AREA: 0.8 acres (34857.9 sq ft) 

Located at the cross section of 11th Ave and 4th Street, the old Heritage Plaza is one of the most important public gathering space in downtown Altoona. Altoona is known for its rail history. Back in the 19th century, 11th Ave is one of the most prosperous cultural and business hubs for Altoona. However, with the recession of the rail industry, the business in downtown also declined. The mural on site suggests the memory and respect of Altoona residents to their history.      


History is indeed important for Altoona, but keep retrospecting to its golden past will not bring the city to its future development. According to the news, Allegheny Ballet company and PSU Altoona art center will move to 11th Ave. While facing the future development of revitalizing 11th Ave as the city cultural center, this project shows the respect to Altoona’s train history and at the same time maximizes the flexibility for the future requirement. Combing both modern and nostalgia design elements, the new design tries to bring the present and future together.

This design consists of two main areas, the urban plaza area and the train garden area, which reveals the concept of bringing past and future together. The primary strip pattern mimics the rail track and the direction of the street grid in the old downtown Altoona. It provides the basis for the detail designs such as paving, planting area, and site furniture, and helps to unify the whole space. 


The urban plaza area corresponds to the present and future so it provides the modern urban landscape experience. With the open and flexible design, this area provides the opportunity for large-scale public events such as concert, festival, movie night, farmers marker and other performances. 

The train garden area retrospects to the past. Compare with the urban plaza, it is more enclosed to provide visitors with intimate resting spaces. In the train garden, multiple small areas are defined with different activities. While vegetations, fencing walls and seeing areas provide the division of space, they also create a visual barrier to the busy expressway on the north side. Also, as the garden is at the lower elevation, the vegetation and the permeable paving material will help infiltrate water runoff from the whole site. The stormwater treatment designs allow 100% infiltration during the 10-year storm and 70%  during the 50-year storm.

Possible activities and their related design elements are listed above in the matrix. This matrix is based on the result of a public survey. According to the survey, the top ten keywords of public expectation for the heritage plaza is “sociable”, “landscape elements”, “evening experience“, “inviting”, “fun”, “safe”, “attractive”,  “events“, “sittable”, and “clean”.

The survey result presents a clear direction for the design to create a plaza that accommodates live music and other types of entertainment. Besides the desire for the entertainment venue, food and recreational elements are popular. Visually aesthetic landscape features and the seating are also mentioned as the top demands.