2017 IMCL Honor Award Built Project – Sundance Square Plaza, Fort Forth, Texas

Blog article compiled from press releases from International Making Cities Livable Awards and Sundance Square, as well as material supplied by David M. Schwarz Architects

The award-winning Sundance Square plaza. The square is large (approximately 200’ x 300’  - 55,000 square feet), framed by 5 – 12 story buildings. Credit: Sundance Square

The award-winning Sundance Square plaza. The square is large (approximately 200’ x 300’  - 55,000 square feet), framed by 5 – 12 story buildings. Credit: Sundance Square

Completed in November 2013,  the  Sundance Square Plaza is the primary public outdoor gathering space in downtown Fort Worth. The design of this space addresses and expresses the shared cultural values and aspirations of the Fort Worth community and fulfills the complex tasks of accommodating large events as well as day- to-day use of the plaza that calls for a more intimate scale. The plaza has become an amenity, both functionally and aesthetically, for the entire surrounding Sundance Square neighborhood. 

Awards

In October 2017, the International Making Cities Livable Awards Competition Jury selected Sundance Square to receive the IMCL Honor Award for “Excellence in creating Public Places for Community, Democratic Dialogue, Health & Equity at the recent 54th IMCL Conference in Santa Fe, NM. The Sundance Square was also named the recipient of a 2014 Downtown Pinnacle Award by the International Downtown Association.

Turning downtown parking lots into a central plaza

In 1988, the architects were commissioned to create a development plan for downtown Fort Worth, focusing on a 36-block pedestrian core. The downtown area’s grid was littered with pedestrian barriers, multi-block parking garages and unpleasant street edges created by office buildings set back a considerable way from the sidewalk. A central plaza was sited in that original development plan over 25 years ago but it was not constructed and completed until 2013.

Partners on the Project

  • Michael Vergason Landscape Architects – landscape architect
  • Fluidity Design Consultants – water features
  • David M Schwarz Architects, Inc. – project designer
  • The Projects Group – project manager
  • Bennett Benner Pettit, Planners + Architects – architect of record
  • The Beck Group – construction
The plaza was formerly occupied by two surface parking lots. Photo provided by David M. Schwarz Architects.

The plaza was formerly occupied by two surface parking lots. Photo provided by David M. Schwarz Architects.

Photo of the original parking lots. Provided by David M. Schwarz Architects.

Photo of the original parking lots. Provided by David M. Schwarz Architects.

Sundance Square, a plaza named after the surrounding neighborhood, was considered a critical element to creating a truly walkable and inviting urban center. The parcel on which the 55,000 SF plaza was constructed was formerly occupied by two surface parking lots on either side of Main Street.

It took 18 months of constructions to turn the parking lots into the plaza with completion in November 2013. The portion of street that bisects the site was permanently closed to accommodate the programmatic demands of the space and made the area more pedestrian friendly. Twelve curb extensions allow the plaza to interact with the rest of downtown and improves accessibility for pedestrians.

The square is book-ended by Class-A office buildings, The Commerce Building and The Westbrook, with ground-level retail and restaurants both on the square and the streets the two buildings face.

Site plan for the Sundance Square Plaza Project. Provided by David M. Schwarz Architects

Site plan for the Sundance Square Plaza Project. Provided by David M. Schwarz Architects

Site plan for the Sundance Square Plaza Project. Provided by David M. Schwarz Architects

Site plan for the Sundance Square Plaza Project. Provided by David M. Schwarz Architects

An outdoor gathering space

Today the plaza square is surrounded by museums, galleries, restaurants, and night clubs; furnished with a forest of 216 fountain jets, a wave wall fountain, a rentable pavilion and terrace, four 40’ x 40’ umbrellas, and a stage; and thoroughly programed for concerts, theater, art festivals, and movies. The square is large (approximately 200’ x 300’  - 55,000 square feet), framed by 5 – 12 story buildings. 

The two existing historic buildings on these blocks, the Jett Building and the Land Title Building, were left largely untouched and were incorporated into the overall development of the site.

Two new buildings were designed to book-end the Plaza: a building on the west side of the Plaza sits on Houston Street; a building on the east side is on Commerce Street. Both buildings include ground-level retail with office space above.  The location, size and design of the new buildings accomplished several goals: enhance the vibrant street-level retail along Commerce, Houston, 3rd and 4th Streets; provide appropriate physical enclosure for a civic plaza commensurate to similar spaces in America’s top tier cities; provide class A office building footprints with location, amenities and views that will appeal to businesses looking to locate in downtown Fort Worth; and continue the tradition of making buildings that are both timeless and beautiful places for the city of Fort Worth. Materials were chosen to be extremely durable, timeless and capable of being manufactured or fabricated locally.

Standing 32 feet tall, four enormous umbrellas are a focal point in the plaza. According to a Sundance Square press release, one umbrella covers an area of 40 feet by 40 feet for a total coverage of more than 6,000 square feet in the 55,000 square foot plaza. The umbrellas create translucent shading during the day and at night are transformed into a stunning canopy with LED lights.Credit: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

Standing 32 feet tall, four enormous umbrellas are a focal point in the plaza. According to a Sundance Square press release, one umbrella covers an area of 40 feet by 40 feet for a total coverage of more than 6,000 square feet in the 55,000 square foot plaza. The umbrellas create translucent shading during the day and at night are transformed into a stunning canopy with LED lights.Credit: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

On the west side of the plaza is a 216-jetted fountain that are flush with the surface and at night are lit with white LED lights.  Situated on the north side of the plaza, the 1,500-square-foot  pavilion has a beautiful dome green roof and bi-fold movable glass doors. Credit: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

On the west side of the plaza is a 216-jetted fountain that are flush with the surface and at night are lit with white LED lights.  Situated on the north side of the plaza, the 1,500-square-foot  pavilion has a beautiful dome green roof and bi-fold movable glass doors. Credit: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

At night LED lights create a magical look. Credit: Sundance Square

At night LED lights create a magical look. Credit: Sundance Square

A multi-purpose stage anchors the plaza’s west end in front of The Westbrook Building and the iconic clock tower. Permanent stage lighting and audiovisual equipment are positioned within the plaza for maximum entertainment capabilities.The stage is a showcase for live music, outdoor movies, and other performances. Credit: Sundance Square.

A multi-purpose stage anchors the plaza’s west end in front of The Westbrook Building and the iconic clock tower. Permanent stage lighting and audiovisual equipment are positioned within the plaza for maximum entertainment capabilities.The stage is a showcase for live music, outdoor movies, and other performances. Credit: Sundance Square.


ABOUT SUNDANCE SQUARE

Sundance Square is a vibrant 35-block commercial, residential, entertainment and retail district where people work, live, shop and dine among beautiful landscaping, red-brick streets and turn-of-the-century buildings. The multi-use development attracts more than 10 million visitors each year.  More information about Sundance Square can be found at www.sundancesquare.com.


Published in November 2017

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