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Thread: Making a horribly ugly building, slightly less so.

  1. #1
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    Making a horribly ugly building, slightly less so.

    We have a building at the center of our downtown that is currently a Post Office. While it nice to have them downtown, the building that they occupy is essentially a blank brick wall facing the street (the parking lot and entrance are located in the rear).

    The City Manager and I would like to have a meeting with some reps from the Post Office to see if they would be willing to make some minor facade changes to make the building a little more attractive.

    Any suggestions for relatively easy ways to improve the appearance of this building, short of completely reorienting it towards the street and putting the entrance there?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Post Office 002.jpg   Post Office 004.jpg  


  2. #2
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ha!

    A true Brick $#it house
    A difficult task without adding windows I think
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    I've seen worse looking buildings. Adding (real) windows would do it a world of good. How does the rest of the street look? On a broader note, I thought the USPS was pretty close to broke? It wouldn't seem like they would be willing to pay for facade improvements to their buildings while in the midst of possibly cutting back delivery service.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella View post
    I've seen worse looking buildings. Adding (real) windows would do it a world of good. How does the rest of the street look? On a broader note, I thought the USPS was pretty close to broke? It wouldn't seem like they would be willing to pay for facade improvements to their buildings while in the midst of possibly cutting back delivery service.
    I think they're about as broke as most cities here in Michigan but they are in our DDA and could qualify for a facade grant or some other incentive that would help defray the cost.

    The building has looked like this for 30+ years, at this point we would settle for a "greenscreen" in order to have some landscaping to help soften up that butt ugly facade.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Paint it black.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    There's always the old stand-by: trellises with climbing plants, and hanging flower baskets.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    EMU is that in SL? I think its more plain than ugly. Be careful of what you wish for, too many doo dads could turn this into the the cheese-grater look of the future!

    The tough thing about this is that if you move the entrance to the front the folks who use it will scream louder than those who think its starkness deadens main street.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    my Dad used to say "you can't shine $hit" (but you can add a waxy sheen to it...)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    To me, this is screaming for a photoshop contest!

  10. #10
         
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    That's an awful building. We have a couple of those on the edge of our downtown.

    Suggestions:

    1) Windows. Quite expensive, I know. I'm thinking even some fake, painted windows would help. It really can't get much worse.

    2) What about a couple of blade signs attached to the building and projecting outward? Couple that with some ivy growing up the wall, and you might have...well, something.

    You can dress up the building and make it a little prettier, but the real problem, imo, is the roof. That kind of roof does not belong in a downtown. If you could do something about the roof, the rest would be much easier to fix.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    Too much wall surface for anything less than several "real" windows. Painting red brick like that should be a last resort I think You could take about 2 feet of the sidewalk near the building base and construct a black brick planter to contrast all that red. Inside the planter box extending all or a part of the wall distance could be landscaping and the creepy crawly green vines up the walls Three or four large real windows would look much better with the lower brick planter boxes and vines in between, but a person could argue demolition costs aren't going to be much more
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    What's that saying again? "Doctors bury their mistakes, architects plant trees in front of theirs."
    Annoyingly insensitive

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Paint a mural on it. Or a mosaic collage.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    EMU is that in SL? I think its more plain than ugly. Be careful of what you wish for, too many doo dads could turn this into the the cheese-grater look of the future!

    The tough thing about this is that if you move the entrance to the front the folks who use it will scream louder than those who think its starkness deadens main street.
    You got it...that is SL. At this point, it seems like asking for actual windows is a long shot, not to mention changing the entrance which would have the senior citizens raising holy hell. Getting the Post Office to plant some ivy and hang some flower baskets would be a personal victory.

    Not sure how familiar you are with our downtown, but kiddy corner to this beauty is a bunch of cars lined up two deep waiting to get fixed.

    We have a lot of work to do here

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Veloise View post
    Paint a mural on it. Or a mosaic collage.
    I think I am on with the Mural part. I would not paint the bricks but would rather see a false wall attached for the mural to be painted on, something billboard like. Then it could be tailored to coordinate with the rest of the streets appearance.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  16. #16
    I'd remove a couple of courses of the face brick, about 36" or 42" above grade, and replace them with a lighter shade of face brick. This would relieve the wall of its surface monotony and wouldn't be too expensive. You could do something similar to create blind windows if you were inclined.

    I might also work with a lighting consultant to use the can lights in the soffit to create some interesting effects after dark.

    I would avoid plantings -- especially ivy -- as they tend to have negative effects on masonry. No way I'd paint a masonry building that hadn't already been painted.
    Je suis Charlie

  17. #17
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by emu_planner View post
    You got it...that is SL. At this point, it seems like asking for actual windows is a long shot, not to mention changing the entrance which would have the senior citizens raising holy hell. Getting the Post Office to plant some ivy and hang some flower baskets would be a personal victory.

    Not sure how familiar you are with our downtown, but kiddy corner to this beauty is a bunch of cars lined up two deep waiting to get fixed.

