Wildlife Town Center: Reimagining Landmark Mall as a Space for Reconnecting with the Urban Flora and Fauna

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Virginia Tech

Urban development typically displaces or extirpates wildlife and decreases habitat. While some species such as the grey squirrel and raccoon adapt well to urban living, other species are less successful due to a lack of habitat or the loss of other species. As urbanization continues, the way that humans develop land and interact with species living on that land must be reevaluated. One development model that has been common in the Washington DC area is multi-use development. This development type accommodates various land uses in a small area. The layout of multi-use developments typically includes a central open area for events surrounded by retail and restaurants on the ground level and apartments and office space above. This creates a community where people have all of their needs for goods, housing, and work met within a small area. Another name for these types of multi-use developments is a Town Center. One of the newest proposed multi-use developments in the Washington DC area is at the former Landmark Mall location. The development aims to revitalize the now closed Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Virginia. As a design in development, the Landmark Mall Redevelopment Plan is a prime opportunity to explore a new concept for development: a wildlife town center. In my experience, typical Town Centers are not designed for wildlife. They are designed for heavy human foot traffic with plant selections and surfaces to withstand such traffic. How might a town center be re-imagined to support wildlife and also provide for humans? Animal Aided Design is one strategy. The process of Animal Aided Design takes a sampling of species that could live in a landscape and provides the critical needs for those species. This thesis takes the process of Animal Aided Design and applies it to the Landmark Mall Redevelopment Plan. While the design focuses on five particular bird species, the intention is to create conditions that will suit many more than those five species and that the site will attract a variety of birds as year-round residents, as well as those passing through during migration or staying for the breeding season. The project creates a novel habitat to help increase the viable living and foraging areas for wildlife and protects wildlife populations, while giving people the opportunity to find joy in their interactions with other species.

Urban Ecology, Landscape Architecture, Animal Aided Design, Biodiversity Loss