Saturday, February 24, 2018

New Concepts and Surveys out for Riverfront Park and Streetscape Plans

Both the Riverfront Park and Downtown Streetscape planning processes have released new concepts and new surveys this past week.

In one key way, they are exactly backwards!

The Riverfront Park concepts show enhanced crosswalk treatments, while the Streetscape plans are essentially silent on downtown crosswalks.

In central ways, the Riverfront Park project team appears to understand that external connections, principally connections across streets or across units of analysis, are as important an internal connections, the sidewalks and paths within the block or unit of analysis.

This seems backwards because, you know, the park plan's about a park, and the streetscape plan is about streets.

So we're back to one of the primary criticisms of the Streetscape Plan: By omitting analysis of the streets themselves, it's hamstrung and hobbled from the start.

Conversely, the Riverfront Park Plan appears to get that both structural and decorative elements are important.

Silence on Downtown Crosswalks

You might think a slide titled "Knit Downtown Together" would have more on the knots and loops and ligaments between blocks and other connections. Like crosswalks!

But it does not.

Instead if focuses on trees, clear zones for walking, and consistent styling with street furniture or other decorative elements.

Missing an important element of "knitting"
On wayfinding and art, there are a couple of crosswalks (they appear to be the north part of the crosswalk on Front at Court), but the focus is on a horizontal view and what a person sees above the ground, at eye-level, and not so much on the ground.

Decoration: Wayfinding and art
The two detail images of a crosswalk are about decorating it, not about changing the structure of the crosswalk itself. (The minor suggestion of "Zebra" striping for the paint does not seem very strong.)

Trees, bright colors, lush plantings -
and new paint on the crosswalk

Public art and lighting
Riverfront Park Concepts Address Crosswalks

By contrast, the Riverfront Park Plan concepts envision a much deeper and richer reconfiguration of the very same crosswalk and, crucially, the street leading up to it!

Part of Concept A - between State and Court Streets

Crosswalk detail at Court Street - Concept A
The "oxbow crosswalk" pattern is much stronger than the "zebra" pattern! The oxbow theme then is carried over onto Court Street itself for one block between Commercial and Front.

Even though this is a little out-of-scope for the Riverfront Park plan, it's deeper thinking about "knitting downtown together" than what we see in the Streetscape concepts.

Concept B detail at Court Street

Concept C detail at Court Street
So without drilling into any more detail, this is why I continue to be more optimistic about the Riverfront Park Plan than about the Downtown Streetscape Plan. It feels like they are thinking through things at a little deeper level.

Be sure to take the Riverfront Survey and let them know what you think.

Streetscape Plan: Social Spaces includes parklets
and a kind of mini-bike corrals at alley entries
Back to the Streetscape Plan the cluster concepts of "social spaces" at the alley corners is  promising, but it's also a little secondary. People want to be at the main corners, and maybe not the alley corners so much. Until we stripe better bike lanes and tame the cars, I also wonder how much new bike corrals and parklets will actually thrive. These "social spaces" may be more decorative than functional until we think more systematically and structurally about speed and traffic volumes on the adjacent streets.

Anyway, be sure to take the Streetscape Survey also.

(The City website is down for maintenance this morning, and I may silently backfill with some additional City links later this weekend when it is back up. The survey links are third-party.)


Susann Kaltwasser said...

On the Streetscape plans there are a lot of good examples out in the real world that I wish had been given more attention. For example the parklet idea is one I floated over a year ago. What I learned was that you can 'experiment' with different models and find one that draws attention before you make a big investment in constructing one...or two. Some cities hold contests where businesses can design, build and try out a parklet, and it does not cost the city anything to do.

Color is a nice point. I did a lot of looking on line at successful town renovations and color was a key theme. However, the guidelines of the Streetscape in Salem said they would not be dealing with buildings. So, how we can have real change when you don't include everything that makes a streetscape (like the streets and the crosswalks, as you point out) is kind of a half-hearted attempt to do the job.

I like elements of what is being proposed but I am not blown away with excitement yet.

I agree that the Riverfront Park plans are more interesting, but I wonder how we can accomplish all of them. Especially wonder if this will take major parts of the park out of commission for extended periods. i assume that they would use Urban Renewal funds, work in phases and take years to complete.

I like your thoughts!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I keep hoping the City of Eugene will publish a formal report and evaluation of the four parklets they installed last summer/fall. When I saw them, I was a little underwhelmed both by the designs and by the number of users, and this has tempered my enthusiasm for the parklet concept. (The concept as a temporary thing distinct from just simply enlarging the sidewalks, that is.) It's possible they are better in theory than in practice!

I am going to start calling the study the "Downtown Sidewalk Study" since is is not at all a full "Streetscape" project. It does not seem like the project team is generating ideas that are a substantial advance on what a citizen task of non-experts would come up with. So far, a disappointment in many ways, as you say.