Downtown design guidelines: Never implemented?

While looking for information to bolster my previous post about the new downtown Subway restaurant, I came across the Fort Wayne Downtown Design Guidelines (PDF).

At the bottom of the cover, it says, “Proposed Effective Date: Jan. 5, 2004.” But it doesn’t seem it was ever implemented. Can anyone point me to a short history and status report about this document?

I haven’t read it through, but I did find the following that could have applied to the site plan of the downtown Subway:

Building location, height, form and scale

In order to protect the unique character of the central downtown, new buildings and façade renovations of existing buildings should relate in similarity of scale, height, and configuration to nearby buildings. Adopted development standards for setbacks, building height, form and scale should provide for flexibility in order to accomplish this goal.

1. Location requirements.

In order to develop and maintain a pedestrian-friendly environment, the following standards should be applied to development within the central downtown area:

a. Buildings should be built at the edge of the public right of way to the greatest extent possible. However, in areas where a setback has been established new buildings should conform to the established setback for the area.

b. In infill situations, buildings should occupy the entire lot frontage.

If these design guidelines had been in place, maybe everyone could have been happier about this restaurant.

A suburban Subway on an urban street

“Urbanism starts with the location of the parking lot.” — David Sucher

When the downtown Fort Wayne Subway shop was torn down to make way for Harrison Square, it was a safe bet that it would rebuilt nearby.

And with the recent emphasis on downtown renewal, this property at the southeast corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Clinton Street was a prime location for a great, urban-looking business.

Alas, we have this suburban Subway, smack in the middle of downtown.

Oh, I’m sure it’ll be a great-looking building, and far better looking than its previous one. But an opportunity was wasted, and I don’t know why the city didn’t make the case for Subway to locate its restaurant on the property in a way that reflected its urban setting.

In other words, to make this Subway’s site plan more urban, move the building to the corner and the parking around the back.

Here’s an admittedly simple graphic by David Sucher that shows what I’m talking about:

If the Subway had been located right on the corner, downtown Fort Wayne would have taken a step toward being a more walkable neighborhood. It’s too bad that this simple idea wasn’t considered before the building went up.

The happy city

How about some urban policies that are focused not only on economics, but on happiness?

An article in enRoute magazine opens with a Paris street that’s been buried in sand and turned into a city beach. And that’s not all:

All through the city, pavement has been wrested away from private cars and converted into sandboxes, plazas, dance floors and bike paths. Paris has joined a global movement that seeks to change not just streets but the very soul of urban spaces. Its adherents believe that cities can become engines not just of economic growth. But of happiness.

Paris is only one example:

The charge is being led by some of the world’s toughest towns, places like Bogotá, where happiness theory led one mayor to transform roads into parks and pedestrian “freeways,” and Mexico City, whose mayor is investing in urban beaches and bikeways in order to change the citizens’ gloomy outlook. Now the movement is spilling over to wealthier cities too. Seoul has ripped out a downtown freeway to make room for parks and streams. London has put the squeeze on cars with its now famous congestion charge.

Sadly, there are no photos with the article, but you can read it all here.

‘Unsustainable housing meets unsustainable finance’

monopolyhouses.jpgTriple Pundit gives its view on the “sub-prime meltdown,” and it says it’s simply too many people buying too much house with too little money. Look at the areas hardest hit by the sub-prime collapse:

“Subdivisions built on the edges of urban areas where once arable land is bulldozed to make way for over-sized, energy-intensive houses, with landscaping consisting (of) grassy yards adorned with non-native species of trees and shrubs, the whole lot of it out of character with the natural surroundings and located so that most residents are forced to drive miles and miles to get to work, for too often there is no public transportation available.”

As they commented over at TreeHugger:

“Houses that need too much energy to heat or cool, too much gas to get to, and too much money to pay for. No wonder people are walking away.”

What lessons do the sub-prime collapse teach us? Is it too simple to say that this proves that lust really is a deadly sin after all?

Related: Atlantic Monthly’s article “There Goes The Neighborhood.” Hat tip: The Next American City blog. Photo by t taudigani via stock.xchng.

The architecture of altruism

An article over on Comment magazine by Calvin College professor James K.A. Smith nicely encapsulates much of what we hope for in Fort Wayne.

Below are lots of quotes from Loving our neighbour(hood)s: The architecture of altruism. It’s full of good stuff:

The culture of “automobility” engenders a residential architecture where the three-car garage swallows almost the entire front elevation, leaving a small gap for a front door—but eliminating any room for an expansive front porch. Instead, houses are set back from the street, guarded by the fortress-like wall of garage doors, leaving us to retreat to the privacy of fenced backyards on sprawling decks—once again, insulated by pressure-treated lumber from any contact with our neighbours. Thus, our suburban “neighbourhoods” are all too often collections of privatized, insulated pods that secure us from any contact with “neighbours.” In such a world, Jesus’ command sounds a tad anachronistic and strange.

Christian exhortations to love our neighbours usually amount to encouragements to muster the will-power to care about others—a call to a resolute interiority and attitude. But what if Christian neighbour-love had a structural, material concern at its base: that we care about the very physical shape of our residential dwelling and critically consider how the material conditions of our built environment foster or detract from love of neighbour? In a world where the built environment threatens to squelch the very category of “neighbour,” might not we heed Jesus’ command precisely by being concerned to build communities that encourage encounters with neighbours? Could there be an architecture of neighbour-love?

A construction of the world that finds us sequestered in insulated pods—emerging only into smaller, mobile, insulated pods—must make an impact on how we see ourselves and our relations to (largely invisible) others. Could there not be a link between the increased narcissism and polarity of North American culture and that many adults spend two hours a day by themselves in maddening commuter traffic, with the inanities of talk radio as a soundtrack?

Loving our neighbour means more than mustering kind feelings toward anonymous others. It might require, here and now, that we commit ourselves to building (or better, recovering and redeeming) built environments in which neighbours actually show up to be loved.