Developing Design Standards

The thoughtful design of high-quality buildings and public spaces is vital not only to the improvement of the standard of living and work environment of regeneration areas but also to the creation of economic value for the regeneration site. Indeed, the success of regeneration projects depends on the design quality of the built environment that is incorporated into the planning phase. For example, it is known that well-designed, open spaces generate significant value for residential properties. So too, the current economic trend favoring creative industries is demanding lively mixed-use districts to attract the creative class. Good urban design can also add social and environmental value, turning the urban space into a place to “mix and mingle” while merging the city with its environment (for a list of potential value-added by good urban design projects, see table). Throughout the life of the regeneration project, the process of how design will be negotiated must be addressed and provided for in the attendant contract. However, it must also be recognized that this is a shared responsibility for both the public and private sectors.

Table: Benefits of a sound urban design strategy

How to Define the Private Sector Role in Development of Design Standards

There are many options along the continuum of public and private sector involvement in the design process. These range from the public sector having a more passive regulatory role through the planning and permitting process, to having its own design staff who review and negotiate the design of each project in the regeneration area. Although a master plan is an essential foundation for the regeneration project, it is not sufficient for monitoring various elements of urban design. There must be an ongoing process whereby the public and private sectors are actively involved in the design process. The private sector will often resist this and will be justifiably concerned that the public sector might create regulatory uncertainty and additional time and money constraints. However, this is exactly the balance that must be struck in developing a process that leads to the design of superior places and buildings.
There are many ways to address private sector concerns regarding uncertainty and delays, including (a) developing and adopting design guidelines that provide direction, but still allow for creativity and flexibility; (b) setting timeframes for reviews—if the deadlines are not met, then projects would be “deemed approved”; and (c) establishing design panels of outside experts agreed to by both public and private sector parties.

Master plans usually define an urban design vision and attendant controls. However, they should not necessarily define specific architectural styles, which should be left to architects during the implementation and delivery of the site development. Design standards should establish the aim of design quality and create a framework within which good quality architecture and design can flourish (CABE 2008).

Design guidelines can either be incorporated into the land use regulations or adopted as stand-alone provisions. Such guidelines should translate the aspirations of the regeneration program into ideas for the evolution of the three-dimensional physical form of the area. The guidelines might include establishing more explicit building specifications (for instance, height, setbacks, ground floor dimensions, and so on) for private and public parcels so that an overall design for the area is achieved. Alternatively, they might include recommendations for the government about the design of the public realm and important “place-making” interventions. These can include the design of open public spaces, the dimensions and materials for sidewalks and streets, and street lighting, as well as other key public infrastructure investments that comprise the physical environment.

Creating a Planning Process and Defining the Roles of the Private and Public Sectors

The planning phase should assess the capacities of the public, private, and civic sectors to implement the plans. This process could also be used as an organizing construct for the public and private sectors to prepare for a city’s regeneration, including identifying leadership and capital sources, and building broad-based and diverse coalitions.

The process should also include a preliminary identification of the leadership for the project. It is important to carefully map and define the leadership network that will be critical to the success of the regeneration project. Based on this leadership mapping, a process would be customized to motivate the participation and support of political, business, civic, and community leadership.

For example, in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, the project headquarters office for the restoration of Cheonggyecheon was launched within the city hall to ensure efficient communication and project implementation. Focusing strictly on the actual works at the site, the headquarters office conducted a weekly meeting hosted by the mayor to maximize efficiency and collaboration. The organization was modified continually to adapt to the evolving work stages.

In addition, the Cheonggyecheon Research Group was established under the Seoul Development Institute to support the restoration project. Its mandate was to conduct research projects, collect basic data, and devise a blueprint for the Cheonggyecheon restoration. The group contributed to the project by researching issues regarding transportation, land use, urban planning, environmental and cultural issues. It also organized a variety of seminars and meetings with experts and conducted a variety of activities to promote the restoration through academic events, public relations campaigns, and media outlets.

Finally, the Cheonggyecheon Citizens’ Committee was established to serve as an official channel to solicit the opinions and concerns of the citizenry with regard to the project. Experts from the Cheonggyecheon Revival Research Group joined the committee, along with other experts and citizen representatives of various backgrounds. The committee’s primary role was to set the directions for the restoration project. It was given rights to audit and monitor, as well as to simply advise on the project. The committee also had legally binding rights according to special enacting ordinances. In addition to deliberation and assessment, the committee conducted a series of hearings and briefings to garner public opinion, build public consensus, and encourage citizens to participate in the project (see chapter 8). Figure below illustrates these arrangements.

Triangular implementation system for the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project

image: triangular_implementation.jpg