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Editor: Mark Wood
Phone: (909) 621-8158
Fax: (909) 621-8203
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By Jill Walker Robinson and Mark Kendall
Developing community is sometimes a matter
of brick and mortar. Here are three alumni and some of the streetscapes
they have transformed.
Ronald Fleming '63 Founder of the Townscape
Institute and pioneer of Main Street revitalizations.
When The Townscape Institute founder Ronald Lee Fleming '63 donated
30,000 daffodil bulbs to be planted in the western entryway to Newport,
Rhode Island, he did so anonymously. But it didn't take long for word to
get out and for Fleming to acquire the name, "The Daffodil King."
After more than 30 years as an urban planner and designer, preservation
advocate and environmental educator, it makes perfect sense. Fleming is
committed to preserving community landscapes and character and enhancing
towns and cities with public art and other visual elements.
In this case, Newport is part of his stomping grounds. Fleming owns the
Bellevue House, a Colonial Revival mansion built in 1910 by architect
Ogden Codman Jr. At risk of being sold to a developer who planned to
turn it into a "boutique" hotel, the house sat empty for seven years and
was in disrepair when Fleming bought it in 1999. Some 7,000 daffodils
bloom each year in his garden.
Children of Newport spent two years planting the daffodils at the entry
point to the city, providing a mass of color that catches every eye.
"It's poetic," says Fleming, who serves as a trustee of the Preservation
Society for Newport County, which owns and manages some of the county's
grandest historic mansions.
Townscape has worked in more than 100 communities and 10 countries to
help interpret community identity. "You want to commission elements that
give people a connection to the place, what I call the 'mental
landscape' of associations," says Fleming. "Whether it's geology,
folklore, history. Proprietorship of the place creates an ethical bond.
This can sustain a feeling of responsibility to the place."
Fleming has committed himself to this sense of place, to "improve the
livability of cities, towns and neighborhoods ... by advocating visual
enhancement of the built environment and projects combining public art
and urban design."
Fleming pioneered some of the early Main Street revitalization efforts
in New England, including the redevelopment of blue-collar Chelsea,
Mass., in the late 1970s. A $4.1 million federal grant helped transform
the low-income city with brick sidewalks and streets as well as generous
tree plantings. The innovative 2 Percent for Pedestrian Orientation
program established public art throughout the waterfront community.
With several books on his cross-disciplinary approach to urban design,
including a trilogy that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Fleming
just released his latest book, The Art of Placemaking: Interpreting
Community Through Public Art and Urban Design.
Back in Cambridge, Mass., where Fleming and Townscape reside, Fleming
helped generate $1 million for the arts on the MBTA system while serving
as founding chairman of the Cambridge Arts Council. "Transportation
facilities are a key place for arts integration," says Fleming. "You're
waiting there for a period of time. Make the arts connect to places used
in daily life-not just corporate plazas and art museums more often
frequented by the elite."
Renewing a town
Pete Lamb '73
Developer, Columbia City, Washington
When Pete Lamb '73 first bought a parking lot in Columbia City in
Southeast Seattle, he collected $3 a day. That was 2002. In March, the
$1 per two-hour parking spots brought in $120 a day.
"When I retired, I wanted to do something different, something my mother
could understand," says Lamb, who had worked as a business and
technology consultant for Global 1000 companies. "I liked designing."
So he hooked up with his brother-in-law, Tom Reid, who worked in
construction, and focused on finding a mixed-use urban area where they
could restore older buildings in a viable business and residential
community. Founded in the late 1800s, Columbia City, four miles from
downtown Seattle, was a lumber town at the end of the railway line. When
the railroad left, the town turned residential and later declined due to
lack of development.
By the time Lamb came to town, the Columbia City Business Association
already existed. Consultant Lamb held a "visioning session" with the
group, and the landmark neighborhood and historic district has since
attracted a cinema, fitness center, bakery, pizza parlor, other
restaurants and specialty stores. In 2009, Sound Transit's light rail
plan calls for a stop a few blocks from the business district.
"What you're going to see when the light rail goes in, there's a really
positive reason to live here," says Lamb. "Every other house is being
Lamb Properties owns three commercial buildings-including a 1920s
leaking VFW bingo hall that they've turned into Jones Barbeque and a
dental office-townhouses (previously an apartment building) and two
other pieces of property within the 10-15 block neighborhood. "It's fun
to work at a scale where you can see you're making a difference," says
Keeping It Real
Ed Tessier '91
developer, Claremont, California
By the time Ed Tessier '91 got a hold on Claremont's historic lemon
packinghouse in 2004, there had been years of debate over whether to
tear the place down or find a way to save it. Both options may have soon
proved moot-Tessier suspects the deteriorating building would have
eventually collapsed on its own. "A strong cough could have been bad,"
says Tessier, who, like many Claremont kids, grew up playing in the
Fortunately, the 85-year-old packinghouse held together long enough to
be shored up and spiffed up into a bustling entertainment and arts hub,
which opened in April. Through their renovation business, Tessier and
his brother Jerry, a Claremont McKenna alumnus, previously had
transformed an ailing section of downtown Pomona into a vibrant art
colony. Still, the packinghouse presented unique challenges. They came
close to deciding to dismantle and put back together the entire building
to make it easier to turn the 90,000-square-foot buildings' huge "Berlin
bunker" basement into a parking garage. But Tessier
opted against that method, fearing "it would be one of those things
where you end up with extra pieces left over."
In the end, though, all the pieces of this project fell into place, with
the saw-tooth roof, big skylights and restored wood floors giving the
site a vibrant look. The loading dock has been transformed into a
boardwalk and even the doors of old industrial fridges now hang as art
pieces. A steakhouse, wine room, jazz club and local art museum are
among the tenants either already in business or about to open. The
packinghouse is set amid a larger, ongoing expansion of the Claremont
Village, which will include an art-house theatre and more shops west of
Indian Hill Boulevard. With all the new construction, Tessier sees his
project as the expanded Village's anchor to the past. "It's keeping it
real," he says.