Thursday, February 27, 2014

20 Years of Urban Design in Maine 6

Diagram showing potential new plazas as red dots in string along Congress St. 
and red arrows showing reconnecting streets.

Continuing previous blog entry discussion around my 1992 article, "Portland: Back to the Future":

I advised we could create string of plazas along Congress Street up to the Eastern Prom to make a seamless pedestrian experience using the existing Longfellow Square- Congress Square- Monument Square sequence to build upon. Thus, pedestrians would always be moving from one great public space to another.

(from the article:) "This means: sidewalks of brick with lampposts, benches and trees; buildings with ground-level shops and architecture that engages the passer-by; street widths that allow for across-the-street conversations and window shopping; plazas at every square and major junction, like Monument Square; a master plan of linked plazas along Congress Street that continue up to the Eastern Promenade and down to the Greyhound station as well as along Commercial Street and into every pocket of the city."

In addition, the "urban renewal" created in 1960's by the removal of delicate urban fabric for the Franklin Street Arterial smack in the middle of the peninsula and the similar destruction of building and streets by the Spring Street arterial I suggested back then, should be repaired. These gashes in the urban street and building fabric of the city required careful stitching back together. The red arrows in diagram above show my suggestion back then to reconnect all the cutoff streets to establish proper urban block sizes.

I offered this example for how to start revitalizing the at the time poor Munjoy Hill area which would be part of a Congress Street plaza sequence as noted above:

"Munjoy Hill would be a good starting point for the definition of communities. A central plaza, office building, cultural center, and light-industrial facility would be a good start. With a clear, long-term development plan, banks might loan on a longer time frame."

And finally at the end of the article I suggested Portland could use an economic symbol, what is called "brand" now to communicate world wide:

"In addition to egalitarian zoning and development, it is necessary to provide a commercial symbol to anchor Portland’s place in the global community.

Just as Zurich has banking, Oslo has shipping, and Houston has oil, Portland should have a symbol by which to communicate with the rest of the world. Wood products might become such as symbol. 

Then by taking up this symbol and focusing on becoming an international center for this commodity-product-service, an identity can emerge over the next 50 years or so. No hurry."

Although I received almost no response in the community, the seeds had been planted.

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