Historical Society Disputes Commercial Development Of Public Property

Architecture ExpertThis case involves a park and adjacent plaza set for redevelopment as a luxury mall. The plaza and park in question were not specifically protected under the city’s historical preservation society but were seen as city landmarks by residents. Upon learning that the park and plaza would be redeveloped, the city’s historical society filed suit against the mall developer for infringing on public property. It was alleged by the mall developers that the plaza and park were not tendered as public property according to the zoning authorities and therefore could be purchased and developed. An expert in architecture with specific experience in landscapes and streetscapes was sought to evaluate if the plaza and park in question were designed and built for public use.


Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please explain your background in designing public plazas and landscape/streetscapes.
  • 2. What are some measures to determine if a plaza was designed and built for public use?

Expert Witness Response E-172645

I am an architect with 30+ years of experience in planning museums and cultural facilities within urban environments. I have extensive experience in the restoration and design of park environments, having completed projects for the parks and conservancy departments in a major metropolitan city. I have been involved in the renovation and preservation of historic parks and the restoration and rehabilitation of plazas. I have also been involved in the restoration of one of the oldest libraries in the country. I was the master planner for an art museum located in an urban park. Measures can vary greatly. Some of the most successful urban park spaces have evolved into their current conditions while others have been planned from inception to offer accessible open space suitable for relaxation, conversation, interaction, solitude and generally a complement to the dense urban environment.

Expert Witness Response E-006332

I am a licensed architect, urban planner, and urban designer If this is a private property that was tendered to the zoning authorities as public (open) space in order to obtain added development rights, then this tendering would be public record. If not so tendered and open to the public, then the zoning ordinance would have specified means and methods to design the property for public access. If this property was built after 1992 or renovated since 1992, then the federal guidelines for accessibility would need to have been followed. Access is defined in the building code at chapter 10 and 11. Access is also defined in the zoning ordinance and in the federal accessibility guidelines. Frequently matters like this begin with a licensed design professional who does not design within these guidelines. Even if the developer – property owner – client, has participated in a site plan design decision that is in violation of these codes, laws, and ordinances, there is ample case law to confirm that it is the licensed design professional’s responsibility and liability. There are also many recent cases that confirm that while a landlord and a tenant can enter into a lease assigning access responsibility to one or the other, a plaintiff has the standing to file a complaint against either or both and also either or both’s licensed design professionals.


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