leave it for underground or even structured parking, but take away the bonus for surface parking. Surface parking kills walkability and in a city as dense as Istanbul is and wants to be, it isn’t worth the land it takes up. Don’t make concessions for cars, unless they are going to help people.
This idea has a lot of merit, but it is walking a fine line. It needs to consider historic structures, short blocks, narrow roads, good public space, and limited parking. Otherwise, it could cause some real problems for the city.