Urban Lab partners seek proposals to re-envision portion of Mason Street

The UniverCity Urban Lab is soliciting forward-thinking, creative designs for the improvement of Mason Street between Mulberry and Laurel streets in Fort Collins, from sidewalk to sidewalk, excluding the railroad easement.

The organization — a partnership among Colorado State University’s Institute for the Built Environment, the City of Fort Collins, the Downtown Development Authority, professionals and citizens — advocates for high-quality urban design and a livable city through community involvement and collaboration. It is challenging architects, artists, urban planners, designers, students and others to submit their ideas to enhance the area for all users, whether they are traveling by car, bus, bicycle or foot.

RRRendering_BLANKCash prizes of $3,000, $1,500 and $500 will be awarded for the top designs. The three-stage design competition, which launched April 22, will accept submissions until July 29. A finalist exhibition and award announcement will take place at Galvanize Fort Collins next fall.

“In a rapidly growing city like Fort Collins, having an inclusive discussion about the built environment is becoming ever more crucial,” said Jane Choi, assistant professor in CSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. “A design competition, and this one in particular, is a critical tool that allows us to have a fruitful dialogue across a wide spectrum of community members, from planners to academics to business leaders to policy makers to ordinary citizens. It invites both far-reaching and practical ideas, promotes excellence in our endeavor to create beautiful solutions for our city’s development, and promotes a culture of shared investment in space.”

Selection process

Three winners will be selected from six finalists by a distinguished panel of judges that includes Hansy Better Barraza, associate professor in the Rhode Island School of Design and principal of Studio Luz Architects; Ed Goodman of Fort Collins design studio Spiral Experiences; Walter Hood, professor of the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design and creative director of Hood Design Studio; and Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell.

Entry fees for teams or individuals are $75 for professionals and $25 for students. The competition aims to inspire bold and visionary design possibilities that create a unique and memorable experience for residents and visitors to the area.

The Urban Lab hosted a series of open houses from 2013 to 2015 seeking public input regarding concerns over the Mason Street Downtown Corridor. Those who submit designs are asked to address the areas identified by citizens during those forums:

  • Lack of pedestrian safety and priority
  • Pollution (e.g. noise, litter, exhaust)
  • Confusion of shared road responsibilities for multi-modal users
  • Lack of local cultural features
  • Lack of engagement with natural systems
  • Aesthetics
  • Need for messaging in the corridor
  • Sense of division between the east and west sides of the street

Other criteria

In addition to these citizen concerns, entrants are encouraged to consider the following criteria:

  • Pedestrian, bicycle, automobile and MAX working in harmony
  • Improved wayfinding
  • Generate a holistic, healthy and regenerative living environment
  • Create a memorable character and identity for the Mason Street Downtown Corridor
  • Celebrate and re-interpret this unique legacy from the early days of Fort Collins
  • Create an urban environment that is ecologically sustainable, socially inclusive and economically vibrant

“Fort Collins grew up alongside the railroad, but the relationship has not always been a comfortable one,” said Scott Carman, principal of local landscape architecture firm C2 Studio. “What was once seen as a lifeblood of the city is now often the focus of residents’ complaints about noise, traffic delays and safety issues. It’s quite unusual for an American city to have a major freight line running right down the middle of one of its downtown thoroughfares, utterly unseparated from the adjacent city streets. But it’s a condition that we hope can become an opportunity for visionary urban design and artistic intervention that creates a more welcoming pedestrian environment, addresses the safety issues inherent in this arrangement, and ideally transforms what many consider to be a nuisance into a unique expression of the culture and heritage for Fort Collins.”

For more information or to register, visit http://urbanlab.colostate.edu.

The Institute for the Built Environment is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. The Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture is in the College of Agricultural Sciences.