Tag Archives: Urban Design

Turning a Highway into a Public Plaza is Possible


Streets are for people. People on foot, on bike and in motor vehicles. But, at the end of the day they are all just people regardless of what mode they are using. We have forgotten this fact in the planning of our streets. It is so refreshing to see that communities such as Poynton are using the design of their streets and major intersections as the foundational elements for the renewal of their economy.

Now, many of you might be thinking that the above video is about the UK and that shared space is not in the character of our towns and cities here in the States. Plus we love our cars so why would we not put them as top priority. However, in a number of projects over the past five years I’ve advocated for the use of shared space and included shared space in the urban design plans. Alas, only one of them has been built… and its an alley so that doesn’t really count. However, the story in Poynton has convinced me even more that shared space is a key solution for not only traffic safety and efficiency, but economic development.

However, there are several hurtles that these projects will need to jump when being implemented in the States:

  1. Finding an engineer that will put their professional stamp on the project drawings.
  2. Negotiating with the “science” of modern day traffic models to convince the powers that be that shared space can increase traffic efficiency.
  3. Ensuring everyone that these spaces can be designed to accommodate the impaired and as the above video conveys even improve mobility for the disabled.
  4. Figure out how to work around the “if it is not in the guidelines it cannot be built” mentality that so many DOTs are limit by in regards to shaping our built environment.

There are several projects in the States in addition to the one in Providence that I know about that have been able to pull of the impossible (Montgomery, Cambridge, etc.). However, what we all have forgotten is that shared space was the only way streets were built in the U.S. less than 75 years ago. Jason King from Dover Kohl reminded me of this fact when he sent me the image below of Madison Square.

I applaud Ben Hamilton-Bailie and all those involved with implementing Poynton on what was surely a giant hill to climb in order to get this project built. If you know of any shared space project on the drawing boards in your area please do leave a comment with the details. Thanks to Chuck at Strongtowns for sharing this video with me.

Madison SquareShared space in Madison Square, New York

Poynton Shared SpacePoynton Share Space. Image: Hamilton-Bailie Associates

 

Greater Kennedy Plaza Receives $200,000 for Placemaking

The National Endowment for the Arts has award $200,000 to the Greater Kennedy Plaza effort. This is incrediable exciting. I have worked on this placemaking project for close to four years now. The Our Town grant funds will be used for a variety of arts and placemaking related activities:

Providence’s Our Town grant will support the Creative Capital Hub project. The project will use arts programming and new urban design plans to transform Greater Kennedy Plaza from a bus terminal with disconnected parks to a grand plaza and central gathering place for the city’s residents, tourists, and workers. Project activities include developing a master urban design plan to guide capital improvements and programming of artistic performances and festivals at the plaza. The project activities will offer an improved public transit experience for the 71,000 individuals that utilize the Greater Kennedy Plaza daily.

Not too long ago I wrote about the long term vision plan that I helped develop for Kennedy Plaza, and thanks to the support of the NEA planning and urban design for phase one work will be able to move forward. A big thanks needs to go out to Buff Chace, Lynn McCormick, Cliff Wood and the entire grant writing team. I also need to thank Fred and Ethan Kent for encouraging us to be zealous nuts when it comes to transforming a public square.

I am glad to see that a division of our federal government is seeing how investing in the creation of a high quality public realm can effect economic development and livability.

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Life & Urbanism has been neglected the last few months due to a host of new projects. News on those efforts will be posted soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your weekend by visiting one of your city’s great public squares.

Artistry is Missing in Planning Today

Artistry is needed in today’s cities and towns. I am completely sick of statistics and computer models for city planning. Yes, I agree that enough water must be provided, and capacity for waste measured. However, these are not the issues that make cities great. The meaningful relationship of buildings, the vistas and views, and the beauty that enlightens those citizens blessed by being residents of a place built with artistry are minor points in the planning of cities today. The goal of a street must be more then moving cars. You must ask more of your urbanism if a place will be resilient, and even more of it to be competitive. Artistry is a powerful, and forgotten, tool for the building of our cities and towns.

Creating a More Liveable City – Pecha Kucha Presentation

How can a city become more creative? Providence is rebranding itself as the Creative Capital. Sure there are quite a few artists and creative people here already, but shouldn’t this campaign be more then just graphics and websites? Shouldn’t the city be investing in the creation of quality public spaces that attract even more creative people? If we are to truly be the Creative Capital, we need to figure out how we can use our urban landscape better. I presented a few of these ideas at the last Pecha Kucha in Providence.

More on making liveable cities later this weekend. If you are interested in art, sculpture and public art you should check out Gillian Christy’s talk from the same night.

CNU New England Urban Design Workshops

CNU New England’s “301 Urban Design Workshops” start tomorrow in Providence. I will be helping instruct two of the events with Bill Dennis, Don Powers and Rick Chellman. Thanks a bunch to our partners, Maine Association of Planners, 1000 Friends of Connecticut and Grow Smart RI, for helping make the workshops possible.

Providence Downtown Charrette

I am working at the Providence Downtown Charrette all week. There was some lively discussion tonight around transit, activating the riverfront, creating smaller public spaces and crafting a development plan that supports the existing character of downtown. Design Collective is facilitating the charrette.