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In a career that spanned the second half of the 20th Century, David A. Wallace contributed significantly to the fields of planning and urban design as a professional, as a builder of communities, and as a teacher. His accomplishments in planning serve as models for the profession. Beginning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1953, under Mayor Joseph S. Clark, Wallace led a citywide urban redevelopment evaluation that resulted in the "Central Urban Renewal Area Report" (CURA). In it he established a new strategy for overall redevelopment that targeted catalytic actions to strengthen communities and downtown. CURA became a model for several other cities, notably Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1957, Wallace moved to the City of Baltimore, in Maryland and headed a team to prepare a plan for the city's ailing central business district, which had not had any major skyscrapers or substantial new construction since the end of the "Roaring 20's". Responding to the need for immediate action, the team designed the 22-acre (89,000 m2) Charles Center, a 33-acre mixed-use project that started the revitalization. Approved by the Baltimore City voters in a bond issue request for $25 million in the municipal elections of November 1958, the concept was strongly supported by two different strong mayors of the city from both political parties: Democrat (from Baltimore's long-standing political dominating machine) Thomas L. J. D'Alesandro, Jr. (1947-1959) and Republican (long a city out-voted minority) Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin, (1943-1947 and 1963-1967). Along with business, commercial and other civic leaders in the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce. Praised by Jane Jacobs in the journal " Architectural Forum" as the "New Heart for Downtown Baltimore", Charles Center also set the stage for Baltimore's later even more famous " Inner Harbor". This re-development of its old waterfront district at Pratt and Light Streets along the former "Basin" at the head of the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River and the Baltimore Harbor, which had gotten shallower over the decades with outdated municipal piers with the larger cargo ships being unable to turn around or use the new containers for bulk cargo that were then coming into vogue. Some newer port facilities had already moved further southeast to the lower river (such as the "Dundalk Marine Terminal" and later "Sea-Girt Terminal") with the new-style of roll-on and roll-off handling of automobiles and large overhead cranes to load and unload ever more larger ships, moored to the side of the docks like cars doing "parallel parking", replacing the old type of "break-cargo", handled by rope nets and using large numbers of stevedores and longshoremen.
Wallace returned to Philadelphia to teach at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Arts (now known as the School of Design since 2003 or "PennDesign") as professor of planning and urban design. In 1963, he co-authored with the noted Ian L. McHarg, the benchmark "Plan for the Green Spring and Worthington Valleys," the 80-square-mile (210 km2) a pleasant semi-rural area of rolling hills and Maryland's famed "horse country" northwest of Baltimore in the surrounding growing suburban Baltimore County. The key idea in the Valleys Plan was the preservation of the valleys as largely undeveloped open space, and the diversion of development to the surrounding plateaus and to the east of the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway (Interstate 83) which led north to Pennsylvania and the area of Hunt Valley. Lewis Mumford cited the plan as "brilliantly conceived… a most important contribution to regional planning." McHarg republished the plan as a chapter in his seminal book "Design with Nature" and wrote in his autobiography, "A Quest for Life", By the 1970s, Wallace was, indisputably, the dominant city planner in the United States." The valleys northwest of Baltimore remain open and generally rural to this day.
When Wallace received the assignment to prepare the later "Inner Harbor Master Plan", also in 1963, he asked McHarg, along with architect/landscape architect William H. Roberts, and architect/urban designer Thomas A. Todd to join him in founding the partnership firm Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd (WMRT). With Wallace as partner in charge, the plan established the basic principles for development. Over the next 25 years Wallace and his partners were the designers of all of the Inner Harbor's infrastructure, promenades, piers, bridges and fountains, and the design controls for all private development. The Inner Harbor has reportedly received more awards than any other comparable project in the United States. By 1980, with the opening of developer and urban visionary James Rouse's "festival marketplaces" of " Harborplace" by his Rouse Company along the now decade-old waterfront promenade, which was modeled after Boston's restoration/renovation project at the old 18th Century " Faneuil Hall" and " Quincy Market", became the urban success story of the 1980s and 90's in America, hailed in magazines, tourist brochures and travel conventions everywhere. It continued to grow, with the expansion to the east of what became known as " Power Plant Live!" in the hulk of the old former street-car power generating plant on East Pratt Street and nearby Market Place to the north by the " Six Flags Over America" entertainment operator in the later 80's, tweaked in the 90's by local developer David Cordish Company
Impressed by the Inner Harbor plan, Mayor John Lindsay and the City of New York retained WMRT in 1965 (with Whittelsey, Conklin and Rossant as local architects) to prepare a master plan for the moribund Lower Manhattan district. Excavation for the World Trade Center's foundations was underway, and the plan was to prepare a response to the WTC's impact. Wallace invented an urban design and growth modeling procedure that evaluated existing conditions, determined the susceptibility-to-change, forecast the probability-of-change, and proposed a design response. The catalytic idea in the Lower Manhattan Plan was to develop a predominantly residential community on land created by filling between the bulkhead and pier head lines at both Hudson and East Rivers, adjacent to the single-use commercial centers. Public walkways would be provided at the water's edge, linked by pedestrian ways to the centers and subway stations. The districts' elevated expressways would be depressed. The Lower Manhattan Plan won the Municipal Art Society of New York's Honor Award and was published in "Progressive Architecture". The plan also established Wallace and his firm as the preeminent downtown planners and urban designers in the US for the next decade. Plans for the central areas of New Orleans, Louisiana, Buffalo, New York; Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville, Florida, Oakland and Los Angeles, California, and Baltimore's MetroCenter followed, all employing Wallace's growth modeling method combined with catalytic projects unique to each.
The Lower Manhattan Plan's (LMP) full public access to the rivers and continuous walkways at the water's edge caught the eye of John Weingart, then director of New Jersey's Division of Coastal Zone Management. Part of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, his division had been assigned regulatory control over a 300-foot (91 m)-deep coastal waterfront, and he saw the LMP concept as applicable. He retained the newly formed Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT), after Ian McHarg left the firm, to prepare the plan and develop design guidelines for the 18-mile (29 km), nine-community facility. Mandated for both public and private developers, to date, 75% of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway is completed or in planning.
David A. Wallace received the "John Harbeson Award" from AIA Philadelphia for distinguished service to the profession in 2002 and the American Planning Association's "Distinguished Leadership Award" in 2003. He was the author of "Urban Planning/My Way", a memoir published by The Planners Press in 2004 that features case studies that examine the evolution of large-scale urban development in the 20th Century.
Throughout his career, Wallace initiated and investigated new ideas through teaching, first at the University of Chicago, then at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught for 17 years. Through the network of his former students, staff, and the many people who have participated in his work as clients and stakeholders, he made a significant contribution to the profession and to the communities where he worked. In all, David Wallace was a true pioneer of planning practice, education, and theory whose work had a direct, significant, and positive impact on the field that endures to this day. This long-term impact can be seen not only in his own extant work, but in the work of others whom he has influenced.
In 2008, both APA Pennsylvania and National APA recognized the importance of Wallace's contributions to the planning profession, as having significantly and positively redirected planning with long-term results, and selected him for the 2009 AICP "National Planning Pioneer Award".
- "Urban Planning/My Way:From Baltimore's Inner Harbor to Lower Manhattan and Beyond" by David A. Wallace, (2004), ISBN 1-884829-89-9