consultants are sandburs

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Schlock. Gimmicked ugly buildings at Ramsey Town Center. Something nobody has talked about. Yet, look at that stuff. Beyond schlock, what about tinderbox?

The point of this is that so far the only architecturally honest and functional building there is the ramp. City hall, the bend the mixture of tacked together parts, the big empty taxpayer funded empty space in the middle with the wood panel "growth" now into it via expansion of the licensing facility portion, it's awful, no matter how advanced the geothermal temp control system may be and how insulated it is from the thunder of the trains.

Put the old city hall, on Highway 47 into that foyer and still have massive unused space left over. Unused and unusable. Wasted, a good word in general for things Town Center.

The new Allina clinic - that window work is really cheesy.

Jim Deal's insurance building is okay as a generic functional general suburban office mall thing.

The morgue is okay, but it's not designed for foot traffic.

Jim Deal's other building, characterizing it gently, is busy. Themes shaken in a sack and thrown out helter-skelter.

The proposed Northstar stop is restrained, Spartan, but a fitting adjunct to the ramp. That is to say it too has architectural integrity.

Now, back to the Ramp.

The present council seems hell-bent to put that super-schlock looking Flaherty & Collins thing onto the Ramp, hanging there like a cancerous growth of schlock ugly.

Put aside all the criticism of the financing games the operators from Indiana are up to.

Just look at the proposal. Take a functional ramp and ugly it up.

One of the Indiana reports of the arson-building that Flaherty-Collins put up (temporarily, it having never reached an occupancy permit, with FC reportedly committed to and involved in rebuilding in Indiana's downtown Indianapolis, named "Cosmopolitan on the Canal,") mentioned that fire fighters had difficulty getting to the central swimming pool area surrounded by the building.

All buildings destroyed by the fire are owned by Flaherty and Collins. The project fronts the canal on the west side. When that part of the building collapsed during the fire, it collapsed into the canal from the view of WTHR's video footage. The project included street-level retail and a state-of-the-art fitness center and inner courtyard with a pool, an area of the building firefighters had difficulty reaching according to WTHR.

Flaherty-Collins rumor is that a pool is planned for its Town Center rental thing. Pool placement and drawings of other anticipated aspects have not been placed online, to my knowledge.

How much alike is the Wrap-around Ramsey Ramp rentals plan to the thing that caused fire fighting troubles in Indianapolis, and a massive fire fighting effort of a kind Ramsey could not alone sustain; and whether that report suggesting abnormal access difficulty is well grounded or speculative; are things I have not seen discussed in online reporting.

The city should put "architectural" renderings of what the combo thing will look like on the city website, to shock the public's conscience and consciousness. It has declined, for reasons I can guess at, (butt ugly is the expectation that comes to mind).

An Acropolis, the Town Center will not be.

I believe that window work on the Allina clinic is the touchstone of doing things in a way that is unnecessarily harder than rectilinear, to make an otherwise fully rectilinear design have one disconcerting aspect that stands out like a sore thumb.

Schlock. Ugly. No other way to call it. A put-off. Aesthetics was not a part of the plan. And so far that shows. IT IS UGLY, SO FAR, AND THE MORE DIVERSE TARTED UP STUFF GOING IN, THE WORSE IT WILL BE.

Furthermore:

This link. See also, here, linking to the "during construction" photos.

Safety considerations in advance of construction can avoid possible headaches later. Beyond asthetics, will Flaherty-Collins be installing a tinder box attached to our ramp, and if so would it possibly be wise for Dean Kapler to have a long chat with the Indianapolis Fire Marshall? In case.

A chat about how the fire needed to be fought, lessons learned, etc.

Ramsey lacks the size of a metropolitan fire fighting force, despite having bought one new firetruck in anticipation of Ramsey Town Center structural heights. In the Indianapolis situation pumper trucks had a canal adjacent, an aspect lacking at Town Center.

Town Center is a windy place. The predominant winds at Town Center are westerly, and with the thing planned to attach to the west end of the ramp, what wind effects can be anticipated?

In considering that question, there is this online report of the Cosmo on the Canal blaze, saying in part:

That followed the probe into last Thursday’s multiple-alarm blaze at the Cosmopolitan on the Canal at Michigan Street and Senate Avenue. The exact cause of the fire and the place where it was started has not been released. A reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of whomever was responsible for the fire in the unoccupied, unfinished building. The developers of the $37 million project said they were devastated by the fire loss, but they still hoped to get the massive $37 million retail and apartment project reconstructed in six months to a year. “It was going to be a great landmark for the city,” said David M. Flaherty, chief executive officer of Flaherty and Collins Properties of Indianapolis. Jerry Collins, company president, said he was told by ATF investigators that they do not think it was arson for profit, while Flaherty added that officials also felt it was not a case of revenge. Both men said insurance would cover the losses from the fire. They said they were not made to feel like suspects by fire investigators. The scope of reconstruction depends on whether the five-story parking garage attached to the apartments can be preserved. The developers expect they will be able to save the faade that faces Michigan Street and Senate Avenue, but the rest of the ruined building will be demolished and rebuilt. Deposits will be refunded to those who had arranged to live in the first group of apartments to be occupied. Twenty investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrived in Indianapolis last weekend to join police and fire investigators from Indianapolis. The apartment fire took nearly 11 hours and most of the Indianapolis Fire Department to control. Investigators have taken photographs, recovered potential evidence from the scene for laboratory analysis and conducted more than 50 interviews throughout the community. Riddell said they are looking for information from those who saw the building before the fire broke out, feeling that something that happened the night before, which might seem trivial to a witness, could be a key clue in the investigation.

[italics emphasis added]. A related question, does the present Flaherty-Collins planning include building "on the cheap" or will there be protections already built into the financing package for the Town Center project (i.e., the present financing package that is allegedly problematic for the private sector to carry on its own)? Will an even more costly but safer structure be a wiser choice? Does the city hold fire insurance on the ramp presently, and will its rates escalate greatly with the attached structure? Hidden costs of this nature need to be anticipated and pinned down in order to make a rational decision on whether to proceed and on what expectations.

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See earlier Crabgrass post, here.

Images and a report, here. Perhaps the best graphics about what was involved in Indianapolis, is the online photo record, including renderings and a siteplan, here, here and here. Here are two images, one post fire, aerial (from here), and the other the siteplan footprint (from here), both showing a ramp wraparound not unlike the talk around Ramsey. A lengthy discussion thread, here. That thing, as apparent from the blog photo links, had ground floor retail as a planned community amenity.



Remember the adage, those not learning the lessons of history -- are Republicans.

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[Note that this post was backdated a day to remain below the above item, which is simpler in its presentation and logic in ways that should not be scrolled to older posts too readily.]

A final image - massive fire fighting mojo in Indianapolis was reported to have saved adjacent buildings from great damage or total ruin.


______________UPDATE____________
A person whose judgment I trust and who is experienced in parking in ramps where feasible, has raised another question I had not thought about. That ramp was designed and built with open-air circulation. Auto fumes and carbon monoxide are naturally blown away by the windiness of the site. What if it's closed off? How will that affect things? Will fume problems be a consistent problem. I recall that one purported reason for leaving the conveniently located fine city hall on Hwy 5 across from Ramsey Elementary was that the fire trucks in the basement, on startup, generated fumes that purportedly permeated the entire building. Will that be a problem in populating the thing with high-ticket rent-paying yuppies in a building closed tight to hold out train noise from the busiest rail track in Minnesota? Has that dimension been addressed, inside pollution within the ramp and in the building that would be shutting off ramp natural ventilation? It seems it would be a big-time turnoff to community ramp users. You and the other Ramsey taxpayers using it because of adjacency to City Hall? It certainly would be a turn-off to me. I'm too old to be gassed to death in my old age. And I would hesitate to be adjoined in living space to a carbon monoxide factory. LIve there, it is a chronic hazard.

Yuppies might be less risk-averse, I cannot say. They may be entering things as gung-ho as a new military volunteer before the first battle wound. Yet, for the range of rents they claim they will be asking, the place had best not stink like a downtown highway during a thermal inversion during rush hour. Enough said.

______________FURTHER UPDATE______________
A friend emailed, "tuck under garages were a problem but that was discovered a couple of decades ago."

Here is where I suppose Dave Elvig should speak up. He is the sole council member with a term of service dating back to Nedegaard-Feges times, and with knowledge from then about the ramp design process. (Goodrich goes back further but his function is implementation care and advice, not policy or planning).

What I'd ask Dave, if I had an email address, is whether that ramp was designed to have ANY close adjacency other than between it and Sunwood. My recollection is low-profile shops along Sunwood were anticipated, and low-income housing west of the ramp, but decently distanced, were the design criteria when the ramp and its air circulation design were finalized and built. It has open wind access but no forced-air ventilation. Retrofitting forced-air and maintaining that extra cost over time are engineering aspects I have not seen addressed in any public manner. It might not be needed to retrofit forced-air ventilation, there might remain sufficient air circulation even with a wrap-around. The point is has any official given that any thought? Is there an answer, before going head-long into changing things?

Engineering staff might know the most about the ramp-ventilation situation. (Fire hazard concerns could be scouted by Dean Kapler, who has decades of experience and could contact Indiana fire officials for insights.)

Anyone with knowledge is asked to post a comment. Dave Jeffrey's service went back to the ramp construction days, I think, but he is now otherwise involved with his cancer recovery.

It would be nice to have at least one more council member with an institutional history. That would leaven the present makeup of the council --- Inexperienced in government, each thinking he "knows better" - a formula for hasty bad decision making with disasterous reprecussions likely. And inexperienced re being flim-flammed into spending more government-citizen money than wisdom might suggest.

Tossey and Backous, the two newest members, seem to have a better grasp of caution and reasonableness. They can question earlier decisions that the gang of four seem married to. And they can avoid that pitfall of thinking "we make that marriage work" at any cost "for the sake of the children" when all the children I hear are saying in a loud and clear chorus, "Divorce Darren, yesterday." For the sake of the children throw the bum out.

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