Get Ready! Holyoke

Greater Precipitation For the northeast This Option Design Studio focused on Holyoke, one of the 25 Gateway Cities of Massachusetts, which sits along the Connecticut River. The City has had many populations migrate to it during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Migration from Puerto Rico, in particular, occurred in response to the Farm Labor Program after World War II that offered job opportunities. More recently, Holyoke has become a home to one of the first generations from Puerto Rico in the U.S. who have relocated there after the tragic hurricane a few years ago. Now, as the City is experiencing the population shifts predicted from climate change migration, the leaders of the City are young visionaries who wish to create a pathway to a resilient, adaptive city that can advance and thrive as it shifts to new ways of life in the 21st century: to embrace new economic drivers, technologies; and work with a social equity ethic as the basic foundation to the City’s development. Holyoke’s administration is also aiming to make the City the first carbon neutral, sustainable energy sourced one in the USA – repositioning itself to be a leader in the future for clean, sustainable energy. As we entered 2020, Holyoke looks to a future which responds to the climate crisis as opportunity. As per many cities in the Northeast, according to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, changing climate will affect the well-being of the population through more extreme weather, increased heat, degradation of air and water quality. Coastal and riverine flooding will challenge its social, economic and environmental systems. Milder winters and earlier springs are changing ecosystems having an effect on forestry, farming and tourism. With warming temperatures, the effect of urban heat island stress falls upon the most vulnerable, lower economic communities. The effects in these neighborhoods are exacerbated by their proximity to large, impervious paved areas as streets, parking and underdeveloped lots which increase urban heat island effects where little green infrastructure in the form of street trees, or shaded public park space occurs for relief. Within Holyoke, South Holyoke, was identified by City staff, where the most vulnerable communities existed and subsequently where the Studio focused its attention. Additionally, lingering CSO (Combined Sewer Outflow) issues, in Holyoke, from outdated and aging infrastructure, as cited by the EPA, were another major concern for flooding during extreme rain events. Images Top Gateway Cities Massachusetts Middle Climate Impacts Northeast 2050 Bottom Holyoke clean energy: Mt. Tom solar farm 13 The history of Holyoke, as one of the first planned cities in the US, with its papermills that were fueled by hydroelectric power from the Connecticut River, resulted in a prosperous era during the 19th century. The urban morphology generated during this period has left the City with an historic form, a rich architectural inventory plus a system of water canals in a densely developed core. The Studio viewed the city through the lens of landscape as urban infrastructure to increase the public realm experience, build community, character and identity plus improve climate change resilience and sustainability. A designer’s toolkit of methods was introduced to the students. There are many urban landscape potentials that exist for Holyoke and it was felt that envisioning them may help to affect economic development, build a more sustainable future and enhance the city’s urban experience positively. With this historic and social basis as the backdrop, the Studio recognized that Holyoke wishes to keep its existing population and to attract new people through the making of a more livable and equitable city. The Harvard Option Studio approached this goal, of the city, through an elaboration of the public realm to achieve this. Working collectively, the Studio developed both a Land Use Plan and a Public Realm Master Plan that focused on landscape-based design strategies for Holyoke that addressed climate change impacts in 2050. The Public Realm Master Plan engaged large-scale landscape principles that employed resilient, adaptive and mitigative techniques to tackle climate change impacts combined with tangential issues of environmental and economic equity. The result was a roadmap or vision for landscape and planning design that considered urban heat island mitigation, stormwater management, flood resilience, land-uses, economic and community development, transport, and public open space. After establishing the Land Use and Public Realm Master Plan, each student identified a site that addressed urban connectivity, economic, cultural development or identity combining predicted climate impacts and their adaptation or mitigation. Students individually designed by using hand sketches, plan, section, illustrative drawings, physical models and computer renderings that conveyed their ideas. A few projects also were introduced to the use of a new analytical landscape tool, the Pathfinder Carbon Calculator Tool that tested the effectiveness of the proposals in relationship to climate positive design.