Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning Studio and Student Research and Creative Activity

Publication Date

Fall 2014



Senior Urban Design Studio, Fall 2014 guided by Frank Sleegers, MLA, Dipl. - ING., Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture

Teaching Assistant: Tharyn Nein-Large

Project location: Springfield, MA.

Graphic Editing: John Milos and Adam Fearing; Text and Final Editing: Frank Sleegers

This project was sponsored through the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and the City of Springfield in coordination with the UMass Amherst Design Center.


The work of this urban design studio illustrates visions for the revitalization of Springfield’s downtown riverfront through landscape architecture facing the challenges of a dissecting I-91 highway corridor. Re-Connecting people to the riverfront capi­talizes on the great Connecticut River and will revitalize the city to attract and engage residents and visitors alike. The proposals foster creating spaces in Riverfront Park for multiple activities such as recreation, places for arts and culture, education and enhancement of the River’s ecology. They further promote pedestrian/bicycle arteries to and along the riverfront that are embedded in a livable, mixed-use, diverse neighborhood.

The work explores a community service learning strategy within the framework of an urban design studio with the goal of revitalizing the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, through sustainable design, planning, and engagement with the community.

This studio produced six tangible visions and are based on three scenarios; 1) Scenario 1keeps the highway I-91 on an elevated level above ground; 2) Scenario 2 lowers I-91 down to an on-ground level; 3) Scenario 3 lowers I-91 underground as a completely or partially covered corridor.

All six design visions share the following recommendations and principles to create a livable and sustainable city that engages the riverfront as a place for people and as a landscape that will be crucial for a great future of Springfield’s downtown:

  • Creating spaces in Riverfront Park that are more centered and generous for multiple activities; add floodplains to improve the ecology of the River and educate the public.
  • Creating pedestrian/bicycle arteries from Main Street to the riverfront.
  • Elimination of on- and off- ramps within the core of downtown to prioritize pedestrian movement to the Connecticut River and reduce noise.
  • Eliminate parking structures underneath the highway for visibility of the River.
  • Redesigning East and West Columbus Avenue as pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly corridors through a road diet and speed reduction.
  • Foster mixed-use development along East Columbus Avenue at the edge of the South End Neighborhood.
  • Connect the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway to Forest Park in the south.