Student design proposals come to life in Lockport

Mixed-use concepts for vacant warehouse are part of successful $10 million grant to city

Harrison Place in Lockport, NY

Harrison Place is an industrial complex in Lockport and the subject of a recent urban planning studio on mixed-use redevelopment. Photo courtesy of Greater Lockport Development Corp.

by Rachel Teaman

Published November 5, 2018

“We came to UB in search of big ideas. We wanted to think about the design and programming of Harrison Place, as well as its context as a gateway building to downtown."
Brian Smith (MUP '14), President, Greater Lockport Development Corp.

Student proposals for the reuse of a former manufacturing complex in the heart of Lockport could be implemented as part of a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded to the city by New York State.

Developed through a spring 2018 urban planning studio, the concepts present options for the adaptive reuse of Harrison Place, the former manufacturing facility for automotive parts-maker Harrison Radiator.

The hulking facility – spanning 480,000 square feet across five buildings – sat vacant for years after Harrison Radiator moved its operation to another facility in Lockport in the late 1980s. Today, however, the site is being viewed as a critical connector between downtown Lockport and surrounding residential neighborhoods. The historic canal city has seen a boost of reinvestment in recent years, including the restoration of its Flight of Five Locks and the emergence of tourism amenities and microenterprise developments in the downtown corridor.

Leveraging the buildings’ open floor plans and flexible space, site owner Greater Lockport Development Corp. has found success in developing the space as an incubator for start-ups. Over the past five years, over 50 small businesses have taken occupancy of most of one building, bringing with them more than 250 employees.

Yet city officials needed a bigger vision for the site. Brian Smith, president of the GLDC and a 2014 graduate of UB’s Master of Urban Planning program, turned to his alma mater and former professor Harry Warren, to conceive the studio.

Final review of the studio with community members in attendance

Community leaders from Lockport, including the city's head of planning and economic development, Brian Smith (second from right), provided input throughout the project and participated in the final review. Photo by Maryanne Schultz

 “We came to UB in search of big ideas,” says Smith, who is also director of planning and development for the City of Lockport. “We wanted to think about the design and programming of Harrison Place, as well as its context as a gateway building to downtown, and as a connector to the surrounding residential neighborhoods.”

Working under the direction of Warren, who has since left UB, students conducted site visits and reviewed economic and market research to inform their proposals. Reviews and consultation with Smith and other Lockport business and community leaders refined concepts into master plans for the site.

The studio’s final report is packed with design ideas that tap the site’s potential for mixed-use development with live-work-play appeal. In addition to concepts for loft apartments, office space and street-level retail, students offered strategies to improve the accessibility and walkability of the site, convert its expansive roofs into green space and solar arrays, and generate new public space for the community.

Several of those ideas could go forward as part of the $10 million state grant, which will inject new resources into downtown Lockport development efforts, from streetscape improvements to capital projects like Harrison Place. Selected as the Western New York regional winner, Lockport was one of 10 communities across the state to receive the award.

Smith, who wrote the student’s recommendations in the final proposal, says the studio’s concepts have brought new energy to the project. “Working with the studio was a refreshing exercise that brought a new perspective with modern planning and architecture philosophies to our project.

“The end result was quality research, powerful visuals, and a list of recommended action items that we are now taking steps to implement,” he added, noting that the city has already begun working with property manager Mancuso Business Development Group to prioritize projects for implementation. 

Thomas Mancuso, who also advised the student projects throughout the semester, said he left the final review last spring inspired and ready to get to work. “If you go back to visit Lockport five years from now, you are going to see a lot of different things.”

Students focused their design proposals on the site’s most captivating space – Building 3 – which features a glass-enclosed atrium with three-story heights and strong potential for a mix of residential, office and retail uses.

Three teams of students each presented their master plan concept with preliminary sketches, detailed floor plans and space programs, and recommendations for building and site design.

Harrison Complex

Harrison Complex

Harrison Complex: Through improved pathways and bike-sharing stations, and added bust stops, this project aims to connect the current site to the surrounding neighborhoods and the city’s expanding greenway system. Low-cost landscape improvements would open the space to events, with street-level programming to offer canal-heritage themed activities, such as a Maritime center and historic boat displays, a theatre, and food market. A rooftop brewery and greenspace above Building 3 would connect to the heritage theme of the site through copper brewing kettles and themed seating. A solar array atop Building 3 would generate energy for the site.

Harrison Gardens

Harrison Gardens

Harrison Gardens: Emphasizing sustainable development, Harrison Gardens proposes to maximize the site’s green infrastructure and minimize its environmental impact. First-phase improvements include bike-racks, new street lighting and pathways connecting the site to the Erie Canal Heritage Trail, a community garden and event space. The alleyway between Buildings 2 and 3 would feature street-level retail with apartments and a startup business center on the floors above. Ecofriendly treatments include cisterns and bioswales throughout the site, a rooftop solar array, the creation of a new glassed-in atrium in Building 2, and the use of bricks from select site demolition to pave the parking lot and alleyway.

LifePort

LifePort

LifePort: A mixed-use destination for millennials, LifePort would provide flexible office space for start-up companies and mix of apartment types. Recreational and lifestyle amenities including a food market, fitness center, restaurants, a brewery and gallery space would complete the live-work-play environment. Site residents and guests can retreat to the roof for lush walking paths, a green “maze,” and seating areas. Buildings 2 and 3 would be connected by a glass walkway, offering views of a refurbished water tower on the site and the neighborhoods and cityscape beyond