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Manhattanville: Rebalancing Power to Create a Shared Neighborhood

In keeping with the studio’s focus on slum clearance, this project questions the narrative of blight and renewal that Columbia used to justify the Manhattanville expansion project. By examining this redevelopment proposal through the lens of Columbia’s historic pattern of displacement and gentrification, we aimed to shed light on the urban fabric and social networks that existed in West Harlem before they were eradicated by Columbia, and the systemic inequities that allowed this erasure to happen. By proposing an alternative model of development, we hoped to find a possible approach that could help to rebalance the unequal power dynamic between Columbia and the Harlem community, and potentially create spaces of interaction and integration between the currently largely segregated communities. These goals were primarily manifested through a new proposed ownership structure that would split the development rights of the entire 18 acre site between Columbia and a new community land trust administered by West Harlem Development Corporation, buildings that would serve both Columbia and West Harlem users by integrating different programs in vertically adjacent and overlapping shared spaces, and an emphasis on multiplying the ground plane to create porous public access through all levels of the development.
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