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Archives for February 16, 2016

Simply Grace Serendipity Boutique, Moss Garden Design brings retail back to Market Street in downtown Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – The holidays are over, but at least one of the vendors from the Springfield Holiday Market have stuck around and are now trying to make it as year-around brick-and-mortar retailers in the city’s downtown.

“We’d never planned to stay after the holiday pop-up,” said Mikki Lessard, one of the owners of Simply Grace, a Monson-based  online retailer of jewelry and gift items, much of it crafted by women.

But as the holidays ended, their landlord on Market Street  approached Lessard and co-owners Nancy Feth and Diahanna Barnes about staying in the space, and they decided to go for it. So they expanded, adding an event space for yoga classes and other draws and brought in Kelly Mercieri and Moss Garden Design to fill up the neighboring storefront and create the Shops at Market Place featuring Moss Garden Design and Simply Grace Serendipity Boutique. Cosmetics store Cheeky City plans to open soon.

“Like a mini, cool, mall,” Feth said.

Lessard grew up in Springfield and remembers when their retail space was part of the much beloved Johnson’s Bookstore.

“It can be like that again,” she said.

Detractors say people don’t shop downtown anymore and even if they do, shoppers avoid Springfield’s business core.

“We listen to our heart above other voices,” Lessard said.

Feth points to concrete evidence that there is money to be made. First of all, they had a successful run as part of the holiday popup Downtown Springfield Holiday Market.

A project of the Springfield Business improvement, the first-ever holiday market  brought vendors to 1331-1391 Main St. and throughout Tower Square in November and December.

The Serendipity Boutique is on Market Street, a pedestrian walkway running parallel to Main Street from Harrison Avenue south to Falcons Way near the MassMutual Center.

Feth pointed out there are parking garages nearby along with offices full of potential customers.

“Where we are is like lawyer central,” Feth said. “There have to be dozens of law offices within the block.”

Lessard said their plan is to offer a stress-busting break in the day for those downtown workers and residents. The yoga and event space is a way to keep those customers downtown after 5 p.m.

“Rather then jump right into their cars and take off,” she said.

The products for sale are mostly made by women artisans.

“They are all women who we are in relationship with,” Lessard said.

Next door at Moss Garden Design, Kelly Mercieri was creating a living gown of moss growing across a dressmaker’s form as a window display.  Moss Garden Design is an outgrowth of owned by she and her husband  Tony in Monson, for 25 years.

“We wanted to do retail and we decided to do it here where there was a lot of foot traffic,” she said.

They sell houseplants and cut flower arrangements.

Big sellers are air plants, tillandsias, which survive in a glass terrariums with their roots exposed for long periods of time and make great conversation pieces. Succulents with their beefy compact leaves are also poplar for people in search of tabletop greenery.

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Civic Center consultants fall short on news

The Civic Center Design Standards Task Force appeared to raise more questions than they addressed. A report on the group’s findings was presented at a special joint meeting of the Malibu City Council and the Planning Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at Malibu City Hall.

In 2014, the City Council requested that the Planning Department begin developing a set of design standards for the Civic Center area, with the ultimate goal of creating a Civic Center specific plan.

To complete the project, the Malibu City Council appointed a 10-member task force, who met with the City’s design team, consultants MIG, Inc., and John Kaliski Architects. The council authorized an agreement in the amount of $206,261 which included a contingency amount of $18,751 for additional services for completion of the design standards. 

Although three task force meetings were held, including a “design charette” that was not initially planned, the findings delivered by MIG’s representative Laura Stetsen and architect John Kaliski were inconclusive.

“What we heard a lot of was small-town feel, human scale, recognizing environment and nature as the shaping force for development and design,” Stetsen said.

She added that “participation was not as robust as we had hoped for.”

The Council observed that was certainly true of the joint meeting. The audience included just four of the nine task force members and a handful of residents, most of whom also attended the task force meetings.

“We need to figure out a way to get a lot more people involved, whether that’s town hall meetings or online surveys, to inform our vision,” Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal said.

The council applauded the task force’s work, but questioned the decision to focus on issues “outside the scope of the guidelines and standards.” 

Instead of focusing on aesthetics and issues like building placement, materials and landscaping, the task force opted to look at several major issues that fall outside the scope of design standards, including potential changes to zoning to permit mixed use development and infrastructure issues like traffic and roads.

Kalinski said the task force sought to rationalize the traffic circulation in the Civic Center. 

“We wanted to think about how to improve Pacific Coast Highway, stretching as far south as the Malibu Pier and all the way up to Pepperdine,” he said. 