    We have a lot of work to do here
    I've seen a lot worse around here, at least ya got some good bones to start from, with the Hotel and the cafe. I'd be more worried about doing some access management in the newer areas.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Bricolage

    Here's why I suggested an artistic installation: Locally we are experiencing the beginning of a competition called ArtPrize, and several installations have already taken place. Many of the items will be removed when things wind down, but this one is permanent.

    http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/in...post&p=1084162

    Read a few more posts to see more photos and comments.

    Yes, that's moi posting the link to the state DEQ application for the several pieces in/adjacent to the river. Funniest bureaucratic stuff I have ever read.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Planning in the East never ceases to amaze me.

    If I went out hunting for pre-established "ugly" buildings here in the west, pleading for the owner (be it govt. or no) to shell out money to "dress up the place" I am liable to get shot, fired, run out of town.

    The Post Office is broke, I cannot get them to put resources into a mere zip code change/adaptation. I cannot image their chagrin when you ask for windows, features, landscaping, etc.

    Good luck with your headhunting. You do have a lot of work to do. Just don't bring more public animosity against the profession.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    You could take about 2 feet of the sidewalk near the building base and construct a black brick planter to contrast all that red....
    As I look at the sidewalk in the photo, it seems to me that there may have been such a planter at one time (looks like that area of sidewalk closest to the building is different than the rest)..something —maybe a street widening—caused it to be removed.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    The Post Office is broke, I cannot get them to put resources into a mere zip code change/adaptation. I cannot image their chagrin when you ask for windows, features, landscaping, etc.

    Good luck with your headhunting. You do have a lot of work to do. Just don't bring more public animosity against the profession.
    I think you may have missed this post:

    Quote Originally posted by emu_planner View post
    I think they're about as broke as most cities here in Michigan but they are in our DDA and could qualify for a facade grant or some other incentive that would help defray the cost.
    Every situation is unique. Where rugged individualists live in one place, community design issues are important in another. Doesn't mean either is right or wrong. It just is.
    Je suis Charlie

  22. #22
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Queen B View post
    I think I am on with the Mural part. I would not paint the bricks but would rather see a false wall attached for the mural to be painted on, something billboard like. Then it could be tailored to coordinate with the rest of the streets appearance.
    I agree. I would have different organizations paint murals on large panels and fasten the panels to the blank wall in a window-like pattern. You could even hang them from decorative chains from the overhang to minimize impacts to the brick facade. A common theme and color scheme should run through all of the panels.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    I think you will get nowhere asking the Post Office to pay for any improvements themselves. The best you can probably do is for them to allow the City to do something along their wall, be it plantings or murals. We had some exposed backs of buildings along an alley in our downtown that backed up to a heavily used and visible parking lot, so a local artist painted the backs of the buildings to look like a realistic row of french shopfronts complete with "Patisseries" and "Chocolatiers". It looks great and very quaint. Certainly a heck of a lot better than the old ugly rear facades that used to be there.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  24. #24
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    I think you may have missed this post:

    Every situation is unique. Where rugged individualists live in one place, community design issues are important in another. Doesn't mean either is right or wrong. It just is.
    Yes, my friend, I agree that my situation in the rural High Plains is different from most, BUT, the meat of the matter is the CITY taking initiative to go after things they deem as ugly. This can cause nothing but trouble and breed distrust as to whom the city supports.
    This is coming from a zoning administrator (GIS tech, Planner, Plow boy, psychotic drifter wannabe, dreamer) who enforces things like this, but I wait until a complaint is filed. I am not pro-active in looking around town for violations as a matter of time for the most part, but also as a matter of honor. Some may call me a lazy planner, a traitor to the cause, but I like to think of myself as a Man of the People, catching flies with the sweetest of honey, offering service and assistance with a smile and a hearty hand shake. I am the savior of the profession out west and I am making a difference.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  25. #25
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    At least it is brick. Here in the south the suburban motif seems to be tan stucco or drivet (sp) with no windows, murals, or nice cornices and accents. Cheaper is better here in Nashville.

    I credit the Nashville forumers on urbanplanet.org and nashvillecharrette.com who have helped stop some hideous design in the urban core. One in particular was a business owner who wanted to do a version of the Hard Rock Cafe, only with a country music theme. The outside decor was to have giant paintings of 45 rpm records on the facade. It was to have the same "wood" material as one would find at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.The businessman was so flooded with email and postal letter mail on how bad the design was that he never opened the restaurant. He wrote a letter, that was published on one of the forums, to the city abandoning the project due to community disapproval of the project.

    Sometimes it takes community activism to get business owners and some developers to see what is really going on with their projects. Rampant and even aggressive community actvism stoped the May Town Center development in Nashville that would have taken rural Bells Bend and turned it from a wetland where centuries of birds roosted to a second downtown and it was defeated heavily with liberals, progressives and even some conservatives who values responsible and sustainable design over suburban office sprawl and dozens of buildings with blank walls and ugly facades that were amateurish and unprofessional.

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