American cities have been struggling with suburban sprawl and urban flight for the last fifty years. With rising costs, lengthening commutes, limited resources and shrinking open land, many residents are reconsidering life outside the city. If communities are to reevaluate their settlement patterns and look to new life in the urban center, to what extent can urban design and architecture re-weave and revive a once a thriving district on the verge of collapse?
Downtown Newport News is strategically located on the Hampton Roads peninsula, between the James River and the C&O railroad, and therefore faces growth limitations. The city has witnessed an urban flight, leaving Newport News abandoned and deteriorating. Instead of an urban metropolis, midtown is now largely used for surface parking for Newport News Shipbuilding, the major industrial employer. By critiquing the city's existing master plan, this thesis will propose to reconnect midtown with the Parkside community to provide public amenity, increased access, and future growth potential, serving as a prototype for development within Newport News and beyond.
Early in its history, the shipyard took on the paternalistic responsibility of housing its employees, while today few housing options remain due to disrepair or abandonment. Consequently the workforce commutes daily, utilizing Newport News solely as a large parking lot, nearly 100 acres. This thesis aims to reintroduce a variety of housing types and appropriate community facilities to meet the needs of the shipyard's employees and others in the community, while investigating ways to weave traditional suburban ideals with needs of a compact city. The premise here is that instead of providing only parking for the shipyard, the city should provide housing options, close to work and other amenities that can result from a dynamic urban waterfront community.