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14 UConn seniors work on redesign plan for Riverside Park in New London

Campus Correspondent

Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 18:08

This article is part of a series highlighting this year’s seniors who have outstanding achievements in their undergrad or outstanding plans for their post-grad.

For the first time in over 10 years UConn landscape architecture seniors were given a real assignment for their capstone project rather than creating their own hypothetical one. The 14 seniors are each creating a design for one aspect of a greater redesign plan for Riverside Park in New London.

Senior Tanner Burgdorf chose to tackle the low-income housing issue in the city.

“The design is housing that will make low-income residents feel pride. By bettering people’s surrounding environments, those people become empowered,” said Burgdorf.

Although the project is long-term, the student’s designs will “definitely” be part of the master plan for the park, said Executive Director of New London Landmarks Sandra Chalk. New London Landmarks is a preservation agency in New London handling the redesign of the park, said Chalk. Department professor Peter Miniutti said, “Tanner’s work itself is very long-term, but there is a very good chance his ideas will happen in the next four to five years.”
The redesign plan in Riverside Park began when the U.S. Coast Guard wanted to expand its facilities into the park and New London Landmarks challenged its proposal, saying that the park was important because it was the only natural landscape left in New London, said Chalk. The vote went into referendum and the city voted to keep the park by 17 votes.

Miniutti had been involved with New London Landmarks as one of his projects through the University of Connecticut’s Research and Design Collaborative (CRDC), a group of professors that share their expertise with the state, he said. After Chalk contacted Miniutti about the park project, he decided to get his students involved. “The students work brings a new energy to the city,” he said.

Burgdorf said the goal for his design is to create a neighborhood feel. When the project was presented to the students in Feb., he looked at census information on unemployment, median income, diversity, and spending potential to determine the areas that were especially impoverished. He went to the determined location, adjacent to Riverside Park, and under Interstate 95, and talked to the ex-boyfriend of a resident that lived in the area. He told Burgdorf that people in the area feel isolated, they do not walk around, and do not leave their building unless they have to.

The land he is working with involves two existing, parallel streets. He said the current houses are unorganized and “plopped down” away from the streets. He will propose to move the houses closer to the street so residents feel like they are driving through a neighborhood. The space between the streets will serve as a large, shared backyard, where he said he might add a community garden.

Burgdorf’s plans are communicated through several drawings of layouts for the community in “plan view,” which he says is basically a birds-eye-view of the land.

According to Burgdorf, the concerns for the project are the impact of I-95 being so close and long-term maintenance, said Burgdorf. “It’s one of those things where I have really tried to think about it, though, and considered the risks of all decisions.” Burgdorf said although historically people associate New London low-income housing areas with crime, it was not one of his major concerns because the majority of people that live in the area are families.

Burgdorf said he thinks the most likely possibility will be to get funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of the properties he is looking at is already owned by the federal organization. New London Housing Authorities maintains the property, but HUD subsidizes it. Because the government owns one of the properties he is considering in his design, and there is a need for new, low-income housing in New London, Burgdorf said his plan could be something HUD considers. He called the situation the “best case scenario.”

Burgdorf is also waiting for another project to be funded. He was the winner of the Musgrave Memorial Garden Design Competition last year that was voted on by a committee representing the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Depending on when funding becomes available, his design will be installed outside the school, Burgdorf said.

At UConn Burgdorf also works and lives at Spring Valley Farm, a program connected to Eco House. He said working at the farm gives him a stronger grasp of landscape and soil, which adds to his studies.

Burgdorf will present his project on Thursday, May 2, sometime between 7-10 p.m. in Henry Ruthuen Monteith Building, room 307. Miniutti said those interested in attending should email at peter.miniutti@uconn.edu to confirm.

 

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