Businesses and residents in Uptown have been discussing making two-way streets from the currently one-way Cole Ave., Carlisle St., and McKinney Ave. You may have seen the plans already, maybe you’ve attended one of the many community meetings.
However, you may not have heard much about the three public spaces this plan will create. As the streets change, excess right-of-way will be left vacant. And Uptown, Inc. has plans for landscaping and hardscaping these small public spaces. More than the direction we drive, these public spaces will fundamentally change our experience in Uptown and could be the most impactful part of this re-design plan.
In a neighborhood like Uptown — full of restaurants, residences, and tourists — adding casual public space could help to swing the pendulum from “nightclub district” to a more family-friendly neighborhood.
The excess space resulting from the road redesign doesn’t necessarily have to be a public place. It could just sit as wasted right of way. But Uptown, Inc., who commissioned these public space designs from OJB, seems to be taking a page from New York City’s playbook — the page about the newly-pedestrianized Times Square and other small spaces being so popular. It’s an especially adept use of space in parts of town with high residential density, lots of commerce, and lots of traffic.
If you’ve visited NYC recently, you were probably struck as I was to see so many little plazas all over Manhattan going from temporarily implemented to permanently designated. In fact the City has been diligently focused on quality of life offerings for years now, including the redeveloped waterfront bike trails and recreation spaces all up the west coast of Manhattan. It’s incredible how bustling these places are now.
“There are so few opportunities to do this kind of thing. This is a great way to look at the density we have and retroactively add public green space,” says Katy Slade, Chairman of the Uptown, Inc. Board. Right now, she says, the plans are in the design phase and stakeholders still have a chance to weigh-in on the designs. Next will come the fundraising. The project’s proposed budget is planned to be included in the upcoming bond program. That will include creation of these spaces but get your wallets ready — funding for the landscaping and beautiful things in the renderings will likely come from private donors so you could play a pivotal role! Opportunities for individuals to leave their mark will include funding certain additional elements in the design, similar to the way Uptown, Inc. recently updated Griggs Park with a children’s playground area and signage about the historic significance of the park.
In a nutshell, the three green spaces created by the roadway redesign are:
- A – In front of the Starbucks where Allen St. meets McKinney Ave.
- B – Where Allen St. forks, between the Taylor and the new Alexan at Katy Trail by Trammel Crow Residential
- C – At the Katy Trail and Cole Ave. behind Javier’s.
These renderings really make the spaces something worth looking forward to.
New Park A: At McKinney Ave. and Allen St.
(In case you’re not an architect or designer, note the little red arrows indicating the point of view for each image in the small corner overview boxes on each.)
New Park B: Allen and Carlisle Streets
New Park C: At Cole St. and Harvard Ave.
(By Javier’s where the street crosses the Katy Trail)
This one’s being called the ‘Roundabout’ though it’s not technically, because the cars don’t move in the circle — the people do. So it’s really just a beautiful circle sidewalk. Nicely imagined nonetheless. And will definitely smooth out the existing chaotic intersection where currently two roads cross the Katy Trail.
Note the solid white lines indicating the new alignment, overlaid on the existing roadway. The dotted line is the Katy Trail.
Of course these are only conceptual sketches, but you can see that redesigning these intersections to include public space could really transform the feel of this neighborhood.
As the Kimley Horn consultants put it in their study for the roadway conversion:
“One-way couplet roadways tend to focus on automobile movements, which leads to higher operating speeds. The proposed two-way conversion would naturally enforce the speed limit and the slower speeds increase the safety of the corridor. Travel speed is directly related to reactions time, injury severity to pedestrians, and awareness of the roadway surroundings.”
That makes for a safer neighborhood in general, and these public spaces should make it much more enjoyable as well.