Street plan hits the ground rolling
June 9, 2008 · Updated 4:17 PM
Cars and pedestrians, sidewalks and streets. Plazas, benches, storefronts, trees.
Somewhere in the tangle of sometimes-competing components that make up an urban area, there lies a formula for a livable Winslow. How to find it thats the challenge.
We study things to death here, architect Peter OConnor said, at a roundtable on Winslow planning Tuesday at city hall. Its time to stop studying, and get on with it.
The roundtable was organized by the mayors office at the urging of OConnor and architect Charles Wenzlau. The goal was not to come away with new strategies for a growing downtown, but to build support for a visual representation of current plans that will guide future improvements.
The effort was backed by some council members, squeamish about going ahead with road projects without a coordinated plan for Winslow traffic.
Five of seven council members and most planning commissioners took part Tuesday, joining local land use professionals and several downtown merchants. By the time all participants showed up, the roundtable numbered about 20, as did the gallery.
The freewheeling affair saw discussion of the challenges facing the Winslow core frequently expressed as traffic and parking as redevelopment occurs and more residents move in.
Dana Berg, a longtime Winslow merchant, said employees of many businesses continue to take up key parking spaces, she said, frustrating would-be customers. Others said they feared a generic downtown, overrun by franchises and a homogeneous Anywhere, USA look.
One model of success: Winslow Way, described as one big crosswalk where citizens make random social connections as they transact their daily business.
Angled parking there keeps vehicle speeds down, contributing to a feeling of pedestrian safety.
Our largest traffic flow is on Winslow Way, and its our only traffic-calmed street, OConnor said. And it seems to work pretty well.
Its much better than Kingston, which has the ferry waiting line running down the main street, Councilwoman Lois Curtis said. Life could be worse.
Derided as failures of progress and process, respectively, were Madison and Ericksen avenues.
On the former, the wide design contributes to high vehicle speeds, while planning for pedestrian improvements on the latter has led to an ongoing imbroglio between neighbors, city officials and council members.
OConnor and others called for the development of streetscapes that are inviting for pedestrians, and make roadways and sidewalks part of the communitys social realm. Ideas included more awnings in front of businesses, benches and pedestrian islands.
A more inviting downtown, some argued, could contribute to the success of a parking garage envisioned just off Winslow Way.
Perhaps by making a street a place where you can socialize, people wont mind walking as much (to reach businesses), OConnor said.
Several attendees were buoyed by the success of the traffic roundabout at High School Road and Madison Avenue. The improvement was backed by pedestrian safety advocates, and approved in the face of widespread community criticism.
There was an awful lot of controversy and you took at lot of flak, OConnor told city officials, but you stuck to your guns.
Bruce Anderson suggested that by taking a more global approach looking at all Winslow streets at the same time, rather than piecemeal residents might be more willing to make compromise in one area if they see benefits in another.
To that end, many envision a series of drawings and designs that would guide future project applicants and city staff the Winslow core fills out.
That, it is hoped, will make future pedestrian and road projects less contentious, as neighbors can visualize what their area will look like.
Its hard for lay people to translate these plans into something that real in their minds, OConnor said.
Also in the works is a review of current planning documents, including the Winslow Master Plan and the new bike/ped plan, to find points of conflict.
OConnor and Wenzlau are slated to meet with city planning and public works officials soon, to discuss the street plans next phase.
Review of current plans could be done by city staff or an intern, although sentiment seemed to lean toward hiring an outside consultant.
The good news is, (a consultant) gets done faster, public works Director Randy Witt said. The bad news is, it costs more.