“I don’t think we were very successful in getting everyone to agree we nailed it,” Kalinski said, describing the definition of the Malibu Civic Center as a rural coastal village. “And there are bigger issues — circulation, how do you preserve open space, some issues related to use — which were to a certain degree beyond our scope.”

Task force member Anne Payne said the people who participated care about how the Civic Center functions, but that functionality and safety outweigh the other concerns. Jefferson Wagner, who was also on the task force, added that the need to purchase and retire some of the Civic Center properties was also one of the primary needs identified by the task force. 

“We could hopefully raise the money to buy these properties [and] retire them,” he said.

The council agreed that zoning changes and traffic circulation need to be examined as part of the proposed specific plan. However, at least one council member indicated that the consultants are not a necessary part of the process.  

“You did a good job, but didn’t offer anything new, and there’s so much on circulation and traffic, which wasn’t your  job,” Councilwoman Joan House told the consultants. “I would rather not outsource this. We can do it in-house and use the talent we have here in Malibu,” she said.

Planning Commissioner David Brotman compared the process to a three-legged stool. 

“The legs need to be the same length,” he said. “It’s nice to have professional designers in the community, but it takes more than that. It takes the people who are going to use it to be part of the plan.”

“You may not see the whole city here, but the citizens actually care and they need to be part of the process,” Planning Commissioner John Mazza said. 

Mazza suggested that City Attorney Christi Hogan set out some guidelines on “what we can do with up-zoning and down-zoning, so we don’t come up with a plan and have it be illegal.” 

House agreed, adding that she would like to see Hogan and City staff come back with what she described as a menu of options. 

The recommendation was approved by the Council.

“The things people say they want in Malibu have been agreed on,” Planning Commissioner Jeff Jennings said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to impose a vision because it is so underdeveloped. Start with a vision, find a way to put laws together to implement it, talk to the Coastal Commission and see if they can buy in. If you can’t have a vision that people can buy into, I think we will end up with a fourth or fifth specific plan that will gather dust.”

“One of the hardest things for us is getting a wide swath of people involved,” Rosenthal said. “Contact me, contact our staff. We always looking for innovative ideas to bring people into the process.”

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Brutalism & The Future Of The UW Nuclear Reactor Building

Brutalism is known for living up to its name, and wasn’t brutal for the sake of ugliness, but as a backlash to more frivolous and supposedly less functional buildings that preceded it. Given a bit of time, brutal seemed appropriate. Brutalism, the Cold War, and nuclear reactors seem made for each other, and More Hall incorporated all of them.

In 2009, the case for preservation was strong enough to earn the building a place on the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register. Preservation preserved. UW, however, contends that universities aren’t subject to preservation ordinances. Will Computer Science and Engineering get its new building because it is as trendy now as Nuclear Science and Engineering was decades ago; or, will official preservation designations, and maybe Architecture, History, and Nuclear studies mean a Brutal building is saved – if for no other reason than to remind us of ideas and an era that we may never want to repeat? The reactor which inspired the building and its name operated for years, and helped many students learn was less than one cubic yard. The ultimate symbiosis is the Computer Science Department’s plan to create a 3-D model of the exterior and interior of the building, no radioactivity required.
· UW regents vote to demolish old reactor building listed as historic [ST]
· Brutalism [wikipedia]
· Washington Heritage Register [DAHP]
· National Register of Historic Places
· The history of UW’s own nuclear reactor [UW]

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Wichita State preparing for second phase of Innovation Campus


Wichita State University is preparing for the second phase of construction on the new innovation campus, an idea to bring university researchers, students and industry together to share the ideas that will drive change.

Wichita State says the second phase “will include the bulk of the major utilities and roads required to support future development on Innovation Campus.”

Work on the Innovation Campus’s second phase are expected to start in the next two months. 

The second phase includes: 

  • Construction of a new north-south boulevard, to be called Innovation Way, between 17th Street and Mike Oatman Drive. 
  • Construction of an east-west street (19th Street) from Oliver to connect with Innovation Way.
  • Construction of a north-south pedestrian mall that will serve as an organizational feature for future building development, accommodate emergency vehicles and be a shared easement for multiple utilities.
  • Utility and site amenities such as pedestrian lighting, mass grading, landscaping, sidewalks, detention ponds and fiber optic cabling.

In a news release from Wichita State, university President John Bardo said each day brings the Innovation Campus closer to reality. 

“It’s exciting to see the pieces of Innovation Campus coming together,” Bardo said. “Our intention is that this 120-acre space becomes a stimulus for applied learning, a nurturing home for inventors and entrepreneurs, and an accelerator for economic growth for the people of Kansas. Innovation Campus construction itself is an important economic catalyst for Kansas, employing hundreds in the construction, engineering and design of the campus.”

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