Thinking Outside the (Big) Box for Socially Sustainable Development
In the wake of a global pandemic, widespread demands for racial justice, and increasing climate vulnerability, we see an opportunity to repurpose underutilized malls to improve community health, resiliency, and equity. To explore how context, history, and stakeholder priorities can lead to more values-driven and impactful design solutions, we set out to prove this hypothesis through a design competition. We selected an underutilized big-box site near one of our offices that experiences economic, social, and environmental vulnerabilities: the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in South Los Angeles. We challenged integrated design teams to repurpose the site into a multi-use project that drew from diverse expertise across DLR Group, creatively addressing the economic, social, and environmental challenges surrounding the site.
Six teams included members with diverse market expertise, and were required to address climate risk, equity, community needs, and include at least three functions in their design solution. The influence of the myriad of employee owners and their respective fields and backgrounds offered perspectives that expanded the possibilities of how to repurpose the site. Teams began by attending a geographic information system-workshop to engage in critical conversations about the site’s built, human, economic, and ecological context. Armed with contextual information and stakeholder perspectives, teams began envisioning new futures for the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza site. After a rapid two weeks of designing, teams presented at an event to a panel of outside judges.
The results of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Design Competition manifested into a roadmap for engaging the community and design teams in how to transform big-box properties and redevelopments. DLR Group turned the process and lessons learned into an interactive blueprint for this approach. Explore this white paper to see our holistic, research-informed development process that emphasizes community health.