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Housing and Mixed-use Development - Student Studio Project (Part 2 of 3)

08 Feb 2017
Image Credit: Sophia Simone
Architectural Credit: n/a

Site: Ford City, Windsor Ontario
School: St.Clair College 
Course: Drafting and Design Housing and Mixed-use Development (ARC601A)
Professor: William Rawlings 
Student Name: Sophia Simone

The following blOAAg posts feature a research project by St. Clair College students, which raised the question of “how might a mixed-use affordable housing development help bridge the gap between two neighborhoods and better create an understanding on how to incorporate affordable market rate housing into a development as a standard for new construction?” 

Solution from Sophia Simone (3rd year, St. Clair College):  
The 20 acre land gap between Ford City and Walkerville is more than just unused land. The gap has created an evident separation in social class, but how? Walkerville is booming. The townhomes sell from $200,000 - $300,000 a unit. Ford City is not as popular, it is considered a run-down area of Windsor, Ontario. The quaint homes sell for around $80,000. This is a huge difference, despite the two areas being just 50 feet away from each other.

The first question I had to ask myself when approaching this problem was, “What area do I want to influence in this 20 acres of land? Walkerville or Ford City?” I chose to influence Ford City. Walkerville already has a vastly popular and successful park area, named Willistead Manor & Park. Ford City, on the other hand, does not have this grand of an amenity.

The second question that needed to be addressed was the biggest issue faced by Ford City -safety. I wanted to create an environment where people felt safe. So I began to explore how to create spaces that provide opportunities for natural surveillance, where people felt uncomfortable to commit crimes. I began with model studies, and created shadow boxes that you could manipulate to observe how a structure could control what is and what is not seen. From this point, I looked at the building as a whole, repeating this concept all throughout the façade, but in different articulations. Soon, the buildings surrounding the ‘Ford City Square’ began to mimic this concept as well. The form turned into the idea of “Opportunities for Observation”, and how the concrete environment around you could be manipulated for maximum natural surveillance. 

After I solved the problem of safety on the lot, I moved onto the housing issues. With such a large gap between housing prices and the incomes of people who inhabited those areas, I wanted to bridge the gap between the two. Each building in the ‘Ford City Square’ is the same, but repeated, mirrored, or rotated to portray each different façade. I refer to these buildings as a ‘modular’ or ‘mod’. Each mod is three storeys, with the main floor being all commercial space of different sizes – to accommodate all types of business space needs (example, small coffee shop vs. convenient store). The second and third levels are residential. The left side of the mod includes two units, both having two storeys. These units are bigger, two bedroom, two bath units. The right side of the mod is for people living on a lower income. They are one bedroom, one bath units. I find by mixing the two social classes, this will help bridge the gap between Walkerville and Ford City.

The ‘Ford City Square’ only covers so much of the lot. The rest of the area was broken down into private parks for blocks of townhomes. The townhomes will surround each park, which has opportunity to create small communities and neighborhoods, increasing both density and the safety factor (more eyes on the streets). 

One of the strongest features of the lot is that it is designed with prioritizing people over automobiles. The lot is accessible from every street surrounding it, except the roads implemented are necessary, and walkability is encouraged. To activate the center of ‘Ford City Square’, various activities could be brought into the open spaces: ponds, gym equipment, sculpture, etc. Creating amenities for the public, flexible design features, and inner square activity is important in designing this master plan.

The overall image and identity of the space is to be open, interactive, and walkable – which is an area that Windsor desperately needs.


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