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Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza: A Historic Step Toward Urban Excellence

Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza. Credit: Coleen Gentles.

The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence has named the Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza as a 2011 Silver Medal recipient. The Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza emerged from a 15-year community effort to shape the form and content of the city’s last major redevelopment area, and is a testament to the power of civic involvement in the realization of great urban spaces.

When Santa Fe’s 50-acre rail yard was threatened by private development in the early 1990s, the city mobilized to purchase and protect the historic site for a local vision. With involvement from over 6,000 community members, a master plan was developed and implemented over the next decade through a unique partnership between the newly created nonprofit Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation (SFRCC) and The Trust for Public Land.

The plan called for redevelopment that would protect the integrity of adjoining historic neighborhoods, retain the railyard’s “authentic, gritty, rugged” architectural quality, encourage alternative modes of transportation, create a pedestrian-oriented environment, and provide significant amounts of park and open space. The project – exclusive of the park and open space – was developed and managed by SFRCC, while the Railyard Park Stewards group was formed to care for the park and provide enhanced programming.

The result is a 12-acre vibrant, multi-use park and public plaza in the heart of Santa Fe. Many dimensions of Santa Fe converge here: history, water use, local agriculture, transportation, education, arts and culture, and community. There are commercial and cultural facilities, the twice-weekly Santa Fe Farmers Market, a pedestrian and bicycle path, and a commuter rail connection for Northern New Mexico within the Railyard’s historic depot. As the “family room” of Santa Fe, the Railyard complements the city’s “living room” in the historic Santa Fe Plaza by providing additional space for arts, festivals, and day-to-day life. The new pedestrian and bicycle path parallels the tracks deep into Santa Fe’s southern neighborhoods – the first of several pathways that will link the park and plaza to districts throughout the city and beyond.

Other 2011 Silver Medal recipients of The Rudy Bruner Award include Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, a community-initiated, 85-acre park that preserves 1.3 miles of riverfront for public use; Civic Space Park, a vitalizing public space in downtown Phoenix, made possible through an innovative town-and-gown partnership; and Gary Comer Youth Center and Gary Comer College Prep, which support education and youth programs that bring new opportunities to Chicago’s Grand Crossing neighborhood. The 2011 Gold Medal recipient is The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center in Dallas, Texas, which provides shelter and services to help clients transition to sustained independence.

Established in 1986 and now in its 13th award cycle, The Rudy Bruner Award has recognized more than 65 projects that demonstrate excellence in urban placemaking. The Award was created by Simeon Bruner, in honor of his late father, to foster a better understanding of the role of architecture in the urban environment and has become one of America’s leading forums for the discussion of issues related to urban architecture, planning, and revitalization. The Rudy Bruner Award has been recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Environmental Design Research Associates.

The Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza, along with three fellow Silver Medalists, will receive a $10,000 prize. The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center in Dallas, this year’s Gold Medal recipient, will receive a $50,000 prize.

Case studies of the 2011 award winners will be published this fall. Past publications are available online here.

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3 Responses

  1. Santa Fe, then Albuquerque’s Rail Yards?

  2. [...] The Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza has received the silver medal Rudy Bruner Award for urban excel…. The 12-acre park is a historically-gritty-meets-modern public space that is pedestrian friendly and a great example of community-led preservation. [...]

  3. [...] recently, Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza was created in response to demand from the community to preserve the historic railyard site near [...]

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