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Planning the Fairmount Corridor at Upham's Corner - The Kroc Center

Posted: June 7, 2012     Nancy J Conrad Click here to Add Comment
Project Links
The PPS WorkshopKroc Center
Upham's Corner Train Station
Dudley Terrace
Nonquit Green
Leon Building
Local Links
About the Kroc Center
PPS Objectives
Asset to the Community?
Viewed thru a PPS Lens

Crowning glory of Upham's Corner but also a bit daunting and fortress like in its appearance.  At least that is what many of the PPS participants said.

How can we open up that space?  How can it seem less like a gaited community?  How does the surrounding community feel about the Kroc Center?  Is it open and welcoming to the whole of Upham's Corner or only to those who opt to pay for entry?

Photos indeed show a clean angular look bringing modernity to Upham's Corner.  They also demonstrate the Kroc Center's fortress - almost prison-like feel from the basketball court to the locked and guarded soccer field and parking lot.  ACCESS DENIED!  

How can we as a community engage with the Kroc Center to "open" the space to the community?

Kroc CenterThe Kroc Center opened in early April 2011 to great fanfare - both for the Salvation Army who own and operate the facility and for the many politicians who supported the development through years of community effort. Over this las year, the site has stabilized and membership is growing.  More programs are available, some membership prices have come down and a number of free programs are being made available.

Still the first (very first) public space to be talked about by both Project for Public Spaces facilitators as well as workshop attendees was the Kroc Center.  "Not a very good building" said one of the facilitators, to which Jeanne Dubois - Dorchester Bay - said:  "I didn't say that.  I said it's like a fortress."  Same thing, he remarked. 

Hmmm.  Is that a bias against a building so hard and long in the making or is that a realistic comment from the lens of an outsider and a specialist who looks at communities and asks:  Are they (public spaces) healthy?  Are they open and inviting?  Are the spaces encouraging the creation of centers for activity and social interaction?

The Kroc Center was the primary focal point for the PPS group assigned to the west side of the tracks, down Dudley Street to just past the Kroc Center. 

Examine this section of Dudley Street, they were told. How does it feel?  Open, inviting?  Safe?  Are there any disconnects or buildings / public spaces that do not contribute effectively to creating community?  What simple, lighter, quicker, cheaper changes could be made to create gathering spots for community activities and to change the overall feel?

Note the following:  Mary Hannon Park, diagonally across from the Kroc Center, is wide open and known for its criminal activity, this in comparison to the Kroc Center which is LOCKED even to the extent of the basketball court and the soccer field.  As a matter of fact, the residents who were enjoying the Nonquit Green spoke of the Green's safe space and noted that "the park down the street" (Mary Hannon) was dangerous.
  • Is the Kroc Center effectively sealing itself from what is unsafe in the neighborhood? 
  • Is this isolation further increasing the sense of discrimination which (at least in part) the Kroc Center was intended to correct?
Is the Kroc Center an asset to the community?  Has it transformed a marginal section of Dudley Street and attracted people to a better, healthier lifestyle?  The answer is yes.

Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
Photo while the Kroc Center was under construction (2009).  Notice the Dudley Village
apartment building with the gray section on top.
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
Today's look at the same site (2012).  Notice how well the colors
 of the Kroc Center blend with the apartment building.
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
This photo shows the modern lines of the Kroc Center with rounded edges matching the curve of the street. 
Visually, the building flows down towards the Upham's Corner station, where a train can be seen  en route.

Walking down Dudley Street, what (we were asked to pose as part of the PPS exercise) do I encounter that draws me to a location, to a public space, that welcomes, offers functionality and creates a center?  Are there any voids / disconnects and what can be done to ameliorate their effect? 

Note:  Effective public spaces are meant to draw our attention to something interesting.  A storefront, a park with people playing, a train station with vendors selling.  A locked driveway or empty field, a dark alley or a boarded up building, a building with windows that visually occlude the inside - all of these fail to attract or, worse, repel.

Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
This photo shows the attractive color and lines of the Kroc Center broken by the open space created by the street and
the train station with the Leon Buiding (clearly boarded up) looming off to the right. Not aesthetic.  Not inviting.

Entry to the Kroc Center

What about entry to the Kroc Center?  Is it inviting?  Some residents have commented that they were unable to locate the entryway, that there was no signage indicating where to enter.  The existence of so many walls of look-alike glass windows without a visual cue regarding the entryway may also be contributing to this experience. 

Notice the entryway below.  Modern, angular lines that rise in the direction of the rounded section on which the cross is displayed.  The blue and rust colors are calming and complimentary.  Yet the effect is cold steel.  What would happen if the SA were to put out a few pots of colorful flowers?  Would that change the sense of invitation?  Would that make any difference to the community?  What about chairs as in an outdoor cafe?  Instead of looking like a corporate office to passersby, perhaps the entryway would look attractive and appealing. Maybe more people would join the Kroc Center.

Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
The cross is clearly displayed but
not overwhelming
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
Gray untextured patio blocks, flat gray metalic roof overhangs
and no flowers anywhere contribute to a look of cold steel.
The Kroc Center under construction
Intersection of Clifton and Dudley Streets in 2009
while construction work was underway. 
Completed building shown to the right.
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
Cross under the tracks from Upham's Corner and you are
greeted by a prominent building that almost looks like a
curled up sleeping cat.  Is this the Kroc Center entrance?
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
Walk around in back to find the "prison" - a large angular
building with small lookout windows, a basketball court for the
inmates surrounded by a black chain link fence and, below,
a locked gate to keep visitors out. Is this the entrance?
The soccer field appears to be professionally built and in pristine condition.  Both the soccer field and adjacent parking lot are tightly secured, requiring a keycard for entry.
  • Does anyone use the soccer field? 
  • The residents who live close by, are they allowed to use it? 
  • How do the residents who live next door feel about the soccer field? 
  • Is it inviting?  Is it adding to the quality of their lives? Is that even an issue? 

Kroc Center soccer field
Soccer field under construction viewed
from Magnolia Street
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
Completed soccer field - same view.  A great improvement in
the view but it's all locked up.  Friendly?  Inviting?
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
The soccer field is new and beautifully maintained.
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
The soccer field and the adjacent parking lot is tightly controlled
by a security gate.
Project for Public Spaces - the Kroc CenterProject for Public Spaces - the Kroc Center
The soccer field is picture perfect inside the fence, but not so
on the outside. How much effort would it take for the maintenance crew,
after they have cut the grass on the inside, to cut down the
weeds on the outside?  Or is that not their responsibility?

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