In our last issue of The Weekly Planner, we looked at the American Planning Association (APA) Great Neighbhorhoods. In this issue, we're taking it to the streets, looking at the characteristics of a Great Street. According to Wikipedia, a street is a public thoroughfare (usually paved) in a built environment; and in an urban context, it's a public parcel of land adjoining buildings on which people may freely assemble, interact, and move about. According to APA, a great street balances the needs and safety of drivers, transit, walkers, bicyclists, etc., while providing orientation to all of its users. It's lined with a range of uses that encourage social activity. A great street has design, landscaping and architectural features that represent the history, character and personality of its surroundings.
Seventh Avenue in Ybor City was honored as an APA Great Place in America - Great Street in 2008. Singled out for its history as a melting pot of cultures, distinctive character, and strong community engagement, 7th Avenue is more than a street. Described as a 'community living room' by an Ybor City lifetime resident, 7th Avenue is the spine of Ybor City's National Historic Landmark District. The Spanish and Italian architecture is enhanced by the wrought iron balconies and street furniture reminiscent of European styles. A walk down 7th Avenue in Ybor City, engages all the senses. From the scent of roasting coffee, sights of towering palm trees, and sounds of Latin music, a stroll down "La Setima" evokes a dream-like experience or what planners would call a very distinct and memorable sense of place.
Now, let's take a stroll down the ten Great Streets honored as Great Places in America this year:
Forty million dollars of private investment and 25,000 volunteer hours have gone into the restoration of the streetscape and building facades - all following historic guidelines - along Davis Street in Culpeper, Virginia.
Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, California
U Street NW
St Louis, Missouri
Market Street & Market Square
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Downtown Woodstock Streetscape
In West Hollywood, California, this is happening on Santa Monica Boulevard. City ordinances encourage sidewalk cafes instrumental in creating a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, and bike lanes are heavily used by both commuters and recreational cyclists. Despite 46,000 daily vehicle trips, people are linked to neighborhoods, landmarks, and traditions distinct to this legendary part of Route 66.
On Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii, sidewalks are an eclectic mix of wood, brick and other materials reflecting the different periods when they were built and rebuilt. Through the use of locally and federally recognized historic districts; architectural style and design guidelines; ongoing maintenance; and the efforts of citizen and business organizations, Front Street's got everything that defines Lahaina:
The caricature of 'Master Gates,' a harpoonist, reminds visitors of Lahaina's history and is one of a number of public art pieces along Front Street.
- wooden storefronts
- second-story balconies
- public parks
- art galleries
- residential quarters
- whale-watching tourists
- children scurrying to and from school
- elderly couples taking early-morning walks
- bicycles and vehicles sharing the road
- divine views of the majestic West Maui Mountains, Lahaina Harbor and island of Lanai
- an archeological site dating to the year 700 A.D.
Galena, Illinois' historic preservation ordinance ensures one can cross over and back between the 19th and 21st centuries on Main Street. Galena its reputation as "the town time forgot." Wide sidewalks and benches beckon visitors to walk, shop and dine. Seasonal parades and events draw thousands of residents and visitors, as do the street beautification projects like hanging flower baskets, sponsored by the Galena Downtown Business Association.
Once mostly vacant and deteriorating, Washington Avenue has reversed decades of urban decline to become one of St Louis' most popular districts. In 1998, the State of Missouri adopted its historic rehabilitation tax credit that revived this great street by making large-scale reuse projects financially feasible. Investment - more than $100 million - poured in soon after. Today, this virtual museum of late 19th and early 20th century warehouse architecture is home to residential and office lofts, boutiques, restaurants, and nightclubs pulsing with activity.
The Town of Woodstock, Vermont, may be most widely known for a concert held on farmland, but the Downtown Woodstock Streetscape is music to our ears. Chartered in 1761, Woodstock's village historic district, including four downtown streets, was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1973. An ordinance creating Scenic Ridgeline Districts protect the aesthetic and scenic character of the town. The streets define a classic, easily walkable 19th century New England town center with a village green and mix of three-story buildings used for retail on first floor, office space on second floor, housing on third floor. The Downtown Woodstock Streetscape seamlessly blends scenic mountain skylines, early 19th century New England architecture, the center of community life, and 250 years of history.
It's easy to see what makes each of these streets great. Like all great places, they took smart planning, public engagement, and decision makers with their finger on the pulse of their communities to create. To learn more, visit APA's Great Places in American 2011 - Great Streets.