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Vermillion Rise Mega Park

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What do you do with 28.5 square km of land annexed in the 40’s by the US military to mass-produce weapons for one of the greatest conflicts known in history? To many within the tight-knit communities of Vermilion County, Indiana, this query holds significant value. In 1941, homes, farms, churches and a school were displaced in light of the turmoil and conflicts of WWII; leaving families who thought they had established roots with no other choice but to move. The result was our Army’s occupation and establishment of the Newport Chemical Depot that stood both operational and static for more than 60 years until named on the list for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2005. The ramifications of this stronghold coupled with the upswing in large scale cropping practices has caused a great strain to the economic viability of the surrounding communities.
The Newport Chemical Depot was first known as the Wabash River Ordnance Works and was originally made up of 8,800 hectares. The nearby water from Wabash River was a vast and valuable resource for the Army that can still provide up to 378,541 kiloliters of water a day to the site. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the site became home to the manufacturing of Royal Demolitions Explosives (RDX), all the heavy water for the Manhattan Project, TNT during the Vietnam Conflict and all of the VX Nerve Agent for the US defense stockpile. In addition to the production of VX, Newport safely stored the VX (around 1,135 kiloliters) until its deconstruction and elimination completed on August 8th, 2008. This history of manufacturing led Newport Chemical Depot to become the largest employer in Vermillion County employing over 1,000 workers and over 2,000 during the VX production. This is significant to a county that has a decreasing population of 16,000.
The Newport Chemical Depot encompasses a unique composition of vast rural forested wetland areas, military relics, manufacturing and transportation infrastructure, and access to ample amounts of resources; water, gas and electricity. The site is capable of accommodating large companies in need of 400 plus hectares of land to meet their manufacturing needs while managing and restoring the natural environment that is home to an array of natural systems, wildlife and the endangered Indiana bat. Ideal industries include alternative energy, food production, research and educational sectors. These two sectors, natural and economic, have the potential to equally share and coexist throughout the entire site.
The concept of Reuse was applied to visualize a master plan that responds to a local, regional and global context. By reusing the infrastructure left behind, the site responds to sustainable practices and causes less stress to existing natural systems. In addition to the host of program the site will provide, two of the biggest opportunities for reuse are found with the remnants of the smokeless powder plant and the magazine bunkers. The smokeless powder plant remnants, known as the bookends, are 44 massive concrete structures aligned in three rows covering 9 hectares. These structures were the stem walls and foundations of structures never completed in 1942. The second are 52 magazine bunkers that were used to store explosives. Earth covered on three sides for safety, they are staggered in layout and encompass 92 hectares.
With nature already reclaiming the area, the bookends provide the perfect infrastructure for a park. Practically located at the center of the site and adjacent to the proposed conference and support facilities, these structures can now be the foundation to support an array of activities. Activities include a sculpture park, museum, a tactical obstacle coarse, open space, viewing platforms, running-biking-walking trails and a drive-in movie theatre. The park itself will also serve as the backdrop to a proposed amphitheatre.
The Magazines harness a more serene objective. Located within the confines of wetland forested areas and agricultural cropping practices, the potential here lends itself to lodging and retreats. These bunkers can be added to the list of lodging alternatives to compliment the proposed hotel’s lodging potential along the commercial avenue and the proposed University research facilities. Potential users are researchers, travelers, biking and hiking enthusiasts, hunters, and business related affiliates.
After being officially decommissioned in July 2010, the 2,895 hectares of site today resides with one owner and is currently known as Vermillion Rise Mega Park. The site has since been evaluated and remediated by specialty outfits and is nearly ready to move forward with a reuse plan that will split the site in two between the natural and built environment. This 50/50 plan responds to the pressing needs of a community that is affected by unemployment and simultaneously respects their natural environment. Today, Vermillion Rise is tackling this obstacle with the support of our government, major employers, local and state utility outfits, CSX Railroad, the Department of Natural Resources and most importantly the local communities that have long awaited the revival, and re-integration of this decommissioned military base.
Said best by Jack Fenoglio, president of the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority, “Our plan demonstrates that we can attract investment and create jobs, while protecting our environment.”

Location

Newport 47854
United States

Competition Details

  • Name: Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]Restricted Access
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: May 01 2012
  • Submission Deadline: June 01 2012
  • Entry Fee: $50 USD Professionals , $25 USD Students , $0 USD Dues paying Architecture for Humanity Chapter members , $0 USD Developing Nations
  • Award: More than $5,000 in prizes
  • Status: Concluded

The competition entry ID for this project is 13455.

Project Details

NAME: Vermillion Rise Mega Park
PROJECT LEAD: Devin Cejas
LOCATION: Newport 47854, United States
START DATE: April 13, 2012
CURRENT PHASE: Schematic Design
SIZE: 7155 acres
PROJECT TYPE: Landscapes/Parks/Outdoor Spaces
DESIGNER: Andres Pineda
, Devin Cejas
BENEFICIARIES: Vermillion County, Indiana
NUMBER OF BENEFICIARIES: 1
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: Wildlife + Environmental Systems + Research

About Our Partners

Sponsorship Needed We're continuing our recruitment of individuals and organizations who are ready to accept the mission of sponsoring the complex yet rewarding task of successfully transforming previously conflicted sites into civic spaces. If you are ready to enlist your financial resources in service of this greater good, please call us at 415.963.3511 or contact us.