Vallejo-Mare Island: Living on water and land


Downtown Vallejo and Mare Island have had linked but separate lives since their founding. Both sit on stable uplands that are sliced in two by the Napa River channel. The river occupies a rift valley created by an underlying fault. Mare Island began its life as a naval shipyard in 1853 and grew into a major installation with a large worker population to service the Pacific Fleet until the base closed in 1996. Mare Island’s waterfront has a rich legacy of historic buildings, mainly empty with some notable exceptions and heroically scaled shipyard remnants that remain partially in use.

Vallejo was not originally a waterfront town but over time the downtown has grown westward  with Georgia Street as the functional Main Street that arrives at the current ferry stop. A wide zone of waterfront fill areas exists but is occupied only by underutilized parking areas. The prosperity of downtown Vallejo took a serious hit when the 30,000 jobs at Mare Island were eliminated in 1996. Today it’s a place popular with artists and other pioneering business and creative enterprises. Disadvantaged neighborhoods to the northeast and southeast sit near the waterfront that currently provides them little in terms of daily life. Like most residents of Vallejo, they primarily commute to work places further east that are easier to drive to, finding both clogged highways heading west and limited ferry service a deterrent

We are interested in the combined areas that exist as a series of parallel bands that connect and unite Mare Island and Vallejo across the Napa River. We image a new, connected bicoastal waterfront starting at the east with downtown Vallejo and older neighborhoods and linking to a vibrant, filled Vallejo waterfront zone; the Napa River Channel; a Mare Island waterfront; uplands with old officer quarters and new residential development; coastal wetlands built by accumulated sediment; and the San Pablo Bay to the west. Our proposal is to design the perpendicular transect connecting all these zones utilizing trails, pedestrian corridors, train connections, ferry landings – with the intent to create one unified waterfront on both sides of the Napa River, serving civic, cultural, neighborhood, and ecological needs. 

We’d like to create a place that dramatically connects one stable upland to the other, and inserts a structurally stable and water-oriented hub straddling the channel. This civic hub and centerpiece could build upon the rapidly growing ferry traffic to Vallejo and add numerous public amenities and educational and intermodal programs that could be associated with the ferry landings as a new center in town.  We could imagine this hub the headquarters for an educational and research network, CORES (Center for Resilience, Environment, and Sustainability), devoted to learning, research initiatives, and advocacy devoted to San Pablo Bay – linked by ferries boats to other centers and stations within the Bay network.

We envision a circular structure that could span between the Vallejo and Mare Island ferry stops and link up with green spaces, parks, pedestrian/bike networks on either side of the river. The bridge-building would be higher on the south side to allow ferry boats to go through.  CORES would be built into the “thicker” southern side of the ring and become a prominent gateway above the Napa River. Other local centers and schools such as the California Maritime Academy or Touro University, could also come together here. The ring would be lower on the north side and populated with pedestrian paths, bike paths, and parks that connect to waterfront zones on either side of the River. A drawbridge would allow boats to continue north along the waterway.  “Learning Lagoons” could allow for hands-on educational experiences and enhanced recreation at the same time.  Where the building touches down at the ferry stops, a new type of mixed-use, transit-oriented development would coalesce. Such an enterprise needs a friend in the business of transit policy and its economic planning.

WETA’s ferry network has a special significance in Vallejo. Their emergency planning for post-earthquake recovery includes the need to evacuate the entire city of San Francisco to Vallejo in the space of a few days. As part of regional transit bond campaign, WETA is actively seeking new visions for the social and cultural life ferry landings can bring to cities. It then seems appropriate to put special attention in Vallejo early in the coming growth of water transport.

Concept

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Vallejo-Mare Island

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Common Ground

TLS Landscape Architecture | Exploratorium | Guy Nordenson & Assoc | Michael Maltzan Arch| HR&A Advisors | Sitelab Urban Studio | Lotus Water | Rana Creek | Dr. John Oliver | Richard Hindle, UC Berkeley

TLS Landscape Architecture is a critical landscape architecture and urban design practice rooted in the craft of material, respect for communities, and the spirit of collaboration. At the same time, we are rooted in the Bay Area– we know the land and the culture. Collectively our team deftly bridges global awareness and Bay Area expertise. This is a team of exceptional leaders in their...

TLS Landscape Architecture | Exploratorium | Guy Nordenson & Assoc | Michael Maltzan Arch| HR&A Advisors | Sitelab Urban Studio | Lotus Water | Rana Creek | Dr. John Oliver | Richard Hindle, UC Berkeley

TLS Landscape Architecture is a critical landscape architecture and urban design practice rooted in the craft of material, respect for communities, and the spirit of collaboration. At the same time, we are rooted in the Bay Area– we know the land and the culture. Collectively our team deftly bridges global awareness and Bay Area expertise. This is a team of exceptional leaders in their individual disciplines that share a common commitment to working together on this critical issue.

Our team has a foundational understanding of the Bay Estuary environmental gradients, expertise in urban infrastructure strategies for climate change and coastal adaption, on building socially responsive architecture engendered with authentic community development, economic strategies that engage open space, and a unique scientific and artistic understanding for incrementally making landscapes more legible. It is a collective ethos of practical futurism. Our approach explores the Pacific-Specific, dual dynamic of flooding through incremental sea level rise and the instantaneous seismic risk of these same lands. Titled Common Ground, we investigate the incremental and instantaneous dynamics of the Bay Area Shoreline through both a top-down and bottom-up perspective.

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