Public works projects are primarily single-purpose, we are interested in what it means to expand these projects and the Airline Corridor was the perfect place to test the hypothesis. We call this idea THICK INFRASTRUCTURE, or the expansion and thickening of public works projects to include elements that enhance public spaces, or build the civic infrastructure of a site.
The Airline Corridor measures 3600 feet from the North Loop to Cavalcade. Along this length there are 30 parking lots, 10 markets, 7 produce companies, 7 loading docks, 7 restaurants and bars, 2 gas stations, 1 washateria, 1 used appliance store, 1 unsavory motel, and 1 very popular Mexican bakery. There are no parks, no ATMs, no public restrooms, and no general public parking. The closest sizable public park is more than a mile from the center of the corridor. Sidewalks are narrow, uncomfortably adjacent to the fast-moving traffic on Airline, and are discontinuous, interrupted frequently with driveways, loading docks, and parking.
Parks in the Airline corridor
Fundamentally, the Corridor is defined more by the lack of public amenities than their presence, and is currently being re-designed as a wider, faster street. The primary premise of the expanded right-of-way is to move more traffic. Yet, the street is primarily a social gathering place and there is something very twentieth century about the idea of streets as simple traffic conduits, we thought we had evolved.
So what did we propose?
Building the civic infrastructure of the Airline Corridor by carving out public places from parking areas, under-utilized, and leftover spaces that became unusable remnant pieces after the widening, and using these spaces for both permanent programs and temporary events, creating places to eat and linger while reinforcing the informal qualities of the site that make it unique.
Vision plan for the Airline corridor
The idea focused on the potential synergy of merging public works expenditures, in this case street widening, with public amenities, and forming new strategies for decision-making that combine investment in infrastructure with investment in the public realm.