Penn State Architecture Students Design Concepts for Repurposed Vacant Lots

The McKees Rocks Community Development Corp. recently partnered with students from the Penn State University Department of Landscape Architecture to conceptualize drawings of what two vacant lots in the core of our downtown McKees Rocks could become if repurposed as public spaces.

Separated by a single building, each vacant lot extends between Chartiers Avenue and Furnace Street Extension. Next to Furnace Street Extension is a large parking lot that serves our downtown and beyond that to the south is Chartiers Creek.

In order for the students to conceptualiz­­­e their designs, we communicated goals for the spaces. The first space is conceived of as a north-south pedestrian link/gateway sequence. It would serve dual purposes as both a passageway and a place for social interaction and landscape inhabitation.

For the second vacant lot, we asked to see ideas for landscape-based concepts that could be played out over the next 3–5 years, and possibly longer. This might include ideas for events programming or art installation or demonstrations of ecosystems services and landscape performance.

The class did a terrific job of presenting us with some outstanding ideas in the form of ten different concepts. We have terrific appreciation to them and their teacher, Ken Tamminga, for their work.

View these three concept examples:

"mckees lawn" was designed by jessica owens

(Click on the image to make it larger)

Jessica Owens designed “McKees Lawn,” which she said successfully combines three defined nodes into one unified space that reflects past industrial productions, and plans for the future of music and arts for the downtown district. This temporary space will utilize its time wisely, quickly transforming this vacant lot to accommodate the urgent needs of an outdoor space for the community. Learn more about “McKees Lawn.” [.pdf]

chartiers connections corridor was designed by Jack hall

Jack Hall created “Chartiers Connections Corridor.” He said, “The concept for this project is to tie the two streets [Chartiers Avenue and Furnace Street Extension] together, but also to establish a connection to Chartiers Creek across the parking lot.”

The design uses a green façade on Chartiers Avenue to reference the structure that once occupied the site, with a rectilinear, concrete surfaced café area and overhead steel trusses to give an interior feel to the open café. Concrete and steel were chosen based on the industry in McKees Rocks. Learn more about the design. [.pdf]

design by hannah thomas

Hannah Thomas conceptualized the design for “Pocket Park,” which she said aims to assist the MRCDC’s goals in strengthening, unifying and revitalizing this community.

Within the design, lay three main groups whose goals determine the smaller scale detailed programs within. These groupings of programs create a series of transitional spaces within the site, without one more centrally focused, or located than the others. The goal of this is to pull people through the entire site, continuously, and consistently drawing them to the other end by their own curiosity of what intriguing program lays next. Learn more about Hannah’s design. [.pdf]