Making room for outdoor space in private urban developments

A recent Atlantic Cities piece written by Kaid Benfield, “What Developers Get Wrong About Smart Growth,” profiles cities that have made a commendable effort to include public green space in and around adjacent urban infill projects, presumably completed by private developers.

As mentioned in the article, typical infill projects exist on such tight sites that every square foot is maximized for enclosed living spaces. Exterior park-like retreats are rarely prioritized high enough to be included in the project.

First, I contend that we — as private owners/clients and design and construction professionals — need to broaden our definition of “mixed use” and include public and/or private outdoor spaces as one of the most critical program elements right from the earliest design stages. Humans possess a primal need to connect with nature, and any initiative to encourage citizens to relocate to downtown live/work spaces should strive to include access to nature or “green” space.

Secondly, we should ask how we can better use our public park properties to supplement our urban environments.

This is not conceptual! This article poses a tangible challenge to all who believe in and desire to advance market-driven urbanism.

Take a survey about taking the bus

From Betsy Kachmar of Citilink:

The City of Fort Wayne, Citilink, Countilink, and the Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council have partnered in the development of a Bus Fort Wayne Plan. The Bus Fort Wayne Plan is a 10-year plan that will lay the foundation for establishing public transit (Citilink and Countilink) as a preferred transportation choice. Bus Fort Wayne will be a part of the City’s Active Transportation Campaign to encourage people to walk, ride their bike and use public transit to get to desired destinations.

Currently, our public transportation system primarily serves those who are transit dependent because they cannot afford a car or cannot drive. The current state of our economy, rising gas prices and demographic trends lead us to believe that now is the time to attract and plan for an increase in public transit ridership by “choice riders” or those who make a conscious choice to use public transportation instead of their car. In order to obtain information on this emerging market, our team has developed a Choice Rider Survey to gain information on potential choice riders of public transit.

The survey is here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/choicerider.  The survey will close on June 15. The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Shoaff: When building roads, worry about the people who live there

Councilman John Shoaff identified what may be the central reason the city of Fort Wayne hits opposition when it proposes a street widening project.

Shoaff has been a strong opponent of the city’s plan to widen State Boulevard through the Brookview-Irvington Park neighborhood, from Clinton Street to Wells Street. And during Tuesday’s common council meeting, Shoaff related a conversation he had with a city landscape architect about the proposal to separate the railroad tracks from South Anthony Boulevard.

The current plans include what Shoaff called very wide lanes and sloping ground that takes up “an enormous amount of acreage.” The plans were made in a way that the viewer has no idea how the street relates to the rest of the neighborhood.

Shoaff asked why the plans took this form.

“We were trying to make it a nicer experience for the drivers,” the landscape architect said.

“The drivers are going to be through there in 60 seconds,” Shoaff responded. “The people you have to worry about are the people who live there.”

Exactly. As Shoaff said, traffic engineers are very competent in their line of work, but they are trained to work on behalf of the motorist, not on behalf of the neighborhood. Neighborhood concerns should be truly weighed when road work is planned in the city.

Shoaff’s discussion on this conversation begins at about the 46-minute mark of the video.

Recommended reading on State Boulevard widening

I’m way late commenting on this story, since it ran in the April 1 Journal Gazette.

But “State of State Boulevard” by Stacey Stumpf is an excellent read on the city’s plan to widen and straighten State Boulevard west of Clinton Street.

It’s excellent because it clearly presents the city’s case for the construction and residents’ concerns over the destruction of a portion of the neighborhood.

But my sympathies are with Councilman John Shoaff, who has been very critical of the city’s plans. From the editorial:

“The major problem is the concept and the goal is wrong,” Shoaff said. “Coliseum Boulevard was created to be a major arterial. I-469 was created to be a major arterial, and that’s all good and appropriate. State Boulevard was not. All of this is just a very inappropriate intrusion into neighborhoods with an arterial expansion.”

My thoughts: Wouldn’t the widening of State Boulevard be less necessary if the city goes through with its plan of extending Spring Street past Wells Street to Clinton? More narrow streets is a much more friendly solution than a four- to five-lane highway through an existing neighborhood.