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Canalside Grain Elevator Light Display

Buffalo Bayou Park

Youngstown Water Department

Silent Lights

McAllen Public Library

Infrastructure Needs a Little TLC, Too

Maggie Kearns Francis

September 13, 2016

Even infrastructure needs a makeover occasionally, often called revitalization. Revitalized infrastructure is cleaned-up and repurposed so a community can enjoy it again. After all, why destroy and rebuild an old building or green space that, with a little TLC, can become a signature space? Below are five of our favorite revitalization projects.

Buffalo, New York – Canalside Grain Elevator Light Display

The city of Buffalo, once one of the world’s largest grain ports, is creating modern day art from outdated and unused infrastructure. Restoring Buffalo’s Inner and Outer Harbor, the vacant grain elevators situated along the river were revitalized and are now permanent features in a year-round light display.


The display was inspired by kaleidoscopes and the four seasons. Just as the inspirations change, the light display features changes as well. Illuminating every evening from nightfall until 11:00 p.m., this display creates a unique experience and entertainment to be enjoyed by all. 

Houston, Texas – Buffalo Bayou Park

The Buffalo Bayou, one of the main reasons the City of Houston was built in a swampland, is an important part of the city’s history. After the area became overrun with highways and pollutants, the city laid out plans to reclaim the river and the valuable land along its banks. The three-year, $58-million-dollar project has had spectacular results. What once was a polluted dumping ground, has become a major destination and huge green space within the city. The Buffalo Bayou Park contains hiking and bike trails, a skate park, playground, dog park, art displays and statues, and launch sites for kayakers. The city recognized the waste of valuable land lost beneath the highway overpasses and interchanges stretching across the bayou and revitalized it for the surrounding community’s use.

Youngstown, Ohio – Water Department

Youngstown’s original Water Works building was built in the 1870s, but after years of vacancy the historic facility faced demolition. The building, once outfitted for the pumps used to intake and distribute water from the Mahoning River, had become outdated and was eventually replaced by a new water facility. No longer in use, the city of Youngstown wished to save the facility. The city collaborated with ms consultants to refurbish the internal and external building to become the new administrative offices for the Youngstown Water Department. This transformation helped saved the historical facility and gave it a revitalized purpose.

Brooklyn, New York – Silent Lights

The intersection of Park Avenue and Navy Street in northern Fort Greene, Brooklyn, beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), is a noisy and shadowed place pedestrians tend to avoid. Attempting to revitalize this space, the Urban Arts Program of the Department of Transportation partnered with the Brooklyn Arts Council to create an installation for the intersection.


From this partnership, an installation named Silent Lights was born. Silent Lights is made up of five archways filled with 2,400 LEDs and 2 microphones, which react to the noise of the 160,000 daily travelers on the BQE. This interactive space creates an illuminated path for pedestrians crossing beneath the expressway. With some creative, artistic thinking, the loud, dark intersection became a safe, accessible and aesthetically pleasing pathway for pedestrians to use (check out a cool video about the installation here).

McAllen, Texas – McAllen Public Library

When the local McAllen Walmart outgrew its original 123,000-square-foot home and moved down the street to a new facility, community members worried the building would become a vacant shell in their neighborhood. Before that could happen, the city bought the building and made plans to turn it into a public library. Where the old Walmart used to sit is now a public library equipped with computer labs, a café, meeting rooms, an auditorium, and thousands of books. Not only did the city revitalize an unused space, but they also doubled the amount of patrons they attract and are able to serve!


Have you seen some cool infrastructure revitalization lately? Let us know by interacting with us on Facebook or Twitter!


Photo Credits:
Canalside Grain Elevator Light Display
Buffalo Bayou Park
Silent Lights
McAllen Public Library