Transforming an underused urban plaza into a vibrant mixed-use destination through public-private partnership.
The Lamar Johnson Collaborative authored the winning design in the James River Green Building Council’s 2013 Green Spaces Design Competition for the reimagining of Kanawha Plaza, a prominent but under-utilized park in Downtown Richmond. Despite its location at the heart of city, the plaza currently feels like an island, disconnected from its urban context by a depressed expressway, multiple-lane roadways and neighboring buildings with little or no ground floor activity.
The Lamar Johnson Collaborative’s approach was to propose a public-private partnership resulting in a 175,000-square-foot, mixed-use development that would activate the space with visitors and workers, while providing a permanent source of funding for the maintenance and programming of the park. In this scheme, the building and the park function together as a welcoming destination where people work, play, shop and share, helping to revitalize downtown. The building forms an urban edge and brings down the scale of the space to create a more inviting place with a variety of amenities including an outdoor performance venue, an interactive water feature, a retail and farmer’s market area, and an interactive LED display that brings the building itself to life, revealing the activities within to the city around it